Sign Language Alphabet from Around the World

Sign Language Alphabet

Let’s travel the world to learn about sign languages, their stories, and their finger alphabets. The quest to global communication begins here!

Sign language is a visual communication method that employs hand signs, gestures, facial expressions, and body language.

Sign language is the primary mode of communication for the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing community, but it can also be useful for other groups of people. Sign language may be useful for communication for those with disabilities such as Autism, Apraxia of speech, Cerebral Palsy, and Down Syndrome.

And, as you’ll see in the many languages below, it’s had numerous applications throughout history.

Distinctions and Similarities

Before delving into different sign language alphabets from around the world, it’s important to understand how sign language alphabet are created and how they differ.

Deaf communities give birth to sign language alphabet. Different language alphabets originate from distinct sign language families, just as different spoken language alphabets do. As a result, a person in Ghana saying “Hello” in sign language employs different motions and facial expressions than someone in South Korea saying “Hello.”

Furthermore, even if two people are from English-speaking countries, their sign language may differ. Because ASL (American Sign Language) evolved from LSF (French Sign Language), an American citizen will have an easier time conversing with a French person through sign language.

International Sign

Because of differences in alphabet in sign language and dialects, a common alphabet was required, resulting in IS (International Sign). IS is utilized at international conferences where people from all over the world congregate, such as the European Union of the Deaf. However, despite its name, IS is not a universal sign language. Because it is not as detailed as other sign languages, it does not allow for advanced dialogues. As of now, there is no universal sign language.

Not a Universal Language

Sign Language Alphabet

There is no single sign language that is utilized all across the world. Sign languages, like spoken language, evolved naturally when different groups of people interacted with one another, resulting in a wide range of variants. Today, there are between 138 and 300 different varieties of sign language used around the world.

Surprisingly, most countries that speak the same language do not necessarily share the same sign language. American Sign Language (ASL), British Sign Language (BSL), and Australian Sign Language (Auslan) are three versions of English.

Alphabet Fundamentals and Fingerspelling

Most people begin their journey into sign language by studying the A-Z or letter equivalent in sign form.

Fingerspelling‘ is the use of one’s hands to represent individual letters of a printed alphabet. It’s a useful tool that allows signers to manually spell out the names of people, places, and things that don’t have a standard sign.

Most sign languages, for example, have a specific sign for the word tree, but not for oak, so o-a-k would be finger written to convey that specific meaning.

Because not every language employs the Latin alphabet like English, the sign language alphabet varies. Some manual alphabets, such as ASL and French Sign Language, are one-handed, whereas others, such as BSL or Auslan, are two-handed. Though some of the manual alphabets are similar, each sign language has its own style and adaptations and therefore remains distinct.

Alphabet in Sign Language from Around the World

Sign Language Alphabet

ASL (American Sign Language)

Despite having the same alphabet in sign language as English, ASL is not a dialect of English. American Sign Language developed on its own and has its own language framework. (In fact, it is a descendant of Old French Sign Language.)

In addition, signs are not expressed in the same order as words in English. This is owing to the sign language’s distinct grammar and visual nature. ASL is used by around 500,000 persons in the United States.

BANZSL (British, Australian, and New Zealand Sign Language)

British Sign Language, Australian Sign Language (Auslan), and New Zealand Sign Language all share a sign language alphabet. These alphabets, unlike ASL, are written with two hands rather than one.

CSL (Chinese Sign Language)

Chinese Sign Language, arguably the most widely used sign language in the world (though there is no statistics to back this up), employs the hands to create visual representations of written Chinese characters. Since the 1950s, the language has been evolving.

LSF (French Sign Language)

Because it is the origin of ASL, French Sign Language is comparable to ASL, yet there are small variances throughout. LSF also has a fascinating backstory.

Syllabary of Japanese Sign Language (JSL)

The Japanese Sign Language (JSL) Syllabary is based on the phonetic syllables of the Japanese alphabet. In Japan, JSL is known as Nihon Shuwa.

Sign Language in Arabic

The Arab sign-language family is a group of sign languages spoken throughout the Arab world. Data on these languages is limited, although a few have been identified, notably Levantine Arabic Sign Language.

LSE (Spanish Sign Language)

The Spanish government has officially recognized Spanish Sign Language. Except for Catalonia and Valencia, it is native to Spain. Many Spanish-speaking countries do not use Spanish Sign Language! (See, for example, Mexican Sign Language below.)

LSM (Mexican Sign Language)

Mexican Sign Language (‘lengua de seas mexicana’ or LSM) differs from Spanish in terms of verbs and word order. The bulk of Mexican Sign Language users live in Mexico City, Guadalajara, and Monterrey. This language varies greatly between age groups and religious backgrounds.

USL (Ukrainian Sign Language)

Ukrainian Sign Language is a subset of the French Sign Language family. It employs a one-handed manual alphabet in sign language of 33 signs that make use of USL’s 23 handshapes.

Plains Sign Language (North American Indigenous)

Plains Sign Talk (also known as Plains Sign Language) is an Indigenous sign language in North America that was previously used to facilitate trade, tell stories, hold ceremonies, and serve as a daily communication language for Deaf people. It was used as a means of communication between nations in central Canada, the central and western United States, and northern Mexico.

Discover How to Fingerspell Like a Pro

Sign Language Alphabet

It’s time to perfect your form now that you’ve learned how to fingerspell each letter of the alphabet! Check out these strategies for better fingerspelling:

Take a breather between spelling individual words. This increases the readability of your signing.

While spelling each word, keep your hand in the same location. It may take some practice, but it will make it lot easier for others to read back. The only exception is when you are fingerspelling an acronym. In this case, move each letter in a little circle to indicate that the letters should not be read as a single word.

If you’re fingerspelling a word with two letters, bounce your hand between them to emphasize the recurrence of that letter. You can also achieve this by moving the letter to the side slightly to indicate that it should be doubled. When you first begin to fingerspell, it can be difficult not to hop between every letter. You can use your free hand to help stabilize your writing while practicing. You’ll eventually become used to keeping your hand steady on its own while fingerspelling.

Keep your fingerspelling hand at shoulder height. This is the best posture for both your signature and the other person’s reading.

Maintain a constant pace. When spelling a word, there is no need to rush. It is more crucial that each letter be distinct and that the overall rhythm be consistent.


Nayab Kiran

About Author

A highly skilled and professional WordPress developer and publisher. My expertise lies in creating visually stunning and functional websites that captivate users. Furthermore, I excel as a content writer, crafting unique and engaging content across various niches. Through my entrepreneurial skills, I assist businesses in achieving professional growth and success.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Characteristics of a Highly Effective Learning Environment 1

The Characteristics of a Highly Effective Learning Environment

A highly effective learning environment is one where students feel safe, supported, and challenged. The qualities of a highly successful
Parental Involvement in Education

Parental Involvement in Education- Why Is It Important?

Parental involvement in a child’s education is crucial for their academic success. Parents play a vital role in their child’s