Russia Sign Language

Russia has sign language.  So does Canada, Germany, Brazil, Kenya, the whole world.  You also use sign language in your everyday life.

Gallaudet University students in Washington D.C. once protested about the hiring of someone who was not deaf in a high position.  I forget the details.  I watched their hands, faces and body language and got the message that they were angry.  That is when I respected sign language.

Michelle Obama, U.S. First Lady brings her hands together in greeting in one of the many functions she graces as part of her work.   Actress Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, the unofficial international ambassador of her country India, does that more often in Namaste

Nobody knows the importance of hands in human interaction like the deaf community but I’m sure every culture has ways of conveying messages without the shouting and yelling.  Sometimes someone pulls out a gun or slaps somebody because they cannot ‘out-yell’ them.

Two hands together represented humility and respect in my part of Africa.  You accept something from somebody with your two hands.  Using one hand looks like you are grabbing it and Ma’s eyes will tell you that you are out of line.

Ma used to say ‘awuzwa’ which means I don’t listen.  She would hold her ears to show me that my ears were not working.  Almost every Nigerian movie has actors holding their ears to show that somebody refuses to listen.

People who feel that sign language is too complicated overlook the fact that they sign all the time:

·        Hands together on their face to show that the child is sleeping

·        Rubbing their tummy in glee to show that they are full

·        The thumb out, middle fingers closed to say ‘call me’

·        Shaking their hands to ask ‘what’s happening?’

·        Pointing at their wrist to ask for time or ‘we’re running late’

·        Kids rolling their eyes which is not advisable in some homes

·        People who are attracted to each other ‘talk’ with their eyes

Signing the alphabet is giving me a hard time but I’m working on it, but I’m constantly amazed at how sign language is all encompassing.  Do you know how you sign grocery shopping?  How about socks?  They have signs for e-mail, laptop and mobile phone.

Nonqaba waka Msimang is the author of Sweetness the novel.

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