#loveourcollections Sign Languages

There are many sign languages. It all started in France (excuse me while I polish my nails an instant…) with Charles Michel de l’Epée who opened the first free specialist school.

But actually it’s not true! Wikipedia states that the first mention of sign languages is in Plato’s Κρατύλος (Cratylus, here it is in English on Wikisource) when Socrates makes a a mention of it.

Recently, another old sign language was found: the Anglo-Saxon sign language, this was a religious one used by monks when they were forbidden to speak out loud.

Another notable sign language was the village produced sign language of Martha’s Vineyard Sign Language, used by all members of the community. It is no longer spoken but it had an influence on the American Sign Language.


Unspoken a CC picture by Marina del Castell on Flickr: the word “friend” in English, Spanish, French and Catalan sign languages.

In the library, we have a few books and videos for several sign languages. Unfortunately, when I catalogue material, there is, so far, only one language code for all sign languages (which is sgn for those interested). So you have to be inventive in your use of SOLO, the university library catalogue. Perhaps the best is to enter “sign language” and restrict your search to the Language Centre Library. I wish I could say that all the films we have are entirely in the sign language, it is not so unfortunately!

First of all of course you will find the BSL, British Sign Language with a teach yourself BSL (book and video) and a few films, such as Dear Frankie or It’s all gone Pete Tong.

American Children of a lesser God which became a commercial success and started Marlee Matlin acting career

French La famille Bélier which was also a huge commercial success. In the Bélier family, Paula is an indispensable interpreter for her deaf parents and brother on a daily basis. One day, her music teacher discovers her gift for singing…

German Jenseits der Stille (Beyond silence) and the very touching Land des Schweigens und der Dunkelheit (Land of silence and darkness) which is a Werner Herzog documentary on Fini Straubinger, by partly in German tactile sign language.

Hindi Iqbal the story of a deaf and mute boy, who dreams of playing cricket for India and Koshish which depicts a deaf and mute couple and their conflicts, pain and struggle to carve out a niche for themselves in a desensitized society.

Korean  복수는 나의 것 (Boksaneun naui geot: sympathy for Mr. Vengeance) Ryu, a deaf mute, is trying to earn enough money for his sister’s kidney transplant.

Russian Страна глухих (Strana glukhikh: country of the deaf) It is about an unusual relationship between two women, one of them a deaf-mute dancer and the other on the run from the mafia.

Spanish Tacones lejanos a melodrama by Almodovar where we have the brief story of Isabel, a sign language interpreter for the television.

Ukrainian  The Tribe a rather tough film about a young and shy boy, Sergey, who arrives at a boarding school for the deaf. There he tries to find his place in the hierarchy of the school community, which operates like a Mafiosi group ruled by the King. The gang partakes in acts of violence, robbery, sex and prostitution. Please note that this film does not have any subtitles. It was the wish of the director to be so.

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