Are you a German speaker interested in learning German sign language?
This article will show you where and how to start, as well as what exactly German sign language even is and how it is different from other sign languages.
What is German sign language?
A lot of people think that there is only one universal sign language, which is a misconception. National languages have their own language.
Another misconception is that German sign language is a very simple form of the German language, just in signs.
In fact, the national sign languages that are used by deaf people are everything but inferior to the spoken languages, especially in terms of complexity and means of expression.
German sign language is called “Deutsche Gebärdensprache” (in short: DGS)
DGS is obviously a very visual language and uses gestures by the hands, facial expressions, and positions of the head and body in order to give the signs meaning.
The grammatical structures used in DGS are a bit different in terms of rules and principles than spoken German.
Should I learn German sign language at the same time as learning German?
The short answer to this question is no! As mentioned above, the languages are very different in grammatical structure and it would be like learning Swedish and Chinese at the same time.
Of course, if you’re up for a challenge, then go for it! Some people like learning two languages at the same time.
It is important to say, that German sign language and spoken German share common characteristics, which is why it is beneficial to know German before attempting to learn German sign language.
There is one more very specific reason why knowing German before learning German sign language will help you: you will have a much easier time finding materials like textbooks or videos about German sign language, because most of these will be in German.
There are very limited amounts of material of German sign language written in English.
This is why, in order to learn German sign language, being able to read in German will be super helpful!
How can I learn German sign language?
As we already established, a great first step would be to learn German first. Once you are comfortable with German, it is time to dive deep into German sign language.
Introduction to German sign language
First, it is useful to find a class that gives a good introduction to the German sign language.
It might be tricky to find one, as German sign language isn’t exactly widespread. A good idea is to go to a very big university with an extensive German program.
Chances are good that they have a few classes on German sign language.
Enroll in German University
Another thing you can do to simultaneously boost your spoken German, as well as get more info on German sign language, is signing up for a German University.
If your German is good enough, you can enroll in actual university classes and take German sign language courses on the side. Most bigger universities in Germany offer these types of classes.
Learn German sign language Online
There are plenty of resources that can be found online to learn German sign language.
The great thing about these classes is, that the video demonstrations give you a very comprehensive overview on how to sign.
If you just want a brief introduction, a lot of sites offer free resources for some signs that you can learn.
How do you properly learn sign language?
Learn with a teacher
A good way to start learning sign language without mistakes is finding a teacher.
Relying on a book could potentially lead to you signing incorrectly.
Learn a few words every day
Practice every day and start slow.
A good way to practice in your day-to-day life is to repeat the signs for words you already know when you hear them for example on TV.
Try it out!
Who knows, maybe German sign language will be your new passion! Either way, it won’t hurt to give it a shot! Plus, it’s a great reason to review your German a bit!
Sign language can be a great addition to your skillset, and you might have a lot of fun in the process of learning it!
Check out our other articles to get resources on how to learn German effectively, and as always, good luck!