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February 7, 2014 44 mins

It wasn't until the was developed and despite its co-existence alongside English, a user would be hard-pressed to sign with a British person. Find out about the independent evolution of sign language in the U.S. and how intuitively sensible it is.

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Episode Transcript

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Speaker 1 (00:01):
Welcome to Stuff you Should Know from House Stuff Works
dot com. Hey, and welcome to the podcast. I'm Josh Clark.
With me is always a Charles W. Chuck Bryant, and
there's Jerry and the three of us together our Stuff
you should Know. Hey, buddy, he's going there. Uh, it's

going pretty good. I have to say this was one
of the better articles I've read in recent memory. Wow
by Mr Jonathan Strickland, our nemesis at text Stuff. Yeah,
he wrote a great article on sign language arch nemesis
who knew. Yeah, I had no idea that he knew anything. Yeah,
It's like there's, uh, there's nothing about the future of
sign language and here it's just sign language. Yeah. And

this is one of those where I knew really not
much about it and it was just a delight to learn,
you know. Yeah, and uh, he basically just did American
sign language. Yeah. I have the impression that if he'd
tried to expand it, it would have really gotten unwieldy quick.
So it's a good editorial decision, good writing. Well, that's
one of the things I didn't know. I didn't even
know that that there are hundreds of sign languages. I

kind of thought it was all the same. But he
makes a point even that you may be better able
to communicate with someone speaking French sign language because that
was the basis of American sign language than to speak
sign language if you're American with someone speaking British sign language. Yeah,
because it's just different. Sharing a common spoken language with

another country does not mean there's nothing to do with
that there that they share common sign language. No, um.
And that's a really good point because it reveals that
the death community has over time just basically said we're
gonna do this ourselves. Yeah. And it even gets to
the point where regional dialects just like a regular spoken language.

It basically just as a regular language. The more I
read it, the morrow is like, this is just like
speaking English or speaking so othern English or Midwestern English.
You know. Yeah. And you know, depending on your community,
the community you're raised in, the type of house you're
raised in. Um, that's what will necessitate what kind of
sign language you learn or develop or whatever. Yeah, it is, um.

And well let's talk about the history of this a
little bit first. So Chuck, you know, humans have a
long and storied history of mistreating groups that are different
from everybody else. It's what makes America great, not just America.
It goes back even for the humanity, the the deaf community. UM.
Up until shamefully recently, Um, we're kind of one of

those groups that were just kind of mistreated. Um. The Torah,
for example, forbids deaf people from fully participating in some
of the rituals in the temple. Um. The ancient Greeks
wouldn't allow deaf people to be educated. Uh. St Augustine,
Saint Augustine, he's a saint for goodness sake, he taught

that deaf people were evidence that God was angry at
their parents. Wow. Yeah. It wasn't until about the Renaissance
that anybody finally took a stab at educating deaf people.
And they found pretty quickly that oh, they just can't hear.
That's the thing, right, they can learn very quickly and

h just like you and me. So that kind of
became the springboard once people figured out that you can't
educate deaf people to them being included more into a
normal society. Um. But for a long time they were mistreated. Uh,
and as a result, I think they kind of um,

well I'm speculating here, but I think they kind of
said we're gonna handle this ourselves. Like I said, like,
we're going to develop our own language, take matters into
our own hands. Literally. Yeah, And um, that's where signed
languages started to come from. Just necessities, the mother of inventions.
You need to be able to communicate with people around you,

and so sign language developed in communities where there were
deaf people who were accepted and not just kind of
put to the side. Yeah, before it was even uh,
they were getting official with it. People were using sign
language right because they were like, well, I don't care
if you're gonna make it some official language or not.
We need to talk to each other exactly. We're gonna
figure it out. And not only do they need to

talk to each other, they need to talk to the
community at large as well. And there's actually this really
cool story on Martha's Vineyard. There was up to a
quarter of the population when they moved over here from England.
Um they were an isolated population. So um there they
suffered what was called the founder's effect, where the population
just kind of bottlenecked. And these families and are married,

but they didn't marry outside of their group. So deafness
was hereditary. Deafness was a a trade that was passed
along the group. So up to a quarter one and
four people in this community were death right. As a
result of this community on Martha's Vineyard in the early
eighteenth century having up to a quarter of its population death,

a specific type of sign language called Martha's Vineyard Sign
Language developed, and not only were the death in the
community proficient, and everybody in the community was proficient in it,
and up until nineteen fifty two when the last death
Martha's Vineyard resident, Martha's Vineyard board resident died, that's when
it became extinct. So they were practicing it from about

seventeen hundred to nineteen fifty two. And apparently um Oliver
Sacks went and interviewed some of these people for part
of a book. Man He's always on it, he is,
um and uh he's He reported that some of these elders,
these Martha's Vineyard elders um reverted to sign language while
they were talking, and so they were coming in and

out of speech and sign language and apparently weren't even
a where that they were doing it. That's awesome, and
they were not deaf. That might be the fact of
the show Martha's Vineyard time language. Yeah, it could be
one of them. I think there's a bunch in here. Yeah, agreed.
Uh So, if we're talking about history, we have to
go back to the early eighteen hundreds, uh to a
dude named Thomas Hopkins Galladet and Um. He was a

minister to the deaf, and he went to Europe because,
like we said, in France is where it's sort of
originated officially, and he wanted to learn some techniques on
how to teach this stuff. I met a guy named
Roche ambrose Q Curon Cicard who was in Abbe. It's
a title. He's like a clergyman. Um. He was the

director of the School of the Deaf in Paris, and
he learned some stuff from him, and then plucked one
of his students, Laurence Clerk, and said, Hey, there's big
money in this, let's go start a school in the
United States. That probably wasn't his motivation, although you never know,
nothing wrong with making a little money by starting a
cool sure. Uh So they established the American School for

the Deaf in eighteen seventeen in uh Hotford, Connecticut, and
UM went on like they incorporated what they learned in
France with what was already going on in the United States, right,
which is why, like you said, Um, if you were
an American sign language speaker and you go to France
and you're speaking with a French sign language speaker, you'll
probably be successful because American sign language is partially rooted

in French sign language. Yeah, more so than like going
to England. This so weird to think about. Yeah. Um.
And they ended up founding as well, Gallaudet University and
d C Go Bisons, Is that right? Yeah, they got
a football team. I played for the Beverly Bisons in
elementary school. Really, I'm a Bison. It's pretty cool though,

they got a football team all deaf and or hard
of hearing. And it's cool to watch the video, like
you know, the coaches given like the motivational speech and
he's signing at the same time and it's not this
thing is kind of neat. That is cool. And I
thought about this too. Probably not affected by home field
advantage or not. Oh the noise, yeah, I wonder though,
like the tremble nous of it, of that much the sound,

this sound waves, the physical waves hitting you well, but yeah, true,
but it's not the same as you know, NFL teams
when they go to visit like Seattle, they have they
work out all these sign language uh for each other. Oh,
I see it. You know what I'm saying. I thought
you might getting psyched out by like the crowd noise. No,
I mean, like not being able to hear when you're
changing a play at the line of scrimmage. That these

signs and these guys are like, UM. So anyway, go
bisonce uh. And that is a school of more than
students today, although they're not all death. About five UM
may consist of hearing students, which I thought was interesting
because I guess it's just you know, it's good school, yeah,
you know. And it says here in the article that

there was a controversy among the students and some of
the faculty, and I looked it up and apparently there
was a an incoming president in like the mid two
thousand's who was born death but it had been raised
to um to speak rather than sign, and apparently most

of the students were not very happy about that because
they didn't think she was planning on emphasizing sign language,
and they wanted to make sure that sign language was
like the the um the main method of communication. Interesting. Um, so,
like we said, we're gonna be talking about ASL mainly,
which has its own grammar and syntax and phonology, which

if you're talking about speaking, it's a study of sounds,
which I'm not signing. It is the hand movements and
signals and motions. Phonology. Yeah, yeah, it's the It's how
in the sixties some researcher discovered that sign language isn't
made up of a distinct sign for everything, right, there's
a discrete set of hand gestures, movements that you can

change and alter to make different words or concepts, and
that that would be phonology. Right. Yeah, it's kind of
like I don't think we pointed out sign language. American
sign language is not literally trying to translate each word
someone speaks. It's about the concept and getting the point
across of what someone is saying. And we'll get into
that it'll make more sense in a minute. So, but

that's phonology and phonology as far as speech goes, would
be syllables, yeah, sounds, this is like hand like in
a gesture or whatever. Uh. And morphology, which if you're speaking,
that is how words are formed from basic sounds, and
in sign language that's the way you're uh. Hand and

motions represent the concepts. Okay, so that makes sense. Yeah,
and you were saying that American sign language is not
follow English necessarily if it doesn't follow English. In fact,
they try to avoid sounding like English. Yeah, like they
abandoned English syntax. They there's no use of the word

am or be um. It's pretty simple and straightforward. And
some of the stuff also are some of the signs
are conceptual, like there there are some that are symbolic,
but some are like a concept or an icon. I
guess it's a better way to put it, like um,
if you are doing dear, if you're saying the word deer,

signing the word deer um er animal, you put your
you stick your fingers up and put them close to
your head, right. Yeah. So I was curious, like how
you would sign the word moose. Yeah, and I looked.
It's the same thing, but rather than having them up
against your head, they're out off to the side a

little bit because the moose has like antlers that are
bigger than a deer. Well, and that illustrates a very
important point with a s l um it's not just
the things the signs you make with your hands, it's
body language expressions, uh. And the space. How you use
the space around you. Like to take the antlers away
from your head represent something and as we'll learn later,

where you hold your hands represent different things, like further
away from your body or closer to your body. Um.
And we'll get to all that, but um, basic nuts
and bolts they are. You can call them speakers even
though they're signing. Uh. But generally you call the person
receiving the sign at the time, the receiver, the person
being spoken to, Yeah, and the receiver. If you're a receiver,

you don't just stare at the hands. In fact, you
don't focus on the hands at all. You focus on
their face and sort of keep the hands in the periphery.
That's how um. The remember the did you hear about
the guy who was signing at Mandela's memorial? Thought that
was going to be your intro. Actually I went with
the mistreating people intros to you know, I like that,

Um the Yeah, this guy was a fraudulent UM sign translator.
Now was he really? Did they get? Because I thought
he was like, no, I'm not fraudulent, I'm just he Uh,
what's unclear is so he was he's he suffers from schizophrenia,
and UM he was hired on officially to do this

UM and they think that the way he was hired
was because his rate was about half of what an
a normal sign translator that would have been, So they
basically just went with the cheaper option and didn't do
their due diligence and figure him out because he'd actually
done this before where he doesn't know sign language and
apparently has no malicious intent or anything like that. I

don't know if he just needed money, or if he
thinks he know sign language, or if he wants to
know sign language he feels like he can get it across.
But during Mandela's funeral, UM he was doing all the
sign language and it was total nonsense. So none of
it was real at all. No, it was utter gibberish
and one of the one of the ways that the
UM the deaf community, who were understandably upset at all this.

I bet some of them got a good laugh, sure,
but overall they said, if you're doing sign you don't
just sit there with like a stone face, which this
guy was doing. He was all hand gesters, and hand
gesters didn't mean anything. But then also, you express most
of sign language with expressions, with facial expressions. With movement,

you don't just stand there because it doesn't do anything.
You're not getting your point across. So this guy one
of the ways he was found out. Uh, he was
like stone face and if you go and look at it,
he's not moving his face at all, like he's completely solemn.
He was found out pretty quick too. Yeah, because I'm
sure there are people watching it. You're like, what this

what's going on? This guy's talking gibberish? So weird. Uh,
if you were signing actions a lot of times but
not always, you just mimic the action like um. Strickling
points out, if you want to sign eat, you hold
your finger and thumb like you're holding like a little
piece of chocolate and you go to put it in

your mouth. That means eat, pretty straightforward. And there There's
also something I think it's kind of neat inefficient about
um sign language. Is that the same that same sign
for eat um is all it doubles for other signs
to depending on what you do with it. Yeah, can

get confusing. It can, but it's also it's it's I
don't know, I like it makes it makes the whole
thing more elegant to me that you one sign, when
delivered in a certain way, changes the meaning and you
can't you really have to pay attention. Yeah, for instance, uh,
if you want to sign food, it is the same.
A lot of times you will double a sign to

indicate something else to indicate it now, Well, it depends.
That's why it can confusing. So design for food is
the same as doubling the sign for eat. But if
you want to sign eating uh, which is a verb,
you would uh also repeat the eat signs. So that's
where if you're receiving sign language, you understand it. It's

all about your context, you know, like, what are you
talking about? Yeah, what do you mean? You guys went
out and you were food? Exactly right. I should teach
you somethings would be fun, um, but I need to
learn it first. But apparently, also the the the verbs
or action words or signs are are bigger, whereas nouns

are smaller. Like the gestures are bigger or smaller, depending
on whether it's a noun or verb. Too, that's true,
that's that's another way. So again, you can't just sit
there with your hands directly in front of you, moving
within a very small box. Yeah, it's your You wouldn't
be speaking at least as far as American sign language goes,
you wouldn't be speaking correctly. That's true. U. There is

an alphabet too, as every thirteen year old girl knows, right,
Why don't you remember that? Like it seems like in
like the seventh grade, every girl I knew went through
a phase where they learned that the sign alphabet and
would like spell out things with their friends that no
one else knew they were talking about? What you never
saw that? No? Oh man, I remember the big, bubbly

cursive writing. Yeah. Yeah, I just seem to remember a
lot of young girls learning the sign language alphabet and
they would sit around and spell things about people and
had not run into that, not in Fala. Maybe it
was a Georgia thing. Anyway, there's an alphabet which actually
where you you know, it's called fingerspelling, but it's only

used to um illustrated really specific concept or to indicate
like a person spell a name. Yeah, Like if you're
gonna be telling a story about Josh, are you gotta
do is spell out Josh at the beginning, and then
you don't have to keep doing it over and over right. Um.
One way to do that too, especially if I'm not present,
is to indicate an empty space by you, Yeah, spell

out my name, point to that empty space, and then
from that point on, anytime you point at the empty space,
you're seeing Josh. Yeah. If you're there, it's called index
and use your finger. You just point to Josh. But yeah,
if you're not there, you just make an imaginary Josh,
and you keep pointing to that space to refer to Josh.
It's pretty cool. Um. Another reason that you would use

finger spelling would be to ask somebody what a sign
was for something you couldn't remember. So if you're saying
something you you and you couldn't think of moose, you
might spell out and finger spelling, what's the sign for moose? Yeah,
And then they would say hey, fingers up away from
the head, Yeah, I wrote at wrote I read an
article from the Washington Post earlier about UM Washington d C.

They call him terps interpreters. I hadn't heard. Are you
sure they weren't talking about University of Maryland. They were
talking about you know, but uh, it's a big deal
in d C. There's like on any given day there's
like fift people in d C signing for clients that yeah, worse.
It makes sense because it's law. First of all, federal
law requires reasonable accommodation for a deaf person. But um,

this one guy that they interviewed, uh, what's his name, Painter,
He said that spelling is you're you're like your back door,
like if ever, and it's it's tough in DC because
he's like, basically, try signing a speech by Bernanky when
they're saying like very d C specific political jargon that

may you know, maybe not have a concept you can represent,
like fiscal cliff or it's not your first rodeo, or
kick it down the road a little bit. And so
they basically invented political jargon for people to do that.
And he said, or if you get stuck, you can
always just spell it. And that appears to be a
hallmark of sign language, is um there like new signs

are created all the time, just like a few words
are created all the time. And just like with speech,
um there are prescriptive and there's descriptivists like people who
say no, American sign language is sacrosanct. It is what
it is. It's not to be added to. If you
add to it, it dilutes the language. Go come up
with your own language if you want to add fiscal

cliff to it. Um. And then there's other people who
are descriptivists who say no, the language is a living, breathing,
evolving thing, and we need to get the concept of
fiscal cliff along across. So here it is. It looks
like moose kind of. I would just do a little
guy walking then falling off a cliff, sure you know,
and then making a dollar sign. Uh. If you have

seen people do sign language and you see them looking
upset or puffing their cheeks out or raising their eyebrows, uh,
they're indicating an inflection that what's called a non manual marker. So,
um like, if you wanted to ask someone, and that's
also true punctuation, if you wanted to, you could do
the little question mark sign, but more likely you would

just say the sentence and then raise your eye brows. Right. Well,
give him an example, um like movies, Do you like
the movies? Right? You would say you like movies and
then raise your eyebrows like, huh. You basically like a
rush and you like movies. That's basically what's going on there.
Any yaka sarf reference is hilarious. It doesn't matter what

it is. Jever see the King of the Hill that
he co starred on No Way. They go to Branson
and like he uh, I think Bobby like ends up
hanging out with him. Yeah, it's pretty awesome. Um. Another
way you can modify a sign, there's basically a couple
of ways you can modify action. Um. It is by directionalizing.

So if you you know, I had a nice leisurely meal,
you would do the symbols for the signs for eating
very slowly. If you want to tell someone I had
to wolf it down real quick because it was like
for a meeting, you would just do the signs for
eating very fast. It's pretty easy, yes. Or if you
wanted to say I'm going to give a gift to you,
you would just do the signs for uh, give gift

and then you know, indicate that I'm giving it to
you or to someone else. The direction of it is
going from I to you, So it's implied right there,
give gift is going from I to you, I give
you a gift. It really cuts through all the jibber jabber.
I kind of like it. It really does. And there's
also um rules with syntax are just totally out the

window in relation to English too, it's um. There's something
called the topic of the sentence, and that's frequently a
pronoun like I, and it genuinely doesn't matter where that goes.
You can go at the beginning of a sentence, the
end of the sentence, or both. And I haven't figured
out where I where both comes from? Why you would

say the pronouns twice? So for example, like UM, I
am an employee here right, you would just say employee
or employee I or I employee I, And I can't
figure out. Hopefully somebody out there can let us know
why you would want to say What the purposes for
saying it twice? But it's it's allowable structure wise interesting.

So within that structure, UM, I think you said it
was topic comment structure. Generally the comment is the predicate.
Uh So, man, this took me like down memory lane. Yeah,
I was like, what's the predicate again? It says something
about the topic or the um object. If you were
talking about English uh. And then there's the tents. Of course,

if you want to talk about when something happened, you
can do it in a variety of ways, but generally
you would announce the tents at the beginning, and then
you wouldn't have to keep saying it over and over
that you're like speaking in the past tense right until
you say until you change tense. So you would start
by saying yesterday, uh, and then you would start talking
about how you went to the store or and you

saw this trans am and you're like, hey, that's a
great trans am to the guy and he said thanks
a lot. Uh. But then today, so then you'd sign today,
I saw the trans am again and it had gotten
an offender bender, right, and it was sad. Right. So
in in the middle you have you've signed today, and

it's changed tense. So the tens is it's this is
something you have to pay attention to, Like sign language,
American sign language relies on you to be a smart,
non lazy person because you have to pay attention. You
have to keep up with what you're saying, so you
can't just you know, drift off or you know, just
start staring into the middle. Focus you know, like you

have to be paying attention. Um, And it's not just
because you're watching the signs or anything like that. Like
it can change and switch very suddenly, going from yesterday
to today and then everything after that stays the same,
and you have to look for it change intense so
you don't miss it and get confused. Yeah, and they're
quick too, and and it relies on you to understand
context as well. So for example, you if you were saying, um,

I had lunch today, I went out for lunch today. Um,
you can even speak it in English, I went out
for lunch this afternoon. Okay, Um, you would say today,
I go to lunch is what you would say in
sign language. And depending on when you were saying it,

the person the receiver would know what you were talking about.
If you were talking about in the morning, they would know, oh,
you're going out to lunch this afternoon, or if you
were talking to them that night, they would know, oh,
well you're saying you went to lunch already this afternoon.
Now you're going to you already went It's all context
as well. Yeah, like you said earlier, you won't get
confused if you're if you're understanding what they're saying. Yeah. Um,

that I said makes total sense, doesn't it. It really does.
It's it's it's smart. Yeah, we talked about using the space. Um,
if you sign close to the body, it might have
been something that happened uh recently, or might happen soon.
If you sign further out, maybe it was something that
happened a long time ago, or might happen away far
in the future. Again, super interesting and smart, and that

kind of runs into the calendar that some sinists report
around them all the time. I thought of that same thing.
Didn't it make you think of that totally? I wonder
if Strickling did that on purpose. He is an evil genius. Um.
All right, So I think maybe we should take a
message break and then get to the etiquette of sign language.

All right, Chuck, where you're gonna talk about Mr Manners etiquette? Yes,
there is etiquette like with regular speaking language. Um, you
need to wait for the speaker to finish signing, and
then they'll look at you and says you're turned to speak.
If they look away, they're they're still talking. They're signing.

You know what I'm saying. I know what you're saying,
So don't take that as your cue to jump in there.
In fact that can be rude, they will actually give
you the signal that it's it's time for you to respond. Right.
But um, if you watch two people who are signing
with one another kind of frantically arguing, yeah, that they
that's one was a tactic in an argument using sign language,

you don't wait until the person stops and points to
you could just cut in. What you're doing is interrupting them. Interesting. Yeah,
Another thing that you that might happen if you are
a receiver of sign language is the person signing might
suddenly turn and start signing to somebody who isn't there.

So you're not supposed to take a couple of steps
over right. They they know where you're standing. What they're
saying is that they they're basically saying like, um, and
then I was talking to Todd and this is Todd
all of a sudden, this is what I was saying
to Todd. Right, So they're not they're not addressing they're
addressing you still, but they're talking about how what they

said to Todd, yeah, or what Todd said. If Todd
said that he has a sore back, you would look
at the imaginary Todd and say, I don't know what
you would say, probably back sore or sore back. But
the the the the proper etiquette there to just keep
watching their their facial expression and gestures just like they
are talking to you. Yeah. Um, you don't just wander

off right if you see uh. If you have nothing
to do with any of this and you just see
two people signing on the street, um, they say. According
to Dr Bill Vickers, who owns a company, I'm sorry,
he's president of a company that creates UH sign language programs.
He said, it's not rude to walk between them. Um
if you just kind of just walk quickly between them

and like, it's no big deal. So there's that, right,
But you don't want to be like, yeah, sorry, sorry,
if you buddy, you see me, I'm about to walk
in here, so you just go through, yeah, Or I
would say, just go around if you can. That's Chuck's recommendation.
Go around, you know, Like I wouldn't walk between two
people having a conversation either, Yeah, speaking conversation. That's actually

I thought that was a little rude too, But apparently
deaf people are cool with it all right, So good
to know, so chuck um. We talked about American Sign language,
and obviously that's far from the only sign language in
the world. There's hundreds, but in the States, um, American
Sign language is the dominant sign language. But there's other
types of sign languages that are also practiced enough to

warrant mentioning. Here one is signed Exact English. Man. This
sounds tough. It is because it's slow. One of the
advantages of American Sign language is that it gets rid
of a lot of the crud. So like you just
say give gift, and by the direction you're moving, you
get the point across that I give you a gift. Um,

all of these other things that you can do with
the gesture, you're cutting out two, three, four words in
a sentence, this whole thing. And I feel like I
wasted a lot of WORKDS we do, especially in English,
and English is a very strange, technically difficult language, and
American Sign language gets rid of a lot of that stuff.
Or I should say it doesn't get rid of it,
it evolved without that stuff. Yeah, that's about um. And

Signed Exact English is like trying to literally get English
across and all of its weird syntax and order and
I am and B and is UM using sign language,
so it's it can be very slow. Yeah, like UM,
in a s L, if you wanted to sign beautiful,
that could mean pretty, beautiful, lovely to look at um.

But they get specific with signed exactly English. You would
actually if you want to say someone was pretty and
not beautiful, you might sign the letter P and then
the sign the A L signed for beautiful, which I
guess is you know, if you're being set up on
a date, you might want to get specific, right, she
was beautiful, No, I said she was lovely? Man, what's

the sign for good personality? Um? And and Strictland points
out that hearing teachers who interact with deaf children prefer
signed exact English to a s L because I guess
just when you're at that stage in life to match
up with the English spoken language, they think that has
some benefit. Well, yeah, there's a UM. I guess. One

way of looking at educating deaf children is this whole
immersed education. Yeah, UM, where it's like you learned speech reading,
which lip reading, UM, you learn sign language, you learn
to speak, UM, you learn finger spelling, right, you learned reading,

because that's another thing too. If you just are raised
on American sign language, you're to have trouble reading English
because you're gonna you're gonna say, what is be? What
it is? What are all these extra words? What's with
the syntax? It's that Gonda makes sense. So there is
definitely a school of thought among educators that if you
have a deaf kid, um you they should learn everything,

including sign language, but also all the other stuff so
they can effectively communicate with non sign language non signers. UM.
And that's opposed as opposed to someone who loses their
hearing later in life. No, I think that's opposed to
people who think, like, well or a deaf community and
sign language is enough for us. We don't have to
know how to speak. We like, why doesn't Why don't

hearing kids learn sign language? Why is it on us
that we have to learn all this every extra stuff?
Why is there not a balance? So I think that
that's UM part. I think those are two camps. I
don't know if that's the whole thing, but I think
some people think you should learn everything, where other people
are like sign language is good enough. Interesting, Uh, well

there's one more we'll get to in a second. Um.
Called Pigeon Signed English right after this message break al Right.
So Pigeon Signed English, which is what we were talking about,
is the other common uh form of sign language in
the United States. And I don't fully understand this one,

do you. Uh. It seems to be uh the middle
ground between signed Exact English and American Sign language. So
they try to follow English syntax, but they don't have
like b okay, so there wouldn't so there wouldn't be like, um,
like I give you a gift, right, it might just

be like I give you gift, you know. Yeah, Yeah,
that makes more sense. Yeah. Uh. They they do not
require in Pigeon Signed English UM prefixes and suffixes like
they do in s E uh. And they say it
can be easier to learn than either one or the
other two versions because it does match up with English syntax. Yeah.

And if you if you're one of those educators who
thinks that kids should learn everything, um, you would be
teaching C or I imagine at least pigeon sign Yeah.
And they say you can speak out loud and sign
at the same time easier because you're not gonna get
ahead or fall behind because it'll match up more yea
makes sense. And then there's UM. There was a push because,

like we said, if you if you're deaf and a
speaker of American sign language and you go to Great Britain,
like you're gonna have trouble communicating, just like an English
speaker would have in France. Yeah, what's a garage on
our lift. So so there was this push in the
mid twentieth century to create an international sign language. That's

what I thought. Everything was UM and the the inner Yeah,
I kind of did too. Yeah, I was very uh
naive about all this. Yeah, same here. UM. The American
or international sign language was. It came out of them,
the World Congress of the World Federation of the Death

from They said, let's do this, and then twenty two
years later they got around to doing it, and they
created something called just do no you should say it
just stilling them. Yeah, and that it's an Italian word
that means unified sign language appropriately enough, and I think
Strickland says, it's very much like the spoken language esperanto. Yeah,

it exists, some people know it, but it is very
far from an international language. Yeah. I looked a little
more into it. I think they use it at international
meetings because they kind of probably have to. And um,
they say it can be useful for like world travelers
to pick up I guess just like you would visit
another country to pick up some phrases and things. Gotcha

to help you out. But yeah, it sounds like it's
are from codified, right do you say codified or codified codified? God?
All right? Uh? And then there's babies speaking sign language.
And I want to say, if you want to see
a creepy picture of a baby, check out this article
on how stuff works dot com How Sign Language Works.

I missed that on the last page the baby sign
language page is a picture of a baby signing and
it's staring right at the camera. It looks way too
young to like be thinking the things it's obviously thinking
murderous thoughts. He looks like he's doing karate to me,
but look at his face though, it's like a scary kid.
Sinister it's a great word. So um that is uh

baby sign language. Well, yeah, there's a school of thought that, um,
if you start your baby out before they can speak
English words or whatever words, that you are going to
get them ahead in life by signing things that they need.
Like teach them to sign for Hungary or Pepe or
dead your mommy and they say it. About six months,

kids can start picking this stuff up and learn like
dozens of words. Yeah, they can learn at a six months,
but it might take a couple of months before they
start signing and return, but they're still absorbing it. And um,
like you said, they learned obvious words that have meaning
to them in their life. But apparently a lot of
parents report that their kids once they figure out what

they're doing, that they're communicating, they want to learn more
and more and more, which is pretty cool. Um. And
there was a little bit of concern when this was
first introduced, uh that kids who were learning sign language
would become deficient in speech. And they did a study
and they found out actually the exact opposite is true,

Like kids who are learning sign languages babies, um, have
better speech abilities and language abilities than their peers who
didn't learn it. Interesting that at least one one study
found but um, these same researchers recommend that if you're
teaching your kids sign language, um, which I didn't know

it was a thing, but you mean, and I want
to go visit a friend of hers and like they
started signing to their baby, and I was like, what
is going on with yeah, kind of um And apparently
it's a thing. I didn't realize it. I had seen
it before. But they're saying, if you teach your kid,
you're hearing child um sign language. We speak the word

as well. So the kid comes to understand that speaking
and signing are they're saying the same thing. Okay, so
there's not there's not a reliance on just one or
the other. I guess, yeah, I'm glad to know that
it does lead to better uh speech, maybe later on,
because when I first saw people doing that, it was
kind of like I was one of his doubters, like,

come on, what are you doing really? Yeah, But now
I get it. Yeah, it makes sense. Plus it's kind
of cool like if your kid, if you can get
your seven month old kid to sign things to you,
it's almost like the same thing, but on the opposite
end of the timeline of getting messages from the grave.
You know, like babies can't talk for reasons, they know

stuff they're not supposed to know. So if your baby
does the sign for area fifty one, you're in trouble.
I got one more little fun thing. I was talking
about the guy in d c Uh Painter is his
last name. He said that a lot of times they'll
get hired because they have to get hired, you know,
to under federal law. But there won't be anyone there

that's hard of hearing. But they still have to stand
up there and sign. And he calls that in the
terms apparently called that air guitar. That's awesome, pretty good. Cool,
So sign language. Yeah, if you, um have a friend
who is deaf or hard of hearing and is sign
language person a signer, I guess, um, and you want

to ask them how we did. If you go on
to Stuff you Should Know dot com and go to
the page for this episode, it will have a full
transcript for it too, so everybody can check it out. Um.
And if you want to know more about this article,
see the Scary Scary baby. Um. You can type in
sign language on how Stuff Works dot com and we'll

bring up Strickland's article. That's right. So there's two websites
for you to go to Stuff you Should Do dot
com and how Stuff Works dot com. Boom. And since
I said to websites, it's time for listener mail. I'm
gonna call this h I v um. Hey, guys, are
recently went to visit family in Louisiana for Christmas break
from San Francisco, and during a conversation with a quote

friend from high school, I mentioned the fact that I
had recently started my medication for HIV AIDS, and this
quote friend end quote, became visibly uncomfortable and clearly was
looking for an excuse to leave. I received the text
later where I was accused of endangering his life by
not immediately disclosing my status with him, giving amples of

risky behavior like what if I had drank after you,
or some microscopic speck of your spit had gotten on
my face? Two fourteen now, and this is what's going on? Still?
Have you seen Dallas Biarrus Club yet? No? I can't wait. Uh.
It was a stark reminder, guys that just how little
people know still about how HIV works. Uh. Not only

are neither of those things a possible vector of transmission,
but modern medication can so effectively eradicate HIV from your
blood and semen that you're practically not even contagious anymore,
reducing the risk by as much as ninety I had
end age AIDS in May and by August my viral
load was undetectable, that my T cell count was normal,

but there were complications with medication side effects such as
liver damage. Um, there's so much information out there about
HIV that people who don't have it are unaware of.
When it comes to HIV, ignorance can cause positive people
some serious pain when the inform it because feel like
a biohazard. Yeah, and it would be awesome if you
guys could do an episode how HIV works. And that

is Jesse in San Francisco and he works with the
l g B T YES community out there. I can't
remember where he works, but he was like, yeah, man,
read this and do a podcast on HIV. And I
think that's a great idea and we should get that
together forthcoming. That's right, thanks Jesse. Uh yeah to your friends.

Two four. I remember hearing something. I remember being a kid.
We were like the generation that was just scared to
death of AIDS in HIV because we're the ones who
are like, you know, on the schoolyard when this thing
was you know, becoming a thing. And um, I remember
being afraid of that kind of thing and then learning
as I got a little older, like you'd have to

drink something like a gallon or two gallons of an
HIV patients um saliva to possibly contract a try be
through saliva or something like that. And you're like, I
just drank a quart, so I'm good. I'm good to go,
and that and the whole toilet seat thing remember that? Yeah,
I remember. It's just ridiculous. But I have one for you.
That's surprising. We'll do a podcast. Not okay, okay, oh man, um,

that's suspenseful. Okay, So look for an HIV podcast, he agreed.
If you want to get in touch with Chuck or
me um, you can get in touch with this via Twitter.
That's right at s y s K podcast. You can
join us on Facebook dot com, slash Stuff you Should Know,
send us an email to stuff Podcast at Discovery dot com,
and as always, go check out our home on the web,

Stuff you Should Know dot com for more on this
and thousands of other topics. Is that how Stuff Works
dot com. This episode of Stuff you Should Know is
brought to you by Linda dot Com. Linda dot com

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