Eli5: Why do people use sign language rather than grabbing a pen and paper to write down what they want to say?


Why use sign language, wouldn’t it have been easier to use a pen and paper rather then having to learn how to sign?

In: 0

>wouldn’t it have been easier

No. Is it easier for *you* to write something down rather than speaking? If you need to point something out to someone, do you use your arm to point, or do you reach for a pen and notepad?

It’s much faster to sign than it is to write things down, at least once you’re more or less fluent in a sign language. And kids can learn signing well before they learn to read and write. The same question applies to (and would be answered the same way) vocal communication – why speak out loud when you can just write things down?

First you’d have to carry pen and paper around all the time. Second you’d have to have someone close enough to read what you wrote. Third, it’s much slower than signing.

A significant number of deaf people are born deaf or with hearing difficulties. It’s a lot easier for a person to learn a language (sign or vocal) than it is to learn to write.

A child will learn to speak before writing so they can reference the sound of a word they know with the written language.

A person born deaf can’t hear by definition and therefore has no baseline for phonics. They are forced to learn visually, so learning to write can be quite difficult for them. It is even more difficult if they don’t have a language baseline to start from.

Speaking in sign is also considerably faster than writing and much more efficient. Once you understand the basics many signs are actually pretty intuitive and it is a very expressive language. If you don’t know a sign for a word you can make one up and the other person will likely get what you are trying to say. Trying to describe a concept in writing is far more difficult, especially for a child.

You also need to carry a pen and paper with you everywhere which is inconvenient. This is somewhat moot because not everyone speaks sign language either, but this is no different than someone speaking a different language.

For the same reason that hearing people don’t just write what they want to communicate and show it to people: because it’s slower and requires special tools. Now, many deaf people have an app on their phone that they can use to type something out in a large font that makes things easy to read when communicating with hearing people, but that’s exclusively for communicating with hearing people. When they can use sign language, they will, because it’s faster and a much richer and communicative language.