China Now Has a Standardized Sign Language

By Sunny Wang, September 7, 2018

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On September 3, students at Beijing Qiyin Experimental School for the Deaf gathered for a school assembly on their first day of school. The pupils signed March of the Volunteers, China’s national anthem, according to South China Morning Post, following along to a video that demonstrated the official signs for the anthem.

The anthem is part of the Chinese central government's initiative to standardize Chinese sign language. Like spoken languages, sign language is subject to regional variations. Although these ‘sign dialects’ are important, a lingua franca is nonetheless necessary, said Gong Qunhu, a linguistics professor at Fudan University.

Image via 澄_1488/iQiYi

According to Gong, the differences in sign language are similar to the dialects in northern China (less drastic than the difference between Mandarin Chinese and Cantonese). Still, hearing-impaired people from one region may have trouble communicating with someone from another area.

To remedy this problem, the National List of Common Words for Universal Sign Language conducted a vigorous survey and came up with over 5,000 signs to include in the national lexicon. It aims to be the standard for the 33 million sign language users in China and will be used in schools and media reporting.

So, if you’ve given up on learning putonghua, maybe this the language for you!

INFOGRAPHIC: The Languages Spoken in China

[Cover compiled by Matthew Bossons, images via Pixabay (1, 2, 3, 4)]

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