Is there more than one kind of sign language?

Yes. There are many different formal sign languages including Makaton, Signalong, Canaan Barrie, British Sign Language and American Sign Language. There are 2 kinds of formal sign language:

  • Key word signing – here only the key words of a sentence are signed to support understanding of the main spoken language being used. If you are speaking English, this can be called ‘signed English’. Sign languages like this have large vocabularies of naming, action and describing words but very little by way of grammar. Examples are Makaton, Signalong and Canaan Barrie signs.
  • Sign Systems that are languages in their own right like British Sign Language (BSL) and American Sign Language (ASL). These have their own grammar, word order and culture associated with them. BSL is as different from English as Greek or Spanish are. Interestingly, BSL and ASL are also completely different from each other, much moreso than British and American English. There are also different ‘accents’ and regional variations within sign languages like BSL and ASL.