Home > About Sign Language > Worldwide Signing Information

Worldwide Signing Information

By: Joanne Walker BA (hons) - Updated: 30 Aug 2012 | comments*Discuss
Sign Language Speak Gesture

There is a lack of worldwide signing information making it hard for deaf people around the world to communicate, just the same as people who can hear. Because all different countries have their own sign language, international communication is made difficult. In fact, it may even be harder for deaf people to communicate with others from around the world than non-deaf people. This is because even countries which share the same spoken language, the USA and UK being two which spring to mind, do not share the same sign language. And to make matters even harder, they are not related. American Sign Language bears little or no resemblance to spoken English or to British Sign Language. But at conferences and the like, delegates must come up with a system to help everyone regardless of where they are from.


Gestuno was invented as a way to convey worldwide signing information. It was invented by the World Federation for the Deaf some 60 years ago as a response to increased numbers of events where deaf people from across the world were coming together to meet and talk. The main problem was that these people had no way of communicating. So a type of pidgin sign language was put together to allow them to speak to each other. Gestuno, as it is known, is not a real language because it has no grammar system or structure of its own. Instead it uses commonly understood signs from different sign languages around the world. These signs are then fashioned together in a chain to make in understandable to anyone with a basic grasp of the signs.

Finger Spelling

If Gestuno is not being used then it is usually down to the individual to decide how they want to get by. Most often, thanks to a lack of worldwide signing information, this will be by finger spelling and lip-reading. All people who know sign language will also know finger spelling and many will have lip-reading skills. Of course, in international circles, even someone who can lip-read well may be left out if the person to whom they are listening speaks a different language. So finger spelling is the way forward, with people spelling out their names and other words they need to convey and using gestures for the rest.

The problem of getting across worldwide sign information is likely never to be wholly solved thanks to the massive numbers of different sign languages in existence. But in some places, most notably Europe, an international sign language is starting to take shape in an organic evolving way rather than being forced. It is likely it may never leave infancy but at least languages such as these are easy to understand for others because of the very way they came about. And just as Esperanto, the common spoken language has never really taken off, although spoken by a minority, it is likely that Gestuno and others of its ilk will be the same, and people will just have to content themselves with learning a second language – sign or spoken.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Why not be the first to leave a comment for discussion, ask for advice or share your story...

If you'd like to ask a question one of our experts (workload permitting) or a helpful reader hopefully can help you... We also love comments and interesting stories

(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
Enter word:
Latest Comments
  • Basma
    Re: Hands on Signing
    Hi I have a blind child and he has a moderate hearing loss. I wonder if you can help me to teach him sign language and I need to learn as well.…
    30 July 2019
  • Signing with seniors
    Re: Sign Supported English
    Does anyone know of any programmes or resources for using SSE with older people whose hearing has deteriorated in later life?
    16 May 2019
  • umaymah
    Re: Makaton
    what is makaton??????????????????????????
    11 December 2018
  • john smith
    Re: John Smith: UK's Only Deaf Comedian
    Am deaf and dumb of south west africa nigeria,deaf-uk original post in this 2006 bill 2018.thanh you
    3 December 2018
  • john smith
    Re: John Smith: UK's Only Deaf Comedian
    Am deaf and dumb in south west africa nigeria,deaf-uk 2006 bill 2018.thanh you
    3 December 2018
  • john smith
    Re: John Smith: UK's Only Deaf Comedian
    Thank you your message me to addition deaf people uk
    7 August 2018
  • Debb
    Re: Left Hand Signing
    I am right handed. When watching online various teaching do i mirror tbe to do it right handed?
    15 May 2018
  • Sue
    Re: Getting to Know One Another
    I have been searching everywhere for the how to sign "Live" as in, "where do you live?" in makaton, I cant seem to find it…
    24 April 2018
  • MisttY
    Re: Hands on Signing
    @Puckle - there must be lots of free online videos offering this. It would be a very easy and cost-effective way to learn. Good luck.
    10 April 2018
  • Puckle
    Re: Hands on Signing
    I have wanted to learn to communicate with deafblind people for a long while after seeing a documentary about it. It moved me so much that a lot…
    10 April 2018