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Spread the Sign: Multilingual sign language dictionary


Spread the Sign is an online multilingual sign language dictionary: you can type in a word, phrase, or fixed expression and get it translated into almost two dozen different national sign languages, including Swedish, British English (BSL), American English (ASL), German, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Estonian, Lithuanian, Icelandic, Latvian, Polish, Czech, Japanese, and Turkish. 

Not all languages are available for every word, but all the ones I tried had at least a dozen or so languages available. Once you’ve searched for a word or phrase, you click on the flag for the national sign language that you want, and you can see a video clip of the sign as well as a translation into the same country’s spoken/written language. 


It’s a project of the European Commission, so there tend to be more European languages — I notice a lack of Auslan (Australia), for example, so here’s a list of around 300 sign languages — but it’s definitely a great rebuttal to the idea that there’s only one sign language, as well as being incredibly interesting to click around!

Note though that it’s just a dictionary, and doesn’t account for grammatical differences between the languages in addition to the vocabulary, although you could probably recover some of the grammar from close attention to the phrases.

There is also a list of fifteen different sign alphabets, with images. Note that despite the fact that most of the fifteen languages are spoken in countries that use the Latin alphabet, their signs for, say, A, do not generally resemble each other. As a particularly obvious example, ASL has a one-handed alphabet while BSL has a two-handed alphabet. And Japanese Sign Language has signs for all the hiragana, which isn’t strictly speaking an alphabet. (Is the distinction between an alphabet and a syllabary still meaningful when you’re signing both of them? I…honestly have no idea. Apparently there is an Arabic Sign Language alphabet though, and none of the charts I found online include the short vowels, so I guess it would still qualify as an abjad? Wow, I don’t even know.)

Reposted byastridgingerglueninnghizidhan0gsydnorrinkac4os
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