When it comes to sign languages, many people assume that they are all the same, but in reality, each sign language has its own unique characteristics. In this article, we will explore the similarities and differences between Tanzanian Sign Language and American Sign Language (ASL) – two sign languages from different parts of the world.
Tanzanian Sign Language is the sign language used in Tanzania, a country located in East Africa. It is a visual-gestural language that is used by the deaf community in the country, and has its own grammar, vocabulary, and syntax.
ASL, on the other hand, is the sign language used in the United States and parts of Canada. It is a complete and complex visual-gestural language with its own grammar, vocabulary, and syntax.
Join us as we explore the similarities and differences between these two sign languages, and discover the unique features that make them both fascinating and important languages to learn.
What is Tanzanian Sign Language?
Tanzanian Sign Language (TSL) is a visual language used by the Deaf community in Tanzania. TSL has its own distinct grammar, vocabulary, and syntax. It is a complete language with its own unique structure and rules, just like any spoken language. TSL is used by thousands of people in Tanzania, making it an essential part of the country’s linguistic and cultural heritage.
The origins of TSL can be traced back to the 19th century when European missionaries and educators established schools for the Deaf in Tanzania. Over time, TSL evolved and became the primary language of communication for the Deaf community. Today, TSL is recognized as one of Tanzania’s national languages.
Learning TSL is not just about mastering the vocabulary and grammar. It also involves learning about Deaf culture and history. In Tanzania, TSL is a crucial tool for communication and education. It enables the Deaf community to express themselves, access information, and participate fully in society. However, despite its importance, TSL is still not widely known or recognized outside of the Deaf community.
Introduction to Tanzanian Sign Language
Tanzanian Sign Language (TSL) is the language of the deaf community in Tanzania. It is estimated that there are around 400,000 deaf individuals in the country. TSL has a unique grammatical structure and vocabulary, and is not simply a translation of spoken Swahili or English. It has its own distinct culture and history.
Like many sign languages, TSL relies on facial expressions, body movements, and hand gestures to convey meaning. It is a visual language that is conveyed through the use of space and movement, as well as the positioning and movement of the hands.
One of the challenges facing the TSL community is a lack of recognition and resources. Despite being the primary means of communication for the deaf community in Tanzania, TSL is not officially recognized as a language by the government. This lack of recognition means that deaf individuals often face significant barriers in accessing education, healthcare, and employment opportunities.
History and Development of Tanzanian Sign Language
The history of Tanzanian Sign Language (TSL) can be traced back to the early 1960s. It emerged as a result of the establishment of schools for the deaf in Tanzania, where teachers and students began developing a system of communication that would eventually become TSL.
The language continued to develop and spread over the years, with the formation of the Tanzania Association of the Deaf (TAD) in 1983 playing a major role in its growth. TAD advocated for the recognition and use of TSL in education and the broader society, leading to the language’s formal recognition by the Tanzanian government in 2003.
Today, TSL is used by over 200,000 deaf people in Tanzania and is recognized as one of the country’s official languages alongside Swahili and English.
What is American Sign Language?
American Sign Language (ASL) is a complete, complex language that utilizes visual-manual modality to convey meaning. It is a natural language that has its own grammar and syntax, and it is the primary language of the Deaf community in the United States and Canada.
ASL is not a universal language; it is specific to the United States and Canada. While there are similarities between ASL and other sign languages, such as French Sign Language (LSF) and Mexican Sign Language (LSM), they are separate and distinct languages with their own grammar, vocabulary, and culture.
ASL is used by millions of Deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals in North America, as well as by their families and friends. It is recognized as a language by many national and international organizations, including the United Nations and the World Federation of the Deaf.
Introduction to American Sign Language
American Sign Language (ASL) is a visual language used by the deaf and hard-of-hearing community in the United States and parts of Canada. It is a complete language with its own grammar and syntax, and it is not derived from English. ASL has been recognized as an official language in the United States since 198
Like spoken languages, ASL has dialects and variations that are influenced by factors such as geography, age, and cultural background. For example, ASL used in the Southern United States may have variations in vocabulary and grammar compared to ASL used in the Northeastern United States.
ASL is not universal and is not the same as other sign languages used in other countries, such as British Sign Language or Tanzanian Sign Language. However, ASL and LSF (French Sign Language) share a common origin and are similar in some aspects.
History and Development of American Sign Language
American Sign Language (ASL) has a rich history that spans centuries. The development of ASL is closely tied to the history of Deaf culture in the United States. ASL originated from a combination of French Sign Language and various sign languages used by Deaf communities in the U.S.
In the early 1800s, American schools for the Deaf were established, and educators started to develop methods for teaching sign language. In 1864, the first school for the Deaf and the first teacher training program for Deaf educators were established in the U.S. This led to the standardization of ASL and its recognition as a distinct language.
Throughout the 20th century, ASL continued to evolve and gain recognition. In 1960, William Stokoe published a groundbreaking study that demonstrated that ASL is a bona fide language with its own grammatical rules and structure. Today, ASL is recognized as one of the official languages of the Deaf community in the United States.
ASL grammar and syntax
Word order is different in American Sign Language (ASL) compared to English. In ASL, the subject typically comes first, followed by the object, and then the verb. For example, the ASL sentence “I give you a book” would be signed as “I book give you”. This unique word order can take some time to get used to for English speakers learning ASL.
Another important aspect of ASL grammar is the use of non-manual markers. These are facial expressions, head tilts, and body movements that add meaning to the signs being used. For example, raising the eyebrows can indicate a question, while narrowing the eyes can indicate a negative statement. Non-manual markers are an essential part of ASL and can change the entire meaning of a sign if not used correctly.
Syntax in ASL also differs from English. For instance, ASL has a unique way of showing plurality. Instead of adding an “s” to the end of a noun, as in English, in ASL, the signer will sign the noun and then repeat it to indicate plurality. Similarly, instead of using prepositions like “in” or “on,” ASL uses spatial referencing, which involves using the signer’s body and the surrounding space to indicate the location of objects and actions.
Understanding ASL grammar and syntax is crucial to becoming proficient in the language. While it may take some time to get used to the differences between ASL and English, with practice and patience, anyone can learn to communicate effectively in ASL.
|Word order differs from English.||Uses spatial referencing to indicate location.||Facial expressions, head tilts, and body movements add meaning to signs.|
|Subjects typically come first, followed by the object, and then the verb.||Shows plurality by repeating the noun.||Non-manual markers are an essential part of ASL.|
|ASL syntax and grammar can take some time to get used to for English speakers.||Non-manual markers can change the entire meaning of a sign if not used correctly.|
Differences between Tanzanian Sign Language and American Sign Language
Sign languages are not universal, just as spoken languages vary from one country to another. Tanzanian Sign Language (TSL) and American Sign Language (ASL) are two different sign languages used in different regions of the world.
One significant difference between TSL and ASL is their grammar and syntax. TSL is a pro-drop language, meaning that it often omits pronouns when communicating. In contrast, ASL uses a topic-comment structure that is not common in TSL.
Another difference is the handshapes used in the two sign languages. TSL uses a unique set of handshapes, which are not found in ASL. At the same time, ASL has handshapes that are not used in TSL. Fingerspelling is another area where the two languages differ. In TSL, fingerspelling is commonly used to convey proper nouns, while in ASL, it is used more frequently as a way of spelling out English words.
Additionally, cultural differences also impact the signs used in TSL and ASL. For instance, the sign for “marriage” in TSL involves interlocking fingers, while in ASL, the sign is made by holding the right hand flat and placing the left hand on top of it.
Despite these differences, both TSL and ASL are essential tools for the deaf communities in their respective regions. They facilitate communication and help to break down barriers between the deaf and hearing populations.
Distinctive Features of Tanzanian Sign Language
Tanzanian Sign Language (TSL) is the primary sign language used in Tanzania and has a few distinctive features that set it apart from other sign languages. One of the unique features of TSL is the use of initialized signs, where signs are formed with a handshape that represents the first letter of the word in Tanzanian Swahili.
Another distinctive feature of TSL is its verb agreement system, where signs agree with the subject and object of the verb. This means that the signs change based on who is doing the action and who is receiving the action.
TSL also has a unique prosodic feature, where the signs are produced with different speeds, durations, and stresses to convey different grammatical and semantic meanings. This feature is similar to tone in spoken languages, but instead of tone, it uses variations in sign movements and positions.
Distinctive Features of American Sign Language
Visual language: American Sign Language (ASL) is a visual language that primarily uses hand gestures and facial expressions to convey meaning. This makes it unique from spoken languages and allows for a high level of nuance and subtlety in communication.
Grammar and syntax: ASL has its own distinct grammar and syntax, which differs from that of English. For example, the subject and object of a sentence can be arranged in various ways, and verbs are often conveyed through movement and inflection rather than by separate words.
Cultural references: ASL also includes a wide range of cultural references and idiomatic expressions that are unique to Deaf culture. These references can include signs for specific Deaf individuals, landmarks, and cultural experiences, which adds an additional layer of meaning to communication.
Similarities between Tanzanian Sign Language and American Sign Language
Sign language family: Both Tanzanian Sign Language and American Sign Language belong to the same language family, which is the sign language family. Sign languages are languages that use a system of manual communication to convey meaning, just like spoken languages use sounds.
Non-manual markers: Both languages use non-manual markers to modify and clarify meaning. These include facial expressions, body posture, and head movements.
Grammar and syntax: Both languages have their own unique grammar and syntax, which includes the use of classifiers, spatial referencing, and inflection. The structure of sentences in both languages is also similar, as they both follow a subject-verb-object (SVO) order.
Regional variations: Just like spoken languages, sign languages have regional variations. Both Tanzanian Sign Language and American Sign Language have regional variations, depending on factors such as geographical location, cultural influences, and historical factors.
Visual-gestural modality: Both languages are visual-gestural languages, which means that they use visual and gestural elements to convey meaning. This is in contrast to spoken languages, which rely solely on auditory elements to convey meaning.
Manual alphabet: Both Tanzanian Sign Language and American Sign Language have a manual alphabet that uses handshapes to represent letters of the alphabet. This allows for fingerspelling, which is used to spell out words that do not have a specific sign.
Non-manual markers: Both languages use non-manual markers, such as facial expressions and body language, to convey meaning and express emotions. For example, raised eyebrows can indicate a question, while a furrowed brow can convey confusion or concern.
Use of space: Both languages make use of space to convey meaning. Signers may use different locations and movements within the signing space to indicate different concepts, such as time, distance, and relationships between people or objects.
International Sign Language and its similarity to Tanzanian and American Sign Language
International Sign Language (ISL) is a form of sign language used by individuals from different countries to communicate with each other. It is similar to Tanzanian Sign Language and American Sign Language in that it uses a combination of signs, facial expressions, and body language to convey meaning.
One similarity between ISL and Tanzanian Sign Language and American Sign Language is that they are all visual languages, meaning that they rely on visual cues rather than spoken words to communicate. Additionally, all three languages use handshapes, movements, and spatial relationships to convey meaning.
Another similarity is that ISL, Tanzanian Sign Language, and American Sign Language all have their own grammar and syntax. For example, in all three languages, the subject is usually placed before the verb, and questions are often formed by raising the eyebrows or tilting the head.
Despite their similarities, it is important to note that ISL, Tanzanian Sign Language, and American Sign Language are not identical and there are differences in the signs used for some concepts. Additionally, ISL has its own unique signs and features that are not found in either Tanzanian Sign Language or American Sign Language.
Which countries use Tanzanian Sign Language?
Tanzania: Tanzanian Sign Language is the primary sign language used in Tanzania. It is recognized as one of the country’s official languages and is used by the deaf community throughout the country.
Kenya: Tanzanian Sign Language is also used in some regions of Kenya, particularly in areas bordering Tanzania, where it is used by the deaf community for communication.
Uganda: Tanzanian Sign Language is used by some members of the deaf community in Uganda, particularly those who have migrated from Tanzania or have been exposed to the language through educational programs.
Rwanda: Tanzanian Sign Language is also used by some members of the deaf community in Rwanda, particularly those who have migrated from Tanzania or have been exposed to the language through educational programs.
Burundi: Some members of the deaf community in Burundi also use Tanzanian Sign Language, particularly those who have migrated from Tanzania or have been exposed to the language through educational programs.
Significance of Tanzanian Sign Language within Tanzania
Tanzanian Sign Language (TSL) is a critical tool for deaf communication, empowerment and inclusion in Tanzania. It is officially recognized as one of the country’s official languages, and the government is required to promote its use and development. TSL is essential in education and vocational training for deaf individuals and has facilitated their inclusion in various fields, such as healthcare and politics. TSL has also led to the establishment of deaf communities and associations, promoting socialization and exchange of ideas among the deaf. Its importance in Tanzanian society cannot be overstated, as it allows deaf individuals to communicate effectively with their families and participate fully in society.
However, despite the official recognition of TSL, there are still significant challenges facing the deaf community in Tanzania. There is a lack of adequate education and vocational training opportunities for deaf individuals, and access to sign language interpretation services in public places remains limited. The government and other stakeholders need to prioritize the promotion and development of TSL to address these challenges and ensure full inclusion and participation of deaf individuals in Tanzanian society.
Another critical aspect of TSL’s significance within Tanzania is its contribution to the preservation of Tanzanian deaf culture. TSL has its unique linguistic and cultural features, which reflect the experiences and perspectives of the Tanzanian deaf community. The language is a significant cultural marker for the community, and its preservation is essential in maintaining their distinct identity and heritage.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the similarities between Tanzanian Sign Language and American Sign Language?
Despite being from different countries and having distinct features, Tanzanian Sign Language and American Sign Language share many commonalities, including handshape, movement, and location of signs.
What are the differences between Tanzanian Sign Language and American Sign Language?
While Tanzanian Sign Language and American Sign Language share similarities, they also have differences, including grammatical structures, vocabulary, and finger spelling. Tanzanian Sign Language also incorporates more facial expressions than American Sign Language.
Is it easy for a person who knows American Sign Language to understand Tanzanian Sign Language?
While some signs in Tanzanian Sign Language may resemble those in American Sign Language, the two languages are distinct from one another and it may take time to learn the unique features and differences of Tanzanian Sign Language.
How widely is Tanzanian Sign Language used?
Tanzanian Sign Language is used by the deaf community in Tanzania and is recognized as an official language by the Tanzanian government. However, due to a lack of education and resources, not all deaf individuals in Tanzania have access to sign language.
What is the significance of Tanzanian Sign Language within Tanzania?
Tanzanian Sign Language is crucial for communication within the deaf community in Tanzania and has helped to create a sense of identity and culture for this community. It also plays a role in advocating for the rights of deaf individuals in Tanzania and promoting inclusivity.