Sign Language - Sign Language in Spanish Speaking Countries

Mexican? Colombian? Peruvian? Venezuelan?

What is Spanish Sign Language?

Looking for information on Spanish sign language? Sorry, you'll have to be a little more specific than that—just as the Spanish language varies from one Spanish-speaking country to another, so does the version of Spanish sign language used. Each Spanish-speaking country has its own sign language, e.g. Mexican Sign Language, Columbian Sign Language, etc.

Who Uses Spanish Sign Language?

Andorra, Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Gibraltar, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Spain, and Venezuela are the Spanish-speaking countries of the world.
In most of these countries, national associations of the deaf have published sign language dictionaries. Many of the dictionaries listed below were found on the Gallaudet Library page "Sign Languages of the World, by Name," and others were from the International Bibliography of Sign Language. Population data came from Ethnologue. Some countries are too small to have their own native sign language and are instead utilizing American Sign Language (ASL) or something close to ASL.

Andorra
Andorra is a very small country between France and Spain with a population of under 100,000. One resource indicates that Andora has fewer than 5,000 deaf. I can not find any resources for a specialized sign language for Andorra. Belize is another small country, with a population under 300,000; its deaf population is under 15,000.

Argentina
The article at About Deafness on Argentina's Deaf Community has resources on sign language in Argentina.

Bolivia
Bolivia has a deaf population estimated by one resource to be around 50,000, but under 500 users of a Bolivian sign language.

Chile
Chile has this book, but it is apparently not a sign language dictionary according to an About.com visitor: Pilleux, Mauricio, Cuevas, H., Avalos, E. (eds): El lenguaje de Señas.

Valdivia : Univ. Austral de Chile 1991 - 151 p. The About.com visitor wrote that this book is actually a "linguistic analysis" of Chilean sign language (LSCh). The visitor also said "The subtitle is 'Syntax-Semantic Analysis,' and the book focuses primarily on analyzing LSCh from a linguistic point of view in the same vein of Stokoe and ASL. While there are a fair number of diagrams included, they are all used to demonstrate certain particularities, such as the existence of classifiers etc."

Colombia
It appears that Colombia has a sign language dictionary: Royet, Henry Mejia, Lengua de Señas Columbiana, 1996. A search of Library of Congress holdings yielded another book, Diccionario de gestos. España e Hispanoamérica/Giovanni Meo-Zilio, Silvia Mejía, Bogotá : [Instituto Caro y Cuervo], 1980-1983.

Costa Rica
Costa Rica has a sign language dictionary, published by a ministry of public education's department of special education: Departamento de Educación Especial (1979). Hacia una nueva forma de communicación con el sordo.

San Jose, Costa Rica: Departamento de Publicaciones, Ministerio de Educación Pública.

Cuba
Cuba's sign language dictionary: Meneses Volumen, Alina (1993). Manual de lengua de señas cubanas. Habana, Cuba: ANSOC.

Dominican Republic
One resource indicates that while the Dominican Republic does have a sign language, it is apparently not well developed. An About.com visitor wrote: "I live and work with the deaf in the Dominican Republic. The Sign Language here, "Dominican Sign Language", might be called a dialect of ASL. I would estimate it is about 90% the same as ASL, but with a smaller vocabulary, and use of fingerspelling largely confined to names of people, streets, or places. This is true of the Sign Language all over the country. It is a small country, and there are regional differences, but they are not great, since there is plenty of interaction between regions."

Ecuador
Ecuador's sign language dictionary: Libro de señas: guia básica (1987). Quito, Ecuador: Sociedad de Sordo Adultos "Fray Luis Ponce de León," Proyecto "Mano a Mano".

El Salvador
According to a resource, El Salvador has fewer than 500,000 deaf. There is reportedly a Salvadoran Sign Language, but I am unable to find any resources. Bridgebuilders.org reports that El Salvador lacks a formal sign language system. At present, ASL is being used to teach Salvadoran children, but I expect that as time goes on, the deaf people of El Salvador will modify ASL to create a uniquely Salvadoran sign language.

Gibraltar
Gibraltar is another country that is apparently too small to have its own sign language. The country's total population is under 30,000.

Guatemala
Guatemala's deaf population has been estimated to be as high as 700,000. There is a Guatemalan Sign Language, but I cannot find any resources.

Honduras
An About visitor wrote: I have been working amongst the deaf in rural Honduras for the past 7 years, and there is a thriving beautiful sign language in Honduras indigenous to this land. The name of the language is Lesho, or Honduran Sign Language.

Mexico
Due in part to the large Mexican community in the United States (About Deafness also has an article on Mexico's deaf community), there are quite a few resources available for learning Mexican sign language:

  • The Institute for Disabilities Research and Training, Inc. (IDRT) offers a Mexican/ASL translator program
  • Signing Fiesta offers training videos in Mexican sign language and English.
  • Sign language dictionary: Serafín García, Esther (1990). Comunicación manual. México, D.F.: SEP
Research has also been done into Mexican sign language:Nicaragua
Nicaraguan sign language is relatively young, having been developed only in the 1990s. A sign language dictionary, López Gómez, Juan Javier (1997). Diccionario del idioma de señas de Nicaragua, was published in 1997 by the Asociación Nacional de Sordos de Nicaragua. Panama
Panama's sign language dictionary: Lengua de señas panameñas (1990). Panama: Asociación Nacional de Sordos de Panamá.

Paraguay
Paraguay's deaf population has been estimated to be over 300,000, but there does not seem to be a Paraguayan sign language.

Peru
The article on Deafness in Peru at About Deafness has information on Peruvian sign language.

Puerto Rico
The Gallaudet Encyclopedia of Deaf People and Deafness (out of print) has an article on Puerto Rican sign language.

I do not know if this book is a Puerto Rican sign language dictionary, but a Library of Congress search turned up this book: Aprende señas conmigo : lenguaje de señas en español-inglés = sign language in English-Spanish / Aida Luz Matos.San Juan, P.R. : A.L. Matos ; Río Piedras, P.R. : Concordia Gardens, 1988.

An About visitor provided this information:
"I wish to let you know that, as far as I know, in PR the 'official' sign language is ASL. Sign language classes and related material are provided in ASL. Even our Telecommunications Relay Service and VRS offices are located in the USA. That's why there isn't a Puerto Rican Sign Language dictionary; although I am sure there are a lot of people which debates (and wishes) that PR should have it because many Latin countries do. About the author of the book quoted, Aida Luz Matos, she is also a Rehabilitation Vocational supervisor. Her book is out of print, although she provides photocopies of it at a low cost.

Sacred Heard Missionaries from Baltimore funded in Aguadilla the "Colegio San Gabriel para Niños Sordos" (St. Gabriel School for Deaf Children") in 1904. In 1909 they moved to Santurce to San Jorge Street. In 1956 it was transferred to "Hermanas Franciscanas de la Inmaculada Concepción" from Valencia, Spain.

As I read, the Spanish nuns were responsibles for the oralism education in deaf schools in Latin America. References found in the following web pages (they are in Spanish) http://www.radiouniversidad.org/articulo.php?id=1578& http://www.radiouniversidad.org/articulo.php?id=430

In 1959 the Evangelical School for the Deaf in Luquillo was funded by American missionaries that came from Jamaica. (Their web page is http://www.esd.faithweb.com/; also they have their history in http://www.esd.faithweb.com/begin.html and http://emhoke.spaces.live.com/ -with pictures.)" Spain
The website Biblioteca de Signos (Library of Signs) appears to be a general resource for Spanish sign language. It includes video of signed poetry. There is a bibliography of published material on linguistics of sign language, including spanish sign language. The Spanish resources are accompanied by signed summaries. Based on this bibliography, it is apparent that the Spanish language publication Magazine of Logopedia, Foniatría and Audiología frequently publishes articles on Spanish sign language.

In addition, the website offers resources for learning Spanish sign language such as Spanish sign language dictionaries. One such dictionary is: Pinedo Peydró, Félix Jesús (2000). Diccionario de Lengua de Signos Española. [Madrid]: Confederacion Nacional de Sordos de España (National Confederation of the Deaf People of Spain). The Confederación Nacional de Sordos de España (National Confederation of the Deaf People of Spain) has published some papers on Spanish sign language, such as:

  • Muñoz Baell (1999): ¿Cómo se articula la lengua de signos española?, Madrid, CNSE.
  • Rodríguez González (1992), Lenguaje de signos, Barcelona, Confederación Nacional de Sordos de España/Fundación ONCE.

Deafblind.com also offers the Spanish sign alphabet.

Venezuela
The Gallaudet University Press Book "Signed Languages: Discoveries from international research" discusses Venuzuelan sign language in part. Some research has been done into Venezuelan sign language: Oviedo, Alejandro: Contando cuentos en Lengua de Señas Venezolana. Merida - Venezuela : Universidad de los Andes 1996 - 124 p.

Additional Resources

A search of the Eric database turned up this resource:
EJ517972. Schein, Jerome D.. Spanish Sign in the Americas. ACEHI Journal/Revue ACEDA; v21 n2-3 p109-16 1995.
ERIC_NO: EJ517972
TITLE: Spanish Sign in the Americas.
AUTHOR: Schein, Jerome D.
PUBLICATION_DATE: 1995
JOURNAL_CITATION: ACEHI Journal/Revue ACEDA; v21 n2-3 p109-16 1995
ABSTRACT: Spanish Sign Language (SSL) is now the second most used sign language. This article introduces resources for the study of SSL, including three SSL dictionaries--two from Argentina and one from Puerto Rico. Differences in SSL between and within the two countries are noted. Implications for deaf educators in North America are drawn.

In addition, a Library of Congress search found these books (but no additional information):

  • Comunicación manual / Esther Serafín García., 1990.
  • Diccionario mímico español / Félix Jesús Pinedo Peydró., 1981.

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