talk in sign language / talk in a sign language

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namegnorw

New Member
Chinese
Hi,

I would like to know which one is right:
<< Other question has its own thread. >>
"They talk in sign language." or "They talk in a sign language."
I searched online. I found that more people use the first sentence.
The first one sounds more right to me, but I'm not very sure.

Thank you.
 
Last edited:
  • Egmont

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    "Sign language" is a language*, like English or Spanish. Therefore, it is used in the same way we would use "English" to refer to the language. Since we would say "they talk in English," not "they talk in an English," it is the same with sign language.

    ________________________________
    *Actually, there are many sign languages. If two people have a sign language conversation in the U.S., we assume they are using ASL (American Sign Language) unless we are told otherwise, and so on.
     

    Giorgio Spizzi

    Senior Member
    Italian
    Eg says "Actually, there are many sign languages". Which is absolutely true.
    So, why not accept, e.g., "They're talking in some sign-language". ("If two people are having a sign language conversation...").

    Best.

    GS
     

    mplsray

    Senior Member
    Eg says "Actually, there are many sign languages". Which is absolutely true.
    So, why not accept, e.g., "They're talking in some sign-language". ("If two people are having a sign language conversation...").

    Best.

    GS
    There are few situations where such a comment would be appropriate, and even then I would prefer "They're talking in a sign language," since "some sign language" runs the risk of sounding dismissive.

    In most situations, however, one sign language is the dominant one for a region, so that, for example, in the US if someone were to say "They're talking in sign language" it would be reasonable to assume that the people in question were talking in American Sign Language.

    "Talking in sign language" sounds fine to me in casual speech, where "communicating in sign language" would strike me as a bit stuffy. I'm under the impression that in America, among the deaf and their hearing relatives, the way to speak about communication in sign language is to use the verb sign, as in "He has a hearing friend who signs."
     

    ribran

    Senior Member
    English - American
    I'm under the impression that in America, among the deaf and their hearing relatives, the way to speak about communication in sign language is to use the verb sign, as in "He has a hearing friend who signs."
    I thought that was "mainstream." I don't have any deaf friends or relatives, and that is what I would say.
     
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