Rare Language Fact File: Nicaraguan Sign Language

Native to:   Nicaragua, originating in the Managua region

Number of native speakers:   approx. 3,000

Spoken by:   Deaf Nicaraguans

Learn some:  Find out more about this unique language and learn some signs by watching this one minute film.

Interesting facts:

  • In the aftermath of the 1980s Sandinista Revolution in Nicaragua, the new administration implemented huge literacy programmes. Deaf children were brought together in a special school to learn Spanish. However, outside of classes, the children began to develop their own sign language. The younger children took the vocabulary created by their older peers and built a grammatical system, which was then adopted by the older children. Linguists came to study the children and their language from across the world.
  • Nicaraguan sign language (NSL) is absolutely unique, in that it is the only language ever to have been created without any other linguistic influences and recorded from its inception.
  • NSL was born in the political isolation of the revolution; this is a reason often cited for the language’s survival to this day, whereas other local and regional sign languages have been replaced by American Sign Language (ASL). In neighbouring Costa Rica, for example, ASL is the usual first language for deaf people.

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