Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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Native American and Chinese = Universal Language

Native American Sign Language combined with Chinese characters
  [vote for,

Sign languages are faster and easier to learn than spoken languages. It is the ideal medium to use as a common language. The Native Americans knew this and to my knowledge were the only people who ever used sign language as a universal trading language. It is simple to learn. In high school, we learned the basics in about one week and were able to communicate with each other. If everyone in the world took two weeks to learn this language there would no longer be any language barrier.

Its weakness is the lack of a written language. However, a universal written language already exists in the form of Chinese characters. They have no inherent pronunciation and so can be spoken aloud with any language. To this day the Japanese use Chinese characters and not surprisingly, the Chinese can understand what is written in Japanese, and vice versa.

I believe if we were to combine these two languages, Native American Sign Language and a simplified form of Chinese characters, we would have a universal language that could be learned in weeks or months instead of years and, when combined with modern electronic text inputting modalities, it would be a language accessible to anyone in the world no matter their disability so long as they had at least one sense (sight, hearing, or touch) and could control one party of their body. Virtually no one would be excluded.

deussean, Jun 28 2015

Native American Sign Language Dictionary http://www.inquiry....utdoor/native/sign/
[deussean, Jun 28 2015]

Sign Language Powwow https://www.youtube...watch?v=bfT2a5SGDFA
[deussean, Jun 28 2015]


       Welcome, she said in English. Have to think about the idea further. But welcome.
blissmiss, Jun 28 2015

deussean, Jun 28 2015

       There's some divergence between Chinese and Japanese ideograms but I take your point. Are you thinking the sign language should be depicted? So you have drawings or photos of the signs used?   

       It's been suggested, controversially, that some Native American and First Nation languages are in fact related to Chinese, for instance Tlingit. I don't think it's a very popular idea though.
nineteenthly, Jun 28 2015

       decent. Could be applied to ASL/BSL as well, no ?
FlyingToaster, Jun 28 2015

       Sign languages aren't universal. In fact, sign languages are often much more dialectically diverse than spoken language, since deaf communities in general are less mobile and have less economic leverage than the general speaking public. (In Japan, I was marginally involved in a project to standardize three different Japanese sign languages - and we kept running into others. We started with Sendai, Tokyo, and Osaka regional variants; then ran into Old Tokyo, Old Nagasaki, Western Japan Women's, and several which were differentiated into local religious communities. None of them had even passing similarity to ASL.)
lurch, Jun 28 2015

       Welcome to the HB, [deussean].
MaxwellBuchanan, Jun 28 2015

       Hey guys, I'm not really sure how to respond to you individually, so I will just try from here. To give some background, I was raised in Montana near two Indian reservations when I learned basic Native sign language. I went to college and got a degree in Japanese language and literature where I learned about Chinese symbols. I am actively trying to create this new language in my spare time.   

       To ninteenthly: I don't have photos of individual signs or their corresponding characters yet (I will start a blog in the future) but I will post two links on Native American Sign Language.   

       The first one is a dictionary, which comes from one of the easier to understand paper dictionaries (which is also used in the boyscouts of america), and the second is a video on youtube of a sign language meeting in 1930.   

       To Ian Tindale: Chinese symbols can be hard to read at first, but they gradually get easier with time. Even easier is just pronouncing them in your native language. Besides, Chinese characters don't have to be hard. In this language I am proprosing, I was thinking of having no more than a few hundred basic characters which would correlate literally with the signs. For instance, the Native American word for 'alcohol' was 'fire water'. Instead of using the word for alcohol in Chinese characters, 酒 you could simply translate the word literally as fire water = 火水, thereby getting three words for the price of two and cutting out one more complicated sign you have to learn.   

       To FlyingToaster, lurch, and MaxwellBuchanan: Thank you for the welcome. As for using this idea with other sign languages, I specifically chose Native American Sign Language because it is a dead language. No one will have to fight about whose sign language should be used as the universal language because basically no one speaks Native sign language anymore.   

       I believe that this language would bring the disabled and non-disabled people together. The deaf and the hearing don't communicate often in the US I have noticed, but they did in Native American culture because they all spoke in sign. I think this idea would be a step up from that. For instance: my language would require the use of the regular Roman/English alphabet (in order to fingerspell proper nouns not originally written in Chinese) and so you could conceivably use any input system to convert from English or whatever language into Chinese characters and signs. That means that even someone who has Locked In Syndrome, a terrible disease leaving a person unable to do anything but blink, could develop the ability to communicate internationally using Morse code (in any language) which would automatically by converted to the universal language.   

       I am willing and able to take all suggestions about how to get this idea off the ground and in the hands of people. Thanks for all your responses!
deussean, Jun 28 2015

       Look up the history of the written Korean language. You might end up thinking it is superior even to Chinese. Do remember that Chinese requires a different symbol for every different thing, meaning it is necessary to learn thousands of symbols. The Korean written language was designed to partly accommodate beneficial aspects of Chinese, while also accommodating beneficial aspects of phonetic alphabets. So, if we pretend that hand-signs are equivalent to phonetic characters....
Vernon, Jun 28 2015

       What's Chinese or Sign Language for computer?   

       <later> OK, I tried Google Translate for some English words into Chinese, and as far as I can tell there is no single character for anything invented in the last century. Instead, two or more characters are used, so:   

       Phone = electric words
Car = steam car (oddly self-redundant)
Television = electric regard
Digital = number word
Plastic = model material
Radio = no line electric
Physics = thing reason school

       I think written Chinese is doomed unless people find a way to invent new words.
MaxwellBuchanan, Jun 28 2015

       So what are the words for "electronic" and "electrical"?   

       <later> OK, apparently "electronic" is "electric son" and "eletrical" is "electric move".   

       What worries me about the Chinese language is that character set seems to have been fixed some time ago, and is not amenable to change.
MaxwellBuchanan, Jun 28 2015

       I hate to say this, but Chinese is one fucked-up language.
MaxwellBuchanan, Jun 28 2015

       Welcome. The HB is a fantastic place to vet/hammer/refine ideas, as there are brilliant people from around the (mostly English speaking) world here.   

       Yet, for the same reason, it's a horribly mismatched place to see if those ideas will appeal to the masses, as the HB is precisely those 0.01% of the intelligence, and seekers of change & novelty.   

       Most people seek entertainment at the end of their boring work days, not challenging enlightenment.   

       So, assuming that you do create the perfect language (which, I have to say, is novel and fascinating, as I've always assumed that the universal language would lean more towards math, binary, etc). Once you get such a "perfect language", HOW could you teach people this?   

       Esp. language is best taught young, esp. before puberty. So, how can you create such language instruction to that age group?   

       Maybe create an iPad/Android game, & put your new language into the game. Kids are already addicted to those mediums, and if you, for instance, got your new language as the default UI into Minecraft, Five Nights with Freddy, Candy Crush, etc. you'd have a generation fluent in this new language.
sophocles, Jun 29 2015

       [MB], every word on that list also has a non-English origin.   

       My understanding is that you're saying there's an auxiliary sign language between speakers of different languages, is it not?
nineteenthly, Jun 29 2015

       //[MB], every word on that list also has a non-English origin. // Yes, very true. I guess my point was that English is very good at creating or adopting new words.
MaxwellBuchanan, Jun 29 2015

       {arrives late at the "Welcome, [deussian]" party, sheepishly clutching a cleanskin chardonnay}   

       //but instead give a clue to the pronunciation of the character by portraying something else that sounds like it//   

       Wow. So, written Chinese is like rhyming slang; a rather over-extended in-joke, kept going for centuries?   

       I think that, for this idea, we could simply rule that radicals are to be interpreted with a relentless, plonking literalism - no doubt infuriating to the Chinese, but a great relief to everyone else. The result would be no uglier than St Paul's Greek, or the Business English spoken by a Hungarian to a Japanese in Dubai.
pertinax, Jun 29 2015

       I once heard that intelligence is measured in China by how many characters you can memorize. Still seems complicated. Why not just have Native Americans spit red on their signing hand(s) against a rock somewhere?
4and20, Jun 29 2015

       Very clever - this idea would have the disadvantages of both languages
hippo, Jun 29 2015

       I'm still waiting for my augmented-reality subtitling eyeglasses!   

       Having a universal translator is so much less effort than becoming one, but I'm not worrying too much about this issue. The AIs will undoubtedly bablefish us all soon enough, granting ways of communicating that go far beyond vibrating some air and/or wildly gesticulating.   

       Once we can feel the thoughts of another, language will seem as primitive as a bee dance.
TIB, Jun 29 2015


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