German Sign Language


A language of Germany

Alternate Names
Deutsche Gebärdensprache, DGS

80,000 (2014 German Deaf Association). 80,000 signers (2014 German Deaf Association). 200,000 signers (2014 EUD). 395,000 (2014 IMB).



Language Status

5 (Developing). Recognized language (2002, Disability Equality Act, Section 6, paragraph 1).


Many regional lexical variations. Dialects in eastern and western Germany are similar, with differences comparable to those between northern and southern regions (Hessmann 1992). Some similarity to French [fsl] and other European sign languages. Fingerspelling system similar to French Sign Language [fsl].


One-handed fingerspelling.

Language Use

80 deaf schools with 11,000 students. Also schools that integrate deaf with hearing students (Müller 2012). Deaf associations. Some also use English [eng] (Müller 2012), Standard German [deu] (Müller 2012).

Language Development
Standard German [deu] is used for writing. Some schools are teaching English for written use, using British Sign Language [bfi] or American Sign Language [ase]. Theater. TV. Dictionary. Bible portions: 1998. Agencies: German Society for the Hearing-impaired; German Association of the Deaf (DGB).
Other Comments

500 working sign language interpreters (2014 EUD). Teachers of the Deaf have to complete a 5-year program at one of 5 universities. Two nationwide associations of professionals in deaf education (Müller 2012). Taught as L2. Christian.

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