The YoGoTe project tries to foster multilingualism and international understanding using international gestures as an additional communication channel.

There are several precedents to support this intention.

American Indian Signs

The first historically registered collection of international signs was developed by the Indian Nations of the American Prairies. They spoke more than hundred different languages and used those common gestures as an additional communication channel.

You can find more information, with drawings for many of those signs, HERE.

The following quotes are taken from this source:

– It should be remembered that this is in large measure a skeleton language, because synonyms in general are covered by the basic word.

– Sign language is so faithful to nature and so natural in its expression that it is not probable that it will ever die.

– The Indian seldom uses facial expression, but maintains a composed and dignified countenance, the signs being sufficient of themselves.

– Sign language may be used to advantage at a distance, which the eye can reach but not the ear.

– The beauty of Sign talk depends upon the manner of making the gestures. Movements should not be angular or jerky, but should rather be rounded and sweeping in their rendition.

Mudras

In the opposite part of the world, the Indian culture created a collection of gestures that are a very important part of it: Mudras and Hastas (Hastas being more spiritual and Mudras more concrete signs). They are understood by people speaking many different languages.

These hand gestures are used for a variety of reasons, they may be used to mime the meaning of the song, to make meditation, or they may be simple aestetic ornamentation. Some have very limited meanings, and some are used as catch-alls for miming a variety of ideas.

In the cases where an idea is being conveyed, it is more important to communicate clearly with hand gestures – adapting them if necessary – than it is to perform them with rigid correctness.

Gestuno

Gestuno is a constructed sign language, which the World Congress of the World Federation of the Deaf originally discussed in 1951. In 1973, a committee created and standardized a system of international signs. They tried to choose the most understandable signs from diverse sign languages to make the language easy to learn for not only the deaf but also everybody interested in it.

The name “Gestuno” is from Italian, meaning “the unity of sign languages.” Some deaf people use Gestuno at the World Games for the Deaf and the Deaf Way Conference and Festival in Washington, DC, but besides that its use is very limited.

The commission published a book with about 1500 signs. It does not have a concrete grammar, so some say that it is not a real language.

It has been published afterwards in different editions, corresponding to different and broad cultural backgrounds:

English and French  –  ArabicJapanese

 ISL

The Gestuno signs, as they lack grammar, are not a real language, and for this reason a new international communication language is being developed by deaf people under the name of ISL (International Sign Language).

There is a webpage with information for several signs from ISL, like the following video (for the word “color”).

ISL, like any other sign language, has its own grammatical structure. This makes difficult its simultaneous use with spoken languages. The reason is that each spoken language has a different grammatical structure. Any sign language with an own grammar cannot be accommodated. to the grammar structures of spoken languages without distortion.

Gestures for Language Learning

Language learning at a basic level can be made easier by the use of gestures both as a teaching and learning tool. The fundamental reason for it is that the gestures convey the meaning of what we are learning to say and to understand in a new language. The students can use the hands to help and reinforce what they are saying, and the interactions are more meaningful.

Several language learning methods take advantage of this:

School integration with signs:

The globalisation process results in the increasing arrival of students to schools where they do not understand the teaching language. The use of signs and gestures can help to integrate those students at the school life, and at the same time they can be used for an initial approach to the language that is used at school.

The Makaton programme was initially designed to provide a means of communication to individuals who cannot communicate efficiently by speaking. It has evolved into a method for the introduction to English language and for the school integration for new students that do not speak English. This method is used at schools in the UK and in other countries. You can see some signs at this videos in English and in Polish.

Second language learning:

Several methods for learning a second language use gestures and signs as a teaching tool, like the following:

AIM is a method for learning a second language (mainly French, but also Spanish and English) that is widely used in Canada and other countries. The use of gestures is explained in this video.

Kunisawa is the name of a teacher that developed a method which uses signs for the learning of Japanese.

YoGoTe

As was said previously, the YoGoTe project tries to use international signs for multilingualism and better understanding.

These signs take advantage of the existence of a parallel communication channel between speakers of different languages.

The YoGoTe collection of signs shares some characteristics with the previously cited ones:

– The idea of a common set of gestures that can be used as a communication tool for international contact situations is directly connected with the historical experience developed by the American Indians.

– The use of the YoGoTe signs as an added plastic and choreographic value in poetry performances or music exhibitions is related to the use of the Mudras in the Hinduistic cultures.

– The collection of 600 signs is mainly derived from the Gestuno gestures.

– Some additional signs were borrowed from ISL, and even more could be added if necessary.

– The proposal for using YoGoTe signs as a tool for the school integration of immigrant children, as well as for the literacy in indigenous and mother languages is somehow related to the Makaton experience.

– The use of international signs as a tool for the initial second – or third – language learning has similar aspects with the AIM proposal.

The YoGoTe signs, however, have also some differences with the former:

– They are not culture-specific, as the American Indian signs or the Mudras, allowing them to be used in different cultural backgrounds.

– There is only a sign for every concept, unlike in Gestuno, where some signs are made of two and even three gestures. Besides of it, the YoGoTe signs are designed for being used by hearing and speaking people, not by deaf people alone.

– There is no underlying grammatical structure, such as ISL has, and for this reason the YoGoTe signs can be added to any language.

– The YoGoTe materials are free and accessible on-line, unlike the teaching materials used by the cited language learning methods.

And a unique feature of the YoGoTe signs is the existence of a writing system that allows the gestures to be used directly in written texts, instead of using photographs or drawings.

You can see HERE that the YoGoTe signs are very natural, and also HERE that the written system is very easy to understand.

An example of the on-line presentation for the word “bird” and related concepts at the Dictionary: