Language can be complex. While Spanish and English have several universal elements, when breaking them down, there are thousands of nuances depending on the country they’re spoken in. The same theory applies when comparing American Sign Language (ASL) and Lengua de Señas Mexicana (LSM). That’s why Estefani, a Deaf Latina, created a TikTok to educate everyone on the differences.

Like most languages with similar roots, ASL and LSM have certain signs that might match, but mostly, the signs differ. However, as someone who only signs in ASL, Estefani wanted folks to understand just how nuanced Sign Language can be.

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@thatdeafamily

🇺🇸🇲🇽 🙌🏽 @Cinda | ASL & LSM

♬ original sound – thatdeafamily

Estefani was born into a hearing family and experienced isolation, now she’s changing that for her kids

Estefani, who runs the @thatdeafamily accounts with her husband Oscar, was born deaf. She shares in an interview that growing up in her “hearing” family was isolating. But now, with the family she and her husband are raising together, she is turning those tides.

“We do have a really close family because we’re all identifying the same. We’re a Deaf family,” she signs.

She continues, “Oscar and I grew up in hearing families. And so, we weren’t real close with our families. We felt neglected, isolated, left out. We didn’t really understand what everybody else did. They didn’t understand my culture.”

@thatdeafamily

Learn how to sign family members in LSM (Mexican Sign Language) and ASL (American Sign Language) with my friend, @Cinda | ASL & LSM

♬ original sound – thatdeafamily

With the birth of her two children, her world changed. Estefani points out that, unlike her, they will share a “close relationship” with their parents. 

“We have language, we have culture together. It makes us much closer. It’s empowering,” she asserts.

For this reason, she teamed up with Cinda, a Latina who is fluent in LSM.

Sign Language is not global, it differs around the world

National Geographic details about 300 different versions of Sign Language worldwide. ASL derives from French Sign Language (LSF) over 200 years ago. That early form of ASL, known as Signed Exact English and was used to help Deaf and hard-of-hearing people “speak” English, per Britannica.

Estefani starts the video by explaining that ASL originates in the U.S. and is the only Sign Language version she signs.

@aslsmwithme

Learn Halloween in American Sign Language (ASL) and Mexican Sign Language (LSM) with us! 🎃👻🤟🏼 🇲🇽: ¡Aprende Halloween en Lengua de Señas Americana (ASL) y Lengua de Señas Mexicana (LSM) con nosotros! 🎃👻🤟🏼 #asl #lsm #halloween #reels #fyp

♬ original sound – Cinda | ASL & LSM

“I’ve been asked if I Know Mexican Sign Language (LSM) or Spanish,” she details. “I don’t know either. ASL is from the United States, and LSM is from Mexico.”

The mamá of two adds, “I grew up in America, ASL was my first language and English was my second. I want to introduce my friend, who is skilled in both ASL and LSM.”

In pops Cinda and the two do a side-by-side of words like book, ball and bed.

But this isn’t the first time Cinda created a video like this for TikTo. Her whole profile is dedicated to educating folks on the differences between ASL and LSM. Some of her videos cover how to sign Halloween words and the months of the year.

Many in the comments thanked Estefani for introducing them to LSM and showing them how it differs from ASL

The TikTok video garnered many positive responses from folks who had long thought ASL was a universal language. Others pointed out how other Spanish-signing countries had more nuances.

One user asked, “Is there sign language for every language in the [world]?” Another user responded, “I believe so I speak Puerto Rican [ASL] and it has slight differences.”

“[As] a Mexican[,] I speak with my hands and didn’t realize that the hands motions I learned were LSM,” someone added.

A California-based user commented, “A cool one is ISN (Idioma de Señas Nicaragua) started organically in the ‘80s by kids in a school for the deaf.”

For the most part, people were happy to be learning something new.

“LSM looks a bit more easy to my brain. This is awesome. Ty for teaching us,” someone else wrote.