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Indian Sign Language For Deaf And Dumb

Updated: Aug 10, 2023

Sign language just like any other means of communication is a naturally evolved language. It is something like a mother tongue for deaf people, as they can use it in their day-to-day life to communicate with others. It is based on visual manual signs, and it also has complex grammar.

There are various kinds of sign languages based on the language of the region the deaf person is from. Indian sign language is used in the Asian subcontinent.

What is Indian Sign Language?

Indian Sign Language (ISL) is the official language for the deaf in India. Children who are deaf are taught to use Indian sign language by Deaf teachers at schools for the deaf. ISL is not related to spoken languages and usually has no relationship to the country's national language.

Indian sign language comprises well-coded and structured gestures, and each gesture has a specific meaning to it. Previously deaf and dumb people used to rely on interpreters to communicate with others, and finding a suitable interpreter is quite a task. Sign language is the only fully reliable method of communication for deaf and dumb people. Hence, over the past few years, there has been an increased interest in the field of sign language.

Learning sign language can be a different experience for both a deaf person and a person with normal hearing. It helps a deaf person communicate with another deaf person and the entire community. Whereas, for a person with normal hearing it is an entirely different experience, as it helps them communicate with the deaf and people with difficulty in hearing in their community.

Who can use sign language?

  • Deaf community- uses sign language to communicate with other members of society.

  • Sign Language interpreters- translate oral language to sign language to aid deaf people to understand the information.

  • Teachers or special educators- use sign language to teach deaf children various subjects and also help them learn the sign language itself.

  • Parents of deaf children- can use sign language to communicate with the child in day-to-day activities.

  • Many other professionals work with deaf people such as speech therapists, occupational therapists, social workers, child-care workers, and psychologists.

How sign language can be helpful for the deaf and dumb?

Sign language can be helpful in various settings. It helps the deaf person and can be a useful tool to-

  1. Bridge the gap between hearing and deaf people.

  2. Communicate with other members of the deaf community.

Various places where it is important to have a sign language interpreter-

  • Hospitals.

  • Railway station.

  • Police station.

  • Court proceedings

Nowadays various corporate settings are employing deaf and dumb people in their workforce. It is very important that we incorporate sign language in various curriculums of our schools and workplaces in order to uplift the members of the deaf and dumb community.

How to learn Indian sign language?

The ISL course has three stages-

  • Basic,

  • Advanced, and

  • Professional levels.

The team involved in compiling the teaching material comprises of-

  1. Hearing linguist- develops the content of the course

  2. Deaf research assistant- usually responsible for making a video for the content of the course

All the teaching material is in dual language, i.e., all explanations, instructions, and examples are signed by the deaf assistant, with voiceover and written text in English. Each course consists of a video aid and a workbook.

The basic level course covers- ’wh' questions, negation, and the expression of possession.

The advanced level course covers- ‘if’ clauses, verbs, nouns, etc.

Implementation of Indian Sign Language in education setting

Apart from teaching sign language one of the major objectives of this approach is to alter students' attitudes about deaf people and communicating with them.

The basic level course starts with a 45 min long introductory video about sign language that aims to eliminate common myths and misbeliefs students have about sign language. The students learn that-

  • Sign languages vary as per the regions of the world.

  • Sign language isn’t merely gestures, it does have grammar.

  • It isn’t all about hand movements, expressions, and non-manual gestures are also very important.

  • Western sign languages are not better than Indian sign languages.

A research conducted by S P P Goswami provided positive indications about the workability of an instructional programme in sign language in inclusive learning environments, and the worth of the exercise in developing awareness, molding favorable attitudes and generating resourceful skills among typically developing students.

A very important part of this approach is the interaction of hearing children with a deaf person who is confident, qualified, and in charge of the situation. It helps form a positive and strong image of the deaf and dumb members of our community.

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