Each country has their own sign language : Wangsel Institute
Today each country has their own sign language for deaf to communicate with each other. This was presented during the eighth edition of mountain echoes literary festival by teachers and students of the Wangsel Institute for the hearing impaired from Paro last Friday.
Three students delivered the stories through sign language with two of the teachers interpreting the stories in English.
A teacher of Wangsel Institute, Sushila Gurung said that each country has their own sign language which was developed by their deaf community.
She said that they use the same one-handed English alphabet as the Americans rather than the British two-handed alphabet.
While, the Dzongkha alphabet was developed by deaf and hearing teachers at Wangsel.
“Sign languages are different throughout the world. Each language has its own signs. But many features are similar because they are visual languages which use facial expressions, movement and palm orientation,” Sushila added.
Sushila Gurung said that sign language is very complex. It takes a long time to develop fully. The sooner deaf children are exposed to sign language and begin communicating the better. Then they are able to develop socially and have greater chance of success in education.
Like other students, Sushila said that their deaf students are also following the same syllabus as the children in the main stream. In addition they are also given some vocational courses such as tailoring, wood carving and traditional art.
Since each country has their own sign languages, Sushila said that, the students don’t immediately understand each other. But they do learn quickly as there are many similarities of iconic signs and much information is conveyed through facial expression and gestures.
Unlike normal children who come to school, Sushila said that most the deaf students come to school without language unlike hearing children who come with welldeveloped language in their mother tongue.
She added that hearing children come to school at the age of six with their mother tongue. But even if the deaf children come to school at the school going age, there is still a language gap of six years. “So the challenge is to help the deaf children to develop their sign language first and then teach them to learn to read and write the alphabetical words of English and Dzongkha.
Meanwhile, Wangsel Institute for the hearing impaired has 97 students in total with 23 teaching staffs.
While, the parameter they use for sign language includes hand shape, palm orientation, movement, location and non-manual features.
The institute started as a deaf education unit in Drukgyel Lower Secondary School in 2003 and in 2014, the school started functioning as a standalone school for the deaf and was named as Wangsel Institute.
Story telling : A student from Wangsel Institute in Paro narrating a story through a sign language at the Tarayana Foundation hall on the first day of the eight edition of Mountain Echoes Literacy Festival last Friday.