Each coun­try has their own sign lan­guage : Wangsel In­sti­tute

Bhutan Times - - Home - Sonam Pen­jor

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.

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