SIL recognizes Deaf History Month 2009

(April 2009) Deaf History Month is celebrated annually in the USA from 13 March to 15 April. SIL has several ongoing projects to serve Deaf communities, including language surveys to distinguish between various signed languages. During Deaf History Month and the weeks leading up to it, SIL held a workshop in Colorado, a consultation in the United Kingdom and a consultant training session in Kenya. The work of SIL with Deaf populations is an extension of its long-standing advocacy for all ethnolinguistic communities throughout the world.

Facts about Deaf signed languages

  • Linguists have identified more than two-hundred signed languages used in Deaf communities around the world. SIL estimates that the actual number may exceed 400. Methods of surveying to distinguish between the various signed languages are still under development by various working groups within SIL.
  • As a relatively new field, research and development in the translation of printed materials into signed languages lag behind those for spoken languages.
  • Deaf communities worldwide share some unique characteristics that few if any other ethnic communities have. Indeed, there is more similarity between the grammar and syntax of American Sign Language (ASL) and any other sign language than between ASL and English. Consequently, learning to read English or the written form of any other spoken language is learning to read a foreign language for someone who has been raised Deaf.
  • Signed languages differ primarily in lexicon. The grammar and syntax between all signed languages worldwide do not vary as much as with spoken languages.
  • It is common to distinguish 'Deaf' (a linguistic and cultural group that uses a sign language) from 'deaf' (audiologically deaf).

Recent SIL events

  • A sign language consultation focusing on Europe was held 27 February through 3 March at Horsleys Green in the UK. The team set a goal to encourage, empower and train Deaf (and hearing) people in Europe and surrounding regions to be actively involved in producing literature for the sign languages of their countries.
  • An SIL consultant led a workshop in Colorado 30 March through 3 April entitled Participatory Methods for Engaging Deaf Communities. Two interpreters assisted the eight participants.
  • A mentored consulting training session was held in Nairobi, Kenya, the first two weeks of April. SIL sign language consultants are serving as trainers around the world in Africa, Europe, Asia and Latin America.
  • The SIL Sign Language Leadership Team met earlier this year to discuss the coordination of SIL sign language efforts and to strategically allocate resources.
  • SIL Africa Area is currently researching six African signed languages in cooperation with Deaf Opportunity Outreach International.
  • Surveys are in process to distinguish between the various signed languages in Latin America.

Related links of interest