Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Sign language on-line

Whenever I see groups of people discussing in sign language I feel rather ashamed that so few of us with good hearing bother to learn even the basics of a language used extensively throughout the country but inaccessible to most. Why isn't basic sign language compulsory in schools? Just enough to handle simple situations.

A new EU project can help the situation. It's called Spread the sign and is a cooperation between 10 organisations in 8 European countries as part of the Leonardo daVinci programme. It is basically an on-line dictionary where you can enter words, phrases and sentences in the languages of the member states and get a video showing the sign language equivalent for each country. This can be of great use to those who just want to learn some basic phrases but most of all the resource is to help deaf people around Europe to understand each other. Sign language is just like the spoken language in that every country has their own language and this is a problem for, say, deaf students travelling on exchange programmes around Europe. Spread the sign enables you to at least practice the rudiments of the target language.

The project was officially launched by Queen Silvia of Sweden 31 March and you can read more about that on the official press release. Plans are to expand the project to become a global initiative by including countries outside Europe such as Japan. See also an article from Swedish SVT on the inauguration (article in Swedish).

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