SignAll’s Project Manager, Dávid Pálházi held a speech at TEDxVilniusED, where he talked about Deaf education. You can read below an extract from his speech. There are more than 10 million people living on this Earth who were born deaf. Most of them have no mother tongue at all.
According to deaf education specialists, mother tongue is the language we learn from our parents. This is also called native language. The first language is the language we learn within the critical period of early childhood. This period closes around the age of three. Most of the time our mother tongue is also our first language. When a deaf child is born to a hearing family, he or she will have no mother tongue, but they can learn signing if there is a chance available for doing so. If deaf children don’t learn signing within the first 3 years they will have no first language either.
Sign language is just as valid as any other language. If you are able to express yourself in any sign language in addition to your first language, you are bilingual with all the benefits of being so. It enriches your creative thinking, enhances your problem solving, increases your cognitive flexibility and improves your academic achievement.
Both deaf and hearing people ought to learn the local sign language. It could be just as natural for a hearing person to sign as it is to learn English as a second language.
Furthermore, Deaf society has a unique culture as well. They have signed poems, theatres, there are deaf musicians and dancers.
In America, when a deaf person gets a phone call, they will be connected to a real life interpreter. Again, if they go to school together with hearing students, they will be provided with an interpreter throughout the day. According to the data resources, there is only one interpreter available for more than 30 sign language users in the USA. So there is a shortage of sign language interpreters even in the USA. Therefore, the future can’t be built on real life interpreters alone.
When a deaf child is born to a hearing family, it takes about 2-3 years to get a precise diagnosis. However, by that time, it’s far too late for the parents to start learning sign language.
That being said, there is a movement called baby signing. If parents are committed and want to be prepared, they learn and teach some signs before their infants can talk, no matter if they can hear or not.
As at least 2 out of 1000 babies are born with a detectable level of hearing loss, it is better to be prepared to receive such a child into the family. Moreover, 90% of deaf children are born to hearing parents.
Studies show that even hearing infants who sign speak earlier, have a larger vocabulary, get better grades in school and have a higher IQ.
So clearly we have nothing to lose, and so much to gain if we all learn signing.
SignAll is working on a unique sign language translator software for deaf and hearing people, to meet their needs and reach their goals. It’s not a simple translation software, it’s a two-way communication system: it provides immediate feedback to the users.
Furthermore, it’s technology-based so it can be turned into an exciting learning tool for children and adults alike who want to learn sign language.
The system consists of a set of simple devices and the software. It will be accessible to anybody even without internet access, most importantly for hearing parents and teachers who are blessed with a deaf child, because they are the only ones who can teach sign language as a first language to their deaf child.
So technology is able to open doors for people who want to learn sign language, doors that have been closed until now.