SRK, online banking make it to Indian sign language lexicon | India News

No. Don’t spread your hands wide or break into a dimply come-into-my-arms smile. Instead, simply hold the fingers of your right hand like a gun and tap above your heart twice. This may not be as romantic as Shah Rukh’s signature love gesture, but then it’s the official silent shorthand for King Khan as per the latest Indian Sign Language (ISL) dictionary launched by PM Narendra Modi earlier this month. Khan’s name is among 10,000 words, including ‘Deaflympics’, online banking’ and ‘carpooling’, that have been newly drafted into the digital dictionary of India’s non-voiced lexicon.
Developed and released by the Indian Sign Language Research and Training Centre (ISLRTC) in DVD form along with corresponding videos of signs for each word, this new visual dictionary makes for interesting viewing, especially in light of the International Day of Sign Languages, which, too, has earned its own official sign this year. Among the delights offered by the non-verbal vocabulary that now spans the gamut from technical terms such as ‘quadrupedal robots’ to academic abstractions such as ‘anti-trust policy’ is watching the interpreter’s face crumple into a frown while conveying ‘tight-fitting clothes’ and puff up while showing an ‘air mattress’. When the gesture for ‘tax’ is accompanied by a morose expression, speech seems redundant as a communication device.
It was to erase communication barriers between deaf people and hearing communities that ISLRTC launched the first Indian Sign Language Dictionary of 3,000 terms in 2018.
“When I was a deaf child, my special educators were not able to explain abstract philosophies because they never knew ISL. They used their spoken language to explain things that were abstract and they had found them challenging to teach,” recalls Sunil Sahasrabudhe, vice-president of All-India Federation of the Deaf.
Sahasrabuddhe finds the new ISL dictionary “long overdue” as someone who has taught English literacy to deaf kids in schools and to young deaf adults in NGOs, besides several ISL teachers (deaf) and ISL interpreters. “ISL vocabulary is not and never will be limited. It can keep growing when deaf people interact and engage with different concepts,” says Sahasrabudhe in an email interview.
While the lockdown interfered with crucial vocabularybuilding in-person meet-ups of deaf persons, the use of masks made navigating everyday tasks such as buying vegetables tricky for the deaf members who rely on lip-reading. “If hearing individuals would learn basic sign language, then such difficulties can be easily prevented,” feels Mansi Shah of Indian Signing Hands, which runs an online news channel for the deaf community.
So far,142 different sign languages have been studied around the world. The dictionary model to aspire to, according to city-based interpreter Neeta Mukherji, is the Finnish Sign Language Dictionary.

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