As per WHO estimates in India, there are 63 million deaf people in our country. Despite such a whopping statistic, only a handful of our population of over a billion has the know-how to communicate with them. Indian Sign Language (ISL) is used by the deaf community all over the country as a tool for communication, understanding and expression.
"People give a lot of respect to languages such as Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and even put in efforts to learn foreign languages, but why not learn ISL? When I ask people why they learn German, they say that it is for their knowledge. So, if you are giving so much respect to languages of other countries that you might not even visit, why don’t you respect the language of the deaf people who surround you in your own country," questions Ramya Miryala, the director of the Deaf EnAbled Foundation that has recently launched their app EduSign Academy, an educational platform for the deaf.
Currently, there are only 325 certified sign language interpreters listed by the Indian Sign Language Research and Training Centre (ISLRTC). Indian Sign Language can be learnt at various levels. "A level refers to basic communication, a few phrases and the alphabet. B level refers to those who communicate and work with the deaf community. C level is for the interpreters who can professionally translate. There are many people at the A level; hardly any at C," adds Ramya.
She further mentions that there are slight variations from region to region, but the language mostly remains consistent. On Sign Language Day, let us take a step towards improving communication with the deaf community by learning a few basic yet important signs of the ISL, as taught by Ramya Miryala.
You might be familiar with this sign even if you don’t know it. Simply stretch out your thumb and index finger (like a checkmark) and bring it up to your face. Don’t forget to smile.
Make a fist and bring it to your chest. Move it anti-clockwise.
Let someone know they are welcome by bringing an outstretched hand (palm up) towards your body. Something like a soft karate chop on your stomach.
When someone asks "How are you doing?" and you wish to say "Good", just put together your index finger and thumb while keeping the rest of the fingers open, and move it back and forth.
All is well
To sign that everything is going well, motion an outstretched index finger and thumb in a curve from left to right (like a rainbow) and then, stick out two thumbs-ups.
Greet someone a good morning by first showing a thumbs up and then opening up your hand like a blooming flower.
In ISL, clapping does not equal putting your hands together; quite the opposite. Raise both your open palms and turn them back and forth.
Just put your thumb and index finger like a pinch to motion ‘excuse me’.
Pinch all your fingers together and extend your hand when you wish to say please.
To thank someone, open your palm and lay your fingers on your chin. Then extend your hand towards them, as if extending your gratitude.
Source: Deaf EnAbled Foundation