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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 September 2018

Deaf and hard of hearing Emiratis hail UAE's first sign language dictionary 

The guide has been four years in the making and will facilitate communication between people who are deaf or hard of hearing across the country

Abeer Al Shahi, an Emirati sign language specialist and interpreter who contributed to the dictionary, said the guide was a result of four years of hard work. Pawan Singh / The National 
Abeer Al Shahi, an Emirati sign language specialist and interpreter who contributed to the dictionary, said the guide was a result of four years of hard work. Pawan Singh / The National 

The UAE’s first sign language dictionary will soon be available across the country after it was adopted by the cabinet on Sunday.

The dictionary, which includes 5,000 words, will be available online, through a smartphone application and will be printed on CD’s, and aims to unify sign language in the country. It also includes many new signs for words.

The end product was a result of four arduous years of hard work, long meetings and dedication, said Abeer Al Shahi, an Emirati sign language specialist and interpreter who contributed to the dictionary.

“It will be soon available and accessible to people with hearing difficulties and everyone who would like to learn the sign language,” she said.

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Read more:

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The dictionary was compiled by eight authorities with the help of 60 people with hearing difficulties and sign language specialists from across the UAE.

“We are all very happy and excited to see it coming out to the world, it’s the first sign language to include the national identity of a country and we are very proud of it,” said Ms Al Shahi.

“The dictionary will include everything about the Emirati culture and heritage, traditional clothes, local food, historical places and will be divided into many sessions that cover topics such as numbers, countries, family, religion and more,” she said.

The guide is expected to facilitate communication with people who are deaf or hard of hearing within society and promote the linguistic identity of the deaf community. It will help increase their pride in their homeland and their own language as the dictionary is derived from the local dialect.

“Now deaf people will have the chance to express themselves more after adding signs to many words and understand each other better after unifying the signs,” said Mrs Al Shahi.

Nadia Al Barouti. Reem Mohammed / The National 
Nadia Al Barouti. Reem Mohammed / The National 

The National first interviewed Nadia Al Barouti, a 46-year-old deaf Emirati woman from Kalba, about the dictionary in February 2016 when the guide was expected to be released in four months later.

On Tuesday, she said she was glad that the wait for the dictionary was finally over.

“We will never forget the efforts of the people who worked on the dictionary and we appreciate the country’s continuance support and care for people with determination,” said Ms Al Barouti.

She said many deaf people face difficulties communicating with each other especially if they come from different emirates as sometimes they use different signs for the same words.

“The dictionary will remove many barriers between us as hearing-impaired people. It will make us communicate better with each other and with the community around us and be understood better,” she said.

The Zayed Higher Organisation for Humanitarian Care and Special Needs also lent its voice in support of the dictionary this week.

Abdullah Al Humaidan, ZHO's Secretary General, said the dictionary will ensure the continuity and development of the sign language and improve the cultural and educational level of its users.

"This work will give a great push for the care provided for the People of Determination, particularly those with hearing difficulties, across the country," he said.

Some 1,254 words will be compiled in the second half of this month, a further 1,254 words will be added in July and the final 1,238 words by the end of this year.

The Emirati Sign Language Dictionary falls within the country’s Vision 2021 and the National Agenda which aims to maintain a cohesive society and promote an inclusive environment that integrates all segments of society while preserving the UAE's unique culture and heritage.

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