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Global efforts for cooperation in sign language development

(13 March–15 April 2010) Deaf History Month is observed annually in the USA from 13 March to 15 April to celebrate milestone events in Deaf history, to recognize leaders and to learn about events important to Deaf communities. SIL works together with Deaf communities around the world in language development projects, including surveys to distinguish between various signed languages. The work of SIL with Deaf populations is an extension of its long-standing advocacy for all ethnolinguistic communities throughout the world.

During Deaf History Month, SIL held a mentored consultant-training workshop in the Philippines. Also in March, SIL led a weeklong education workshop for three Deaf schools in Southeast Asia, providing training in multilingual education, including techniques for teaching sign language and how to teach reading and writing of the national language.

The SIL Sign Language Leadership Team (SLLT) recently added two more Deaf members. The SLLT discusses the coordination of SIL sign language efforts and strategically allocates resources. In partnership with other organizations, SIL is in a unique position to provide training and mentoring, the development of specialists, coordination and resources to channel this high level of interest and commitment towards a sustainable movement of language development in Deaf communities.

Deaf consultation workshops held during the past year

Deaf representatives from an international committee of Deaf linguist-translators met last November with SIL consultants for a workshop in Dallas, Texas, on the application of linguistic and translation principles to sign languages. Eight Deaf committee members from six countries discussed strategic planning for global cooperation in sign language development through networks, consultants and resources.

A Latin America–wide conference on sign languages was held in Bogotá, Colombia, last September. The 77 participants—half of them Deaf, and representing 14 sign languages—met to share instruction, ideas, vision and to encourage each other in their Scripture translation work. In February, SIL invited representatives from four countries to participate in strategic planning for building capacity in language development and video materials production in Deaf communities throughout the Americas.

In each of these workshops, Deaf participants as well as their hearing counterparts received appropriate training for the languages with which they are familiar. SIL sign language consultants are serving as trainers and facilitators around the world in Africa, Europe, Asia and Latin America.

In six African signed languages, SIL Africa Area is providing linguistic expertise in a cooperative partnership with Deaf Opportunity OutReach International (DOOR). One outcome of this partnership was that DOOR published Scripture portions on a DVD in two signed languages. In January, approximately 400 Deaf attended the unveiling of a set of 32 stories from Scripture in Kenyan Sign Language in Nairobi. Later that month over 1,000 Deaf attended a similar ceremony in India for another sign language.

Sociolinguistic survey reports of Deaf communities

SIL is continually conducting sociolinguistic surveys to identify and distinguish various signed languages. The Ethnologue: Languages of the World, provides minimal information on 130 sign languages. SIL estimates the number to be closer to 400. During the year 2009–2010, the SIL Electronic Survey Reports series has published six sociolinguistic reports on Deaf sign languages.

The SIL bibliography lists 31 publications about sign languages.

Related links of interest