Shah Rukh Khan (Photo: Twitter / @ iamsrk)
No. Don’t spread your hands and don’t have a faint smile in my arms. Instead, just hold the fingers of your right hand like a pistol and double-tap above your heart.
It may not be as romantic as Shah Rukh’s iconic love gesture, but then it is King Khan’s official silent shorthand according to the latest Indian Sign Language (ISL) dictionary launched by the Prime. Minister Narendra Modi earlier this month. Khan’s name is among 10,000 words, including “Deaflympics,” online banking ”and“ carpooling, ”which were recently compiled in India’s Non-Speech Lexicon Digital Dictionary.
Developed and published by the Indian Sign Language Research and Training Center (ISLRTC) as a DVD with corresponding sign videos for each word, this new visual dictionary makes for interesting viewing, especially in light of the Day. International Sign Language International, which, too, gained its own official sign this year.
Among the delicacies offered by the non-verbal vocabulary which now covers the whole range of technical terms such as “quadrupedal robots” to academic abstractions such as “anti-trust policy”, there is the fact of seeing the face of the interpreter. puckering into a frown while conveying ‘clothes’ and inflating while showing an ‘air mattress’. When the gesture for “tax” is accompanied by a gloomy expression, the word seems redundant as a means of communication.
It was to break down communication barriers between deaf people – an estimated 18 million – and hearing communities that ISLRTC launched India’s first 3,000-term sign language dictionary in 2018.
“When I was a deaf child, my special educators weren’t able to explain abstract philosophies because they never knew about LIS. They used their spoken language to explain abstract things and they found it difficult to teach, ”recalls Sunil Sahasrabudhe, vice-president of the Indian Federation of the Deaf.
Sahasrabuddhe finds the new ISL dictionary ‘long overdue’ as someone who taught English to deaf children in schools and to young deaf adults in NGOs, in addition to several ISL (deaf) teachers and ISL interpreters . “The ISL vocabulary is not and never will be limited. It can continue to grow when deaf people interact and engage with different concepts, ”says Sahasrabudhe in an email interview.
While the lockdown interfered with in-person meetings crucial for building Deaf vocabulary, the use of masks made it difficult to navigate daily tasks such as buying vegetables for deaf members who rely on lip reading. “If hearing people learned basic sign language, such difficulties could be easily avoided,” said 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 interpreter Neeta Mukherji, is the Finnish Sign Language Dictionary. Besides a digital video version, it comes with a large print version where the panels are explained with many diagrams.
Even as she waits for the printed version of the ISLRTC DVD dictionary, Mukherji, who interprets Marathi through sign language at a deaf school in Thane, uses an Indo-Pak sign language dictionary from Coimbatore il a few years ago. Filled with economic and scientific terms, weather, and even a few regional dialect variations, this book tends to be his go-to recommendation for someone new to the mechanics of non-vocal language.