Frequently Asked Questions on Irish Sign Language
Some common questions about Irish Sign Language:
Do I need to learn ISL?
It is strongly recommended that you and your family learn ISL so that your deaf child can be better understood and feel part of the whole family. It also improves communication and strengthens the family bond.
Why is ISL recognition important to the Deaf community?
The right to use one’s own language is an important human right. Like all linguistic minorities, members of the Deaf community have different degrees of access to the majority language of the wider community. For many, English is only a second or even third language. Consequently, written materials and spoken communication are often inaccessible to Deaf people. Now that ISL has achieved official recognition, Deaf people can now enjoy the same linguistic rights that Hearing people enjoy.
Why are there different forms of ISL?
There are different forms of ISL such as regional variations. For example, there are differences between signs in Limerick and Dublin. This is also true of age and gender. In the past, deaf girls and boys were educated in different schools and due to not mixing with each other, different signs were naturally developed.
What is signed English?
Signed English is a language support system. It is a form of manual communication which is used to teach various subjects through English. Signs were developed to show suffixes (which are the endings of words, “ing”, “ed”, “es” etc.) so that a deaf child could learn different tenses. This is not considered a language by the Deaf community as it can be difficult to use.
What about lipreading or writing things down?
It is said that only about 30% of sounds produced in English are visible as lip patterns. Therefore, lipreading can be very inaccurate. Many factors, such as lighting, facial hair, the pace of information, etc. can affect the reliability of lipreading. Lipreading in a group setting, e.g. a meeting or training, is even more challenging, as it requires following the conversation as it moves from person to person.
Writing things down can be useful at times, for example as a temporary measure in an emergency or for short exchanges of a non-critical nature. But as English is a second language for many Deaf people, understanding and writing English can be challenging.
How long will it take to learn sign?
It varies from person to person. Some people can learn basic ISL within a few weeks; others may take longer but everyone can learn ISL. Clonmel Tuition Academy use fully qualified ISL teachers who have graduated from Trinity College Dublin. There may be other teachers around the country that can offer ISL classes but it is recommended to only go to a class accredited by the Irish Deaf Society. Contact the Academy for more information on classes where you can undertake classes with a FETAC Level 3 or 4 qualifications in ISL.
What is the medical perspective on deafness?
The medical profession may view being Deaf as something that needs to be cured and may discourage the use of Irish Sign Language. However research has shown that language acquisition is vital for a child’s development.
Doctors and Nurses may not be familiar in the area of language acquisition or linguistics in relation to the Deaf community and are not the appropriate people to advise you on this. Your doctor may advise you to get a cochlear implant for your child but you should not feel pressurised to do so.
How will my child communicate with me?
We encourage you to use ISL with your child. If you wish to improve communications with your child, we recommend that you use a bilingual approach at home i.e. ISL and English. A lot of families have created their own signs and this is known as home-sign. This is where families have their own specific signs which aid communication in the home environment.
Why do some deaf people have a low literacy level?
A lot of Deaf people have been identified as having low literacy skills. There are various reasons for this such as the late identification of deafness and the inability of the child to acquire a language in the most vital stages of its development.
Other reasons include a poor educational experience where Deaf people were not taught through the bilingual approach but rather through what was known as the oral system where Irish Sign Language was not encouraged and speech was forced.
There are supports available at the Irish Deaf Society to combat low literacy skills in areas such as English, Mathematics and Personal Development.
How do I become an interpreter?
The Centre for Deaf Studies (CDS) BA in ISL/English Interpreting(previously Diploma), and the Irish Signlink/SLIS accreditation process are well recognised ways of becoming a sign language interpreter in Ireland. All of the interpreters should have a CDS qualification and/or Irish Signlink/SLIS accreditation.
*Source: Irish Deaf Society, 2017