Sign Language: “Listen with Our Eyes, Speak with Our Hands”

By Nurfarah Alia binti Zubir and Nadhratul Ulya binti Mohd Basri

PAGOH, 6 December 2020: As human beings, not all of us are fortunate to be endowed with everything. We should therefore be grateful because we can listen and speak clearly without having any difficulty. But out there, some people do not have the same ability like us.

This is where sign language plays its biggest role to help them in communicating with other people. The question is, does everyone know about sign language?

In conjunction with the “International Day of Disabled Persons”, Mahallah Zaid bin Harithah Representative Committee (MRC) 2020/2021 has organised a webinar on “New Signers: Malaysian Sign Language Talk”.

The event was held on 28 November with two sessions from 10.30 a.m. until 11.45 a.m. and 8.30 p.m. until 9.45 p.m.  An hour and fifteen minutes of the first session was streamed via Facebook live and moderated by Muhammad Irfan Danial.

In this session, participants got to know the basic symbols for alphabets and numbers. The speaker was Samieha Naii’ma binti Shaimi, a final year student who is currently studying for a Bachelor of Special Education (Hearing Impairment).

If you are wondering if deaf people convey their message using the same sentence structure as us, Miss Naii’ma said that “sentence structure for deaf people is very different compared with our usual sentence structure”.

She emphasised that their word structure is focusing on delivering the meaning directly so deaf people could understand the meaning easily. She also clarified that sign language is not a universal language.

The webinar continued its second session at 8.30 p.m on the same day for one hour and a half by Miss Khairunnisa binti Nor Affandi or more affectionately called ‘cikgu’. She is a certified sign language facilitator who holds (PLF) Mastery Cert Level 2 in Sign Language Course.

Miss Khairunnisa mentioned that sign language in each country is different. At the beginning of the webinar session, Khairunnisa was asked by the moderator to state the definition of sign language according to her interpretation.

Khairunnisa replied that sign language means “listen with our eyes, speak with our hands.”

In Malaysia, we are using Malaysian Sign Language (Malay: Bahasa Isyarat Malaysia or BIM) as the official language of the deaf community of Malaysia.

It is the same as normal people who need to learn English language if they are going abroad as it is the universal language. The deaf community also needs to learn the official sign language of the particular country they want to visit.

According to Miss Khairunnisa, the same sign language can be interpreted in different meanings depending on the official sign language of the country.

Throughout the session, the viewers were curious if there were formal and informal ways while communicating in sign language. Miss Khairunnisa wisely answered that “there is no formality in sign language since everything needs to be short, simple, and precise if they can understand the important point of the conversation”.

She also shared that not all deaf people were born deaf, many reasons can lead to this kind of permanent disability. Some of them turning deaf after catching a fever with high temperatures.

Some of us are curious if the kids who were born deaf learn sign language or not. She said it depends on their parents and family if they are aware of the importance of sign language as the medium of communication.

Miss Khairunnisa also shared based on her experience, most of the unprivileged deaf kids who live in rural areas do not have access to learn sign language and they are lacking awareness on the importance of sign language.

Many participants were satisfied with both sessions. It was a wake-up call for many to seek more knowledge about sign language as deaf people are part of our society.

All recorded sessions are available on Facebook @Mahallah Zaid bin Harithah. For any inquiries, readers can refer to Instagram @mahallah_zaidbinharithah.***

The live session on Facebook

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