Sign Language

  • by

2.2.4.3 Sign Language.
Collins dictionary defines sign language as movements of your hands and arms used to communicate. Cayley Guimaraes et.al, (2014) Sign Language is the natural language of the Deaf, used for intellectual development and other human traits that are language related. Numerous histories on sign language have been on record. Levinson, (1967) quotes a dialogue between Socrates and Herm genes in one of the record of the 5th century BC, in Plato’s book, Cratylus.
Socrates: And here I will ask you a question: Suppose that we had no voice or tongue and wanted to indicate objects to one another, should we not, like deaf and dumb, formulate signs with the hands, head and the rest of the body?
Hermogenes: How could it be otherwise, Socrates?
Socrates: We should imitate the nature of the things, the elevation of our hands to heaven would men lightness and upwardness, heaviness and downwardness would be expressed by
letting them drop to the ground.
Sign languages include: American Sign Language, British sign language, French Sign Language and Kenyan sign language just to mention a few. Each sign language has its own unique grammar. This is because deaf communities did not interact with each other when the sign languages were being developed. Sign languages all over the world are different just like spoken languages are different. Despite the differences these languages have great striking similarities. Sign language is treasured by deaf people and seen as extra special. Members of the deaf community identify themselves by the use of sign language. Another identifying feature is the assigning of sign names to their members. Sign names can only be given by members who are Deaf.
In Kenya, the deaf use Kenyan Sign Language not only a mode of instructions in schools for the deaf but also an examinable subject both in primary, secondary and teachers training institutes. The Kenya Constitution, 2010 (GoK, 2010) states “The state shall promote the development and use of indigenous languages, Kenyan Sign language, Braille and other communication formats and technologies accessible to persons with disabilities.” The Persons with Disabilities Act, 2003 (GoK, 2003), requires all public broadcasting stations to incorporate Sign Language in their television programmes including news, talk shows, documentaries and educational programmes. This seeks to facilitate the deaf to get the same information with the rest of the society. Every year the world celebrates IWD on the last week of September. The first IWD was celebrated in September 1958.The theme for 2017 IWD (September 18-24) was “Full Inclusion with Sign Language”. 23 September has been declared as the International Day of Sign Languages by the UN. This is to facilitate awareness of the worth of sign language as well as elevating the rights for deaf people. Year 2018 saw the first International Day of Sign languages being celebrated. The theme was “With Sign Language, Everyone is Included!” The only problem is that for one to know and understand Kenyan sign language, the individual has to go to a special school, where teachers trained in special needs education who have majored in hearing impairment are available. It is therefore difficult for a deaf individual who has not gone to school to communicate in Kenyan sign language.
2.3 Social Competence of Deaf People.
Maj Volden, Erik Falkum and Stephen von Tetzchner, (2016) write that the social consequences of being deaf in a predominantly hearing society are likely to impact on the development of mental distress and disorders. People learn social skill so that they interact in ways that the society deems to be the norm. Development of social competence is thus vital for any individual for him/her to interact socially across various environments.
For deaf people, it is almost impossible for their life to be in contact with the hearing community. Delayed language and socialization which happen during childhood development have enormous implications for the problems deaf persons face in later life. Elahe Shojaei, Zahra Jafari, and Maryam Gholami,(2016) affirm that Hearing loss from birth up to the age of 3 years has a negative effect on speech/language development and results in sensory, cognitive, emotional, and academic defects in adulthood by causing delayed development of communicative-linguistic abilities. Communication plays a major role in the mother–child relationship, and the relationship between a hearing mother and her deaf child is largely affected by a communication barrier (Nazira Kara and Clare Harvey,2016). Thus the deaf child will not be able to interact with the microsystem through family conversations, storytelling, household chores, and play as well as language games. The deaf child will therefore not develop attachment and family bonds with a parent and this may affect their relationship. The child will not be able to share his/her problems, sorrows and happiness. Joanna Kossewska, (2018), asserts that the role of a parent and caregiver is to build a safe and stimulating environment, as well as to accompany children in their comprehensive life-span development. In a family that sees the deaf child as a curse, a burden and useless the child feels not accepted and will have low self esteem. The manner in which the parents respond to their deaf child as well as to the hearing loss influences the self concept of the child and how the deaf child will adapt in the society. If a deaf child feels excluded from the family, this will affect his/her emotional and social development. The deaf child will join school without language, early childhood concepts, skills, knowledge and social behavior. The child will rely on classmates and schoolmates, having very little attachment with the family. Joanna Kossewska, (2018) affirms that social cognitive skills develop as a result of interaction with others, and the use of language is required to negotiate high levels of social interaction. Hoffman et al. (2015) account that children with severe to profound hearing loss have lower social competence compared with children with total hearing. It is important for any child going to school to have social competence since Social competence has a relationship to academic success. Development and strengthening of social understanding in early childhood ensures that young children have a firm establishment of social capability when they begin formal schooling.