Published on 14th May 2013
This is an important week for deaf New Zealanders as it is Sign Language Week – a chance to celebrate one of New Zealand’s official languages.
Deaf people in Vanuatu have something to celebrate too, as they will soon have access to the country’s first sign language dictionary, put together with the help of VSA volunteer Jacqui Iseli.
The first print run of 500 copies of the dictionary has now been sent to the Sanma Frangipani Association (SFA) in Luganville, where it will be distributed to deaf children and their parents, as well as teachers and other organisations who work with deaf people.
Jacqui compiled the dictionary, made up of photos taken from video clips of more than 1000 home signs, while she was on assignment with SFA, an organisation that works with people with disabilities. Home signs are the basic signs developed by deaf people in the absence of sign language.
The dictionary has been printed using a grant from the Norman Kirk Memorial Trust, which was set up in 1976 to commemorate the former Labour prime minister, Norman Kirk. The Trust distributes education scholarships and grants to people and groups in New Zealand and the South Pacific.
Jacqui, a New Zealand sign language interpreter and tutor, says the dictionary will help boost the self-esteem of deaf people, who are often too shy to use their signs in public, and will make it easier for hearing people to communicate with them.
“It’s only the beginning, but it will help develop some similarity between the home signs used by younger deaf people so they can communicate more easily with each other,” she says. “It will also give something for hearing people to learn so they can communicate with their deaf family and friends.”
Jacqui has returned to Vanuatu on a short-term assignment with SFA to help train people in how to use the dictionary. She will return to New Zealand in August.