Filipino Sign Language 101

This a re-post from an Inquirer.net article which appeared last December 1. It clearly explains what Filipino Sign Language is all about courtesy of our FSL Guru, Dr. Liza Martinez. Enjoy!!!

What are sign languages?

Common misconceptions:

Signing is universal.

Signing is gesture or only pantomime.

Sign languages are based on spoken languages.

Sign languages have been demonstrated to be true languages at par with spoken languages.  Spoken languages are based on classes of sound, while sign languages are built from visual units. There are over a hundred sign languages currently recognized around the world.

The fundamental unit of structure is the Handshape, along with the other parameters of Location, Movement, Palm Orientation and Nonmanual signal. These are further organized into units which carry meaning, and then, sentences and discourse.

Sign languages have no written systems and are governed by purely visually motivated grammatical devices found in the Nonmanual signals of the face and body.

How do sign languages differ from sign systems?

Sign languages arise and grow naturally across time, within communities of persons with hearing loss. A sign language is not intrinsic to children with hearing loss but is among the set of learned behaviors within the community that is shared, nurtured and passed on.

Sign languages possess their own structure distinct from spoken and written languages.

Sign systems, on the other hand, are considered artificial since they did not arise spontaneously but were purposively created as educational tools in the development of literacy.  Artificial sign systems follow the structure and grammar of spoken and written languages.

What is Filipino Sign Language (FSL)?

Common misconceptions about Filipino Sign Language:

It is based on Filipino.

It is based on English.

It is the “same” as American Sign Language.

Like other legitimate visual languages, FSL has a hierarchy of linguistic structure based on a manual signal supplemented by additional linguistic information from Nonmanual signals of the face and body. It is the ordered and rule-governed visual communication which has arisen naturally and embodies the cultural identity of the Filipino community of signers.

It shows internal structure distinct from spoken and written languages, and other visual languages, and possesses productive processes, enabling it to respond to numerous current and emerging communication needs.

It reflects rich regional diversity in its vocabulary and bears a historical imprint of language change over time since the early beginnings of manual communication in the 16th century in Leyte.

From the lexicostatistical analysis of field data by the Philippine Federation of the Deaf (PFD), possible varieties have so far been proposed: an Eastern Visayas group (Leyte variety) and a Southern Luzon group (Southern Tagalog, Bicol and Palawan varieties).

FSL bears the historical imprint of heavy language pressure from contact with American Sign Language since the start of the century, as well as with Manually Coded English since the 1970s.

In 2004, sign linguist Liza Martinez called attention to the massive and abrupt change of the core vocabulary of FSL, which has resulted from this linguistic pressure. The PFD historical analysis in 2007 used the lexicostatistical approach and verified vocabulary elements of indigenous as well as foreign origin.

Distinguished sign linguist James Woodward has been at the forefront of pioneering research to protect endangered indigenous sign languages (including FSL) and stem the strong tide of influence from foreign sign languages and sign systems.

Who are the Filipino deaf?

These are Filipinos who have hearing loss, including those who lost their hearing early or late in life (late-deafened adults, senior citizens), the hard of hearing, those with other impairments such as the deafblind, those who communicate orally, unschooled deaf, LGBT deaf, deaf indigenous peoples and so on.

Who are  the Filipino Deaf?

They are   deaf Filipinos who use, share, nurture and promote common values (including their visual language and cultural identity) as a claim for human rights and self-determination.

How are FSL and American Sign Language related?

FSL belongs to the branch of visual languages influenced by American Sign Language together with, for example, Thai Sign Language and Kenyan Sign Language. However, the structure of FSL has changed significantly enough for it to be considered a distinct language from American Sign Language.

There is substantial evidence of widespread FSL changes in the following:

Overall form, internal structure (particularly on the inventory of handshapes and accompanying phonological processes)

Sign formation or morphological processes (such as affixation, compounding, numeral incorporation, lexicalization of finger spelling, inflections and others)

Classifier predication, grammatical features and transformational rules, enabling it to generate infinite forms of surface structure from patterns of deep structure

What is the legal basis for House Bill No. 6079?

The bill is known as “An Act Declaring Filipino Sign Language as the National Sign Language of the Filipino Deaf and the Official Language of Government in All Transactions Involving the Deaf, and Mandating Its Use in Schools, Broadcast Media and Workplaces.”

The State is duty-bound internationally and domestically to legislate HB 6079 or other laws written in the same spirit.  International commitments include its ratification of UN core treaties, e.g. the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and the Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, as well as the signing by the Philippines of the 1994 Salamanca Statement on Special Needs Education.

Department of Education (DepEd) policies include the 1997 specific guidelines on the use of FSL  as the medium of instruction for students with hearing impairment. Recent or proposed DepEd policies, such as those for Mother Tongue-based Multilingual Education, the K-12 bill and the Early Years Act, already incorporate principles of full accessibility, inclusion and participation of children with disabilities.

Is this legal recognition of a national sign language taking place  only in the Philippines?

No. Forty-four countries are reported to have various levels of formal recognition for their sign languages, from constitutional status to specific legislation, polices or guidelines.

Sign language recognition continues to be an area of active lobbying with the government for Deaf communities worldwide, which invoke their right to language and communication in all aspects of their lives.

How much research has been done on FSL?

Rosalinda Macaraig Ricasa, the first Filipino hearing sign-language linguist who trained at the renowned Deaf institution, Gallaudet University (Washington), first presented in the late 1980s the observation of a possibly unique sign language in the Philippines, distinct from American Sign Language.

In 1990, Liza Martinez, the second Filipino hearing sign-language linguist who trained at the same Deaf university, conducted the first linguistic inquiry in the country. Since that time, over 80 studies on the structure and use of FSL have been undertaken and published or presented in local and international forums.

These span the fields of sign language linguistics, history, Philippine studies, literature and culture, lexicography and corpus, sign language interpreting, translation studies, language policy, education, early childhood development, human rights and machine intelligence/sign language recognition.

The Philippine Federation of the Deaf was the lead for the National Sign Language Committee, which produced the Status Report on the Use of Sign Language in the Philippines (with principal support from the Gallaudet University Alumni Association through the Laurent Clerc Cultural Fund) and the Practical Dictionaries Project, a four-country study with Vietnam, Cambodia and Hong Kong through the support of  Nippon Foundation.

Trainers for the latter project were Dr. James Woodward,

Dr. Yutaka Osugi (a Deaf sign linguist from Japan) and

Dr. Liza Martinez.

How are deaf children taught in public schools?

The National Sign Language Committee collected and evaluated videotape samples of over 150 hearing teachers in nine regions. The data show typically Sign Supported Speech or Simultaneous Communication (i.e., speaking and signing at the same time). The most frequent use of the spoken language is English, mixed with either Filipino or Cebuano.

Will HB 6079 hinder the development of literacy?

No. Section 4 (1) of the bill states that the reading and writing of Filipino, other Philippine languages and English shall still also be taught.  For a bilingual-bicultual goal in Deaf education, the first language (L1) is a fully accessible visual language (i.e., FSL), and the second language (L2) is a written language.

Shall the legal recognition of FSL as the national sign language conflict with individual autonomy?

No. A fundamental principle of the UNCRPD is individual autonomy, including the freedom to make one’s own choices (Article 3.a).

On education, Article 24.3 emphasizes that “States Parties shall enable persons with disabilities to learn life and social development skills to facilitate their full and equal participation in education and as members of the community. To this end, States Parties shall take appropriate measures, including:

(b) Facilitating the learning of sign language and the promotion of the linguistic identity of the deaf community;

(c) Ensuring that the education of persons, and in particular children, who are blind, deaf or deafblind, is delivered in the most appropriate languages and modes and means of communication for the individual, and in environments which maximize academic and social development.”

Part (b) is a clear directive to facilitate and promote the linguistic identity of the community (i.e., FSL).  Notable is the use of the word “including” in the first paragraph (meaning, it is not exclusive) for the directive to promote this linguistic identity.

Part (c) instructs the State to make sure that schools, in pursuit of their goals and mandates, offer education that is appropriate and maximizes academic and social development.  This appears to give schools latitude in the choice and delivery through the use of various languages,  modes and means.  However, these must satisfy the requirements for fully inclusive education and maximum development.

Article 21.b directs the State to guard the freedom of expression and access to information of persons with disabilities of all forms of communication “of their choice,” while also recognizing and promoting the use of sign languages (21.e).

The most critical point here is State responsibility.  The party to the convention is the Philippine state and not any stakeholder. The State must, therefore, clearly demonstrate that it is carrying out its duty to facilitate and promote the linguistic and cultural identity of the community (Articles 21.b, e; 24.3.b, 30.4) and provide full accessibility through sign language interpretation (Article 9.2.e). Articles 21.b and 24.3.c in no way diminish State commitment to clearly promote and protect sign language and deaf culture.

What will happen if HB 6079 does not become a law?

State responsibility remains clear and does not change. It shall still need to demonstrate how it is implementing Articles 21.b, e,  24.3.b,  30.4 and 9.2.e of the UNCRPD. It shall also be accountable for the nearly two decades of neglect of its commitment to the 1994 Salamanca Statement to ensure access through a national sign language.

Existing policies of the DepEd and the judiciary relating to sign language and accessibility must still be fully implemented according to the principles and obligations of the UNCRPD.

Will the mandatory use of FSL be a barrier to unschooled deaf Filipinos?

No.  Because of its fully visual nature, FSL is the next most efficient and effective interface in communication even with a deaf person who has been isolated and is unable to use the typical sign communication of the community.  Artificial sign systems, which are sound- and alphabet-/spelling-based, shall be incomprehensible to such deaf persons.

(Dr. Liza Martinez is founder and director of the Philippine Deaf Resource Center, a member of the Philippine Coalition on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. She has been actively involved in structural and sociolinguistics research on FSL for the past 22 years.)

 

Advertisements

Department of Education’s Position on Filipino Sign Language Bill

Br. Armin Luistro FSC at the lobby of the Scho...
Br. Armin Luistro FSC (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Since I can remember, the Philippines’ Department of Education had always been implementing “Total Communication System”/”Signing Exact English” in educating the Filipino Deaf. But now, all I can say that the Filipino Deaf community truly live in exciting times. 🙂

Here is the official letter of DepEd Secretary Armin Luistro addressed to Congressman Arturo Robes, Chairperson of Committee on Social Services of the House of Representatives with regards to their support in proposed Filipino Sign Language Bill (HB 6079). I took time to encode the letter and post it here because I am an advocate of accessible formats. PDFs are mostly not. Here is goes. 🙂
Department of Education (Philippines)

October 11, 2012
HON. ARTURO B. ROBES
Chairperson
Committee on Social Services
House of Representatives
Quezon City

Dear Chairperson Robes:

This refers to House Bill No. 6079 entitled, “An Act Declaring Filipino Sign Language As The National Language Of The Filipino Deaf And The Official Language Of Government in All Transactions Involving The Deaf, and Mandating Its Use in Schools, Broadcast Media, And Workplaces.”

We commend the Honorable Antonio Tinio for proposing a statutory measure on declaring Filipino Sign Language (FSL) as the National Language of the Filipino Deaf. We agree that the State shall promote, protect, and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms of persons with disabilities.

We share the same view that national and local state agencies shall uphold respect for their inherent dignity. Individual autonomy, and independence by guaranteeing accessibility and eliminating all forms of discrimination in all public interactions and transactions thereby ensuring their full and effective participation and inclusion in the society.

We also recognize that the State shall take all appropriate measures to ensure that the Filipino Deaf can exercise the right to expression and opinion. Thus, we must promote the use of sign languages embodying the specific cultural and linguistic identity of the Filipino Deaf.

On this note, we resepectfully recommend two simple but relatively substantial provisions in the bill. First, the bill should clearly define the meaning of the term “Filipino Sign Language” for the readers’ convenience in understanding the meaning of FSL.

Second, the bill must include a provision or set of provisions that shall indicate or refer to the period of initial and full implementation of the use of the FSL as medium of instruction in Deaf Education. This is in due recognition of the fact that most of the DepED teachers teaching children/youth with hearing impairment were trained using American Sign Language in schools. Thus, the shift from American Sign Language and Filipino Sign Language or the period of transition would allow flexibility on the part of the DepED to retrain and retool its teachers, revisit and reproduce its instructional materials, and develop FSL curriculum appropriate to each region/community.

We also take this opportunity to inform this Honorable Committee that FSL and its underlying principles have been incorporated in the substitute bill of the proposed K to 12 Enhanced Basic Education Program approved by the House Committee on Basic Education last October 10, 2012. We hope that the members of the Committee on Social Services will render the same support to this proposed measure in pursuit of achieving our goal of providing quality and relevant education for all.

With the aforementioned, the DepEd would like to thank the Honorable Chairperson for giving us the chance to express our position with regard to the proposed declaration of the Filipino Sign Language as the national language for the Filipino Deaf. We are very much willing to sit down with Your Honor for a dialogue with the and in view of amplifying and clarifying the contents of this letter.

Sincerely Yours,

<signed original>

BR. ARMIN A. LUISTRO FSC

Secretary

You may view the original file in PDF Format here for purposes of comparison. 🙂

What Filipino Sign Language is NOT… a short video explanation

With the recent fuzz about Filipino Sign Language and the debate whether to support House Bill 6079 (Filipino Sign Language Act of 2012) or not, let us first have an open mind, understand what this language is and how it will empower the Filipino Deaf. We hearing people have been dominating deaf education since 1907. It’s high time that we let the Filipino Deaf people decide for themselves on what language to use in teaching them.

Here is a short video explaining what FSL is NOT. Peace! 🙂

Filipino Sign Language Bill, a must for the Filipino Deaf

MCCID representatives pose together with Cong. Antonio Tinio
From Left: Blog owner, Omar Jolas Lazaro, Congressman Tinio and Regina Grace Buenaventura

This week, I received an email from President Rey Alfred Lee of Philippine Federation of the Deaf asking for a more aggressive campaign on the passage of the proposed House Bill 6079 or the “Filipino Sign Language Act of 2012″. The bill was authored by Congressman Antonio Tinio of Alliance of Concerned Teachers Party List. They invited MCCID College to participate in the media briefing last September 10.

FSL Advocates pose behind the Congress Hall
FSL Advocates pose behind the Congress Hall

According to Pres. Rey, “declaring Filipino Sign Language as the national sign language of the Republic of the Philippines, to be used as the medium of official communication in all transactions involving the Deaf which includes:

  1. Access to education –  Medium of instruction and curriculum, Early childhood care (pre-school), Hiring Deaf teachers, FSL training for hearing teachers and Sign language evaluation
  2. Access to justice – Judiciary, Department of Justice and Local government justice system
  3. Access to workplaces
  4. Access to public health facilities and services
  5. Access to broadcast media

Scientists translate sign language to text in pioneering phone software

All I can say to this is, WOW! 

This app will be available in iphone.

PIONEERING technology which translates sign language into text is being developed by Scottish scientists in a major boost for people suffering from speech and hearing difficulties.

 

The new software – the first of its kind in the world – has been developed for use on portable devices, such as smartphones, and will allow users to turn sign language into words. Users will even be able to customise the sign language to their own specific needs.

The Aberdeen University scientists behind the breakthrough claim the technology has the potential to transform how sign language users – from the profoundly deaf to those who have lost hearing in later life – will be able to communicate.

The Portable Sign Language Translator (PSLT ) has been developed by computing scientists at Technabling, a spin-out from Aberdeen University. The PSLT recognises sign language using a small camera which can be integrated in most mobile devices, such as smartphones, tablet Pcs and netbooks, and then renders it as text displayed on the device’s main screen.

Dr Ernesto Compatangelo, a lecturer in computing science who is director of Technabling, said: “The aim of the technology is to empower sign language users by enabling them to overcome the communication challenges they can experience, through portable technology.

“The user signs into a standard camera integrated into a laptop, netbook, Smartphone or other portable device such as a tablet. Their signs are immediately translated into text which can be read by the person they are conversing with.

“The intent is to develop an application – an “app” in Smartphone terms – that is easily accessible and could be used on different devices.”

He said the PSLT technology had the potential to be used with a range of sign languages including British Sign Language (BSL) and Makaton. More than 50,000 people with speech problems use BSL as their first or preferred language.

Dr Compatangelo said: “One of the most innovative and exciting aspects of the technology, is that it allows sign language users to actually develop their own signs for concepts and terms they need to have in their vocabulary, but they may not have been able to express easily when using BSL.”

The research is being funded by the UK Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to enhance the lives of deaf people with special emphasis in benefiting young people who are either in education or training.

A spokesman for Technabling said: “As a learning tool, the PSLT can be easily and effectively used by those who are learning to sign. So far, these learners needed a sign language expert in front of them to check that they were able to sign correctly. This is a problem, due to the scarce availability of sign language experts and to the consequent cost of such training.

“The PSLT can replace the human expert in many occasions, allowing learners to practice sign language whenever and wherever they like, driving costs substantially down.”

A university spokeswoman said: “Scientists on the project are now encouraging sign language users from Aberdeen city and shire to get in touch to become involved with its ongoing development. It is anticipated that the technology will be available as a product by next year.”

Repost from www.scotsman.com website.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑