I’m really proud to finally announce this project. I’ve kept it somewhat under wraps waiting until the actual product was finished, and now it is!
It is: Introducing Sri Lankan Sign Language! This is Sri Lanka’s first-ever conversational sign language dictionary, with more than 350 illustrated signs categorized by topic area and compiled in a sturdy, 120-page softcover book. It is also fully bilingual, with each sign illustration accompanied by its Sinhala and English translations, and all introductory text written in both languages. There’s even two indexes for quick reference: one in Sinhala and one in English.
More than twenty people worked together, often from far-flung locations around the world, on this project for a year to bring it to fruition. It’s not an easy thing to make a dictionary, particularly when working with three different languages–Sinhala, English, and Sri Lankan Sign Language–at the same time. The list of contributors include Rohana Special School staff, volunteers from Matara and beyond, and foreigners who contributed their time and talents to set this milestone in the development of sign language literacy and deaf awareness in Sri Lanka.
This project was borne out of a need for a simple, easy-to-use dictionary which grouped signs in topics such as Greetings, Questions, School, Family, Food, and Transportation, and also incorporated complete, conversational expressions in Sri Lankan Sign Language like “The jacket is brown.” or “When are we going to play cricket?” Also included are illustrations for expressing numbers and both the Sinhala and English fingerspelling alphabets. The book has also been designed so that chapters increasingly build on vocabulary gained in earlier chapters, making it an useful tool for anyone who wishes to teach or learn Sri Lankan Sign Language.
As mentioned in the book’s preface, the dictionary does not attempt to be the standard for Sri Lankan Sign Language across Sri Lanka, as the language has many local dialects corresponding to the major schools for the deaf. Instead, it is intended to be used to communicate with members of the Rohana Special School community and with deaf people across the Southern Province as it uses the dialect developed at the school.
To take a look at the full dictionary or any of its individual chapters, please visit Rohana Special School’s new dictionary page. Copies are now being distributed to school staff and families of Rohana Special School pupils and other interested persons. I’ve also made sure to send two copies to the libraries at RIT/NTID and Gallaudet so that students and faculty can have an opportunity to incorporate Sri Lankan Sign Language in their research projects or simply review it for personal learning.
We haven’t quite settled on a worldwide distribution solution yet, but if you’re located in Sri Lanka, it should be simple for the school to mail you a copy.
As an extra bonus, the Rohana Special School song is also included in the foreword section, translated for the first time ever into English. Take a look at it! I have a video of it which I plan to upload soon, complete with subtitles. Thanks to everybody–from London to Matara and beyond–who made this exciting project happen!
The citation for this book, in APA style (thanks, Paula!), is:
Stone, A. (2007). An introduction to Sri Lankan Sign Language. (Ed.). Sri Lanka: Karunaratne & Sons. ISBN 978-955-1788-00-1.