Written to the song: Mine — Bazzi
“Contrary to popular misconceptions, sign languages are not pantomimes and gestures, inventions of educators, or ciphers of the spoken language of the surrounding community. They are found wherever there is a community of deaf people, and each one is a distinct, full language, using the same kinds of grammatical machinery found worldwide in spoken languages”
— Steven Pinker
Sign language is on the list of languages that I want to learn. Sign language combines movements of the hands, mouth and body as a communication tool for individuals who are deaf. When interacting with an individual who is deaf, I was embarrassed at how much I struggled, and realized that sign-language should be taught more regularly. What I did not realize, is that many dialects of sign-language exists, each with special markers and signs distinct to a community.
El Sayed is a Bedouin village in the Negev Desert which has the largest number of congenital deaf (deafness from birth) people around the world. The reason why the number of deaf individuals is much higher than other regions in the world, is because when individuals are matched for marriage, the matchmakers pair a deaf individual with an individual who is hearing, so someone can “hear the baby when it is crying”. For this reason, the genetic factor for congenital deafness is 50%, if one parent is deaf — increasing the deaf population. Due to the high-level of deafness, a high-level of bilingualism exists as well within the community.
The documentary “Voices from El Sayed” features an opportunity for the community to receive government-subsidized funding for cochlear implants, an electronic device that replaces the role of the cochlea by providing sound to deaf individuals. This decision is controversial within a village which is shaped by their language known as ABSL (Al-Sayyid Bedouin Sign Language). This dialect differs from American sign language, as there are signs for “water pipe” and “counter-top gas cooker” — specific to the community.
If you are interested in language development, dialects and learning more about sign-language, I recommend this documentary!