Irish Sign Language
How Many Deaf People In Ireland Use Sign Language?
Ireland has just 1,077 Deaf native Irish Sign Language users. In February 2015 an RTE TV interview noted that only 0.1% of deaf people sign (that’s zero point one per cent). About 800,000 people in Ireland have hearing loss but do not sign, preferring to speak, lipread and use hearing devices – with 30,000 hearing people said to know basic ISL.
ISL is the sign language used in Ireland. Its grammar and syntax differ greatly to spoken / written Irish or English.
Sign Language Use Is Declining
In Australia (globally), cochlear implants, technology and vaccines are reducing sign language use, says Professor Trevor Johnston of Sydney’s Macquarie University:
Predictions are very difficult … but it looks as if the population of deaf people who use sign language will continue to decrease, so there will be a time in the next 50 years where I feel comfortable to say the deaf community won’t exist.
How Are Deaf Children Educated In Ireland?
Over 3,300 deaf children in Ireland (90%) are mainstream-educated, with under 4% of this total using sign language (source: NCSE report, 2011).
Children Don’t Need To Learn Sign Language
This piece, To sign or not to sign? That’s the question facing deaf children explains that cochlear implants and other technologies give today’s children access to spoken language, unlike for past generations.
A deaf person’s knowledge of or fluency in ISL should not be assumed as this depends on their family and educational background. Most deaf children and people in Ireland are verbal, thanks to digital hearing technologies.
In the ISL alphabet, all names (Christian and other) are finger-spelled, but learning this one-handed alphabet does not equate to knowing full ISL!
ISL and British Sign Language are both used in Northern Ireland. British Sign Language (BSL) is used in Britain, and by a small minority in Ireland.
ISL And Literacy
English may be the second language for ISL users, which means literacy in deaf children and adults will be severely impacted without reading tuition. Many ISL-using (signing) Deaf adults have a reading age of just 8.5 to 9 years old.
Regardless of how a child communicates, their early-years learning needs to include reading time. Literacy for deaf infants is the ability to read print (written letters), for learning English, new concepts and gaining information.
Deaf children and their parents in Ireland can learn ISL but numbers are falling sharply.
Children can learn through:
- Home ISL teaching (Department of Education)
- Specialist school or social group
Parents and / or family can take classes at:
- Local ETBI or community colleges (enquire as needed)
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