Every country has one or more signed languages. The signed languages of Finland are Finnish Sign Language and Finland-Swedish Sign Language. The Finnish Association of the Deaf undertakes research and dictionary work of both languages.
Contrary to popular belief sign language is not international. The signed languages have not been invented by anyone, but have developed in each country spontaneously, based on the natural need for the deaf to interact.
It is possible to express oneself in sign language just as diversely as it is in any other language. The languages have regional variation, and different registers - from a formal register to the babble of children - just like spoken languages have. Structurally the signed languages are similar to each other. That is why it is easier for users of different sign languages to cross language borders than it is for people using spoken languages. Similarities in the way of life and the shared experience of living as deaf people among hearing people connect sign language users across national borders.
There is also something known as international sign. It is used for example at international events of the Deaf. It is, however, not a language in itself. It is a form of communication that varies from situation to situation, depending on the linguistic backgrounds of the users. It makes use of the similar structures of the signed languages and also partly on a small number of signs that have been agreed upon by the users in advance.
Sign language users can be deaf, hard of hearing, or hearing. Some learn the language at home from their Deaf parents. The majority of deaf children are however born to hearing parents and thus their first contact with sign language is outside the family. People using hearing aids or cochlear implants can also be sign language users. When referring to hearing children of Deaf parents the term CODA - or coda - (Child of Deaf Adult) is often used.
The sings published on the website of the Suvi-dictionary have been thoroughly researched and edited to a suitable dictionary format by the Sign Language Team of the association. The Suvi website in Finnish Sign Language was opened in 2003, and the one in Finland-Swedish Sign Language in 2015.
The Wiki-based dictionaries of Finnish and Finland-Swedish Sign language are open to everyone, and the language users themselves can produce content and upload it to the SignWiki-websites. The dictionaries were established in 2013 by the joint Corpus- and SignWiki-project of the Finnish Association of the Deaf and HUMAK University of Applied Sciences. The main funder of the project is the Kone-foundation http://www.koneensaatio.fi/en/. The project will end in 2015, after which the main responsibility for the maintenance of the websites will remain with the Finnish Association of the Deaf.
A corpus is an extensive collection of linguistically coded language material, from which it is possible to pull searches. It can be used especially by language researchers, translators, interpreters and teachers.
The Sign Language Unit of the Finnish Association of the Deaf undertakes corpus work of Finnish and Finland-Swedish Sign Language.
The corpus work is a part of the Corpus- and SignWiki-project (2013-2015) of the Finnish Association of the Deaf and HUMAK University of Applied Sciences (www.humak.fi). The main funder of the project is the Kone-foundation (www.koneensaatio.fi).
The project is the first to develop systematic ID-glossing - or naming of signs - of Finnish Sign Language. Every sign is given an individual ID-gloss and is then connected to its basic form in the dictionary. The ELAN-programme is then used to link these annotations to video material in sign language. This way the video material can be searched by computer search and all individual occurrences of the sign can be found. The material is also translated into Finnish. The method has been developed for Finnish Sign Language and is now being adapted into material in Finland-Swedish Sign Language.
When choosing the material, the work was started using already existing material. The first material chosen for annotation was the Policy Programme of the National Signed Languages of Finland, which was published in Finnish Sign Language. The annotating of the Finland-Swedish Sign Language was started with interview material collected during a research project of the Finnish Association of the Deaf and the Research Institute for the Languages of Finland in 1998-2002. The annotating practices are developed in cooperation with the Sign Language Centre of the University of Jyväskylä. The project also creates structures for providing signed material for research use.
Naming the signs also greatly benefits dictionary work. Signs found in the corpus material can be added to the Suvi and SignWiki-dictionaries. In addition, information on the use of the signs can be found. The material in standard language is also suitable for use in language planning. The material produced by the project is published in the language bank of FIN-CLARIN, from which it can be viewed by anyone.
corpus, annotating, ID-gloss, Elan, sign language research, linguistics, corpus linguistics, dictionary, lexicon, Finnish Sign Language, Finland-Swedish Sign Language
In Finland all deaf, hard of hearing, deafened, deaf-blind and speech impaired people have the right to interpreting services (Act on interpreting services 133/2010). Everyone from children to seniors have the right to use an interpreter.
In Finland all deaf, hard of hearing, deafened, deaf-blind and speech impaired people have the right to interpreting services (Act on interpreting services 133/2010). Everyone from children to seniors have the right to use an interpreter. Interpreting can be used free of charge anywhere it is needed: doctor’s appointments, hobbies, work, family gatherings, trips abroad, studies, seminars, and so on. The service is arranged by and paid for by Kela, the Social Insurance Institute of Finland. In order to use the interpreting services one must first apply for the right to use the services from Kela.
There are also several paragraphs in Finnish legislation that obligate or recommend that the authorities provide interpreting services for their signing customers. This concerns situations where the authority is the one to take the initiative toward the customer. Awareness of the obligation to arrange interpreting services varies between authorities, and many Acts can be interpreted in many ways. That is why the Finnish Association of the Deaf monitors the interpreting services provided by authorities as a part of its advocacy work, at the same time emphasizing the importance of sign language interpreting when participating in societal discourse.
Working Together - Manual for Sign Language Work within Development Cooperation
Sign language documentation and research is the starting point for the empowerment of the Deaf Community in Sign Language Work. This manual emphasises the importance of a community-based approach, where deaf signers are conducting the Sign Language Work in practice themselves.
The web publication “Working Together – Manual for Sign Language Work within Development Cooperation” is a set of guidelines and examples of best practice on how to conduct Sign Language Work together with a Deaf Community. Sign language documentation and research is the starting point for the empowerment of the Deaf Community in Sign Language Work. This manual emphasises the importance of a community-based approach, where deaf signers are conducting the Sign Language Work in practice themselves.
Sign Language Work incorporates several important elements, and entails much more than compiling a sign language dictionary. The focus of Sign Language Work is to awaken the linguistic awareness of the Deaf Community, and to create opportunities for deaf people to learn about linguistics, research methods, and human rights issues which in turn raises linguistic awareness, capacities and skills. Sign Language Work may eventually lead to a governmental or legal recognition of a sign language.
The manual aims to share ideas about how Sign Language Work should be conducted. Deaf Community members can acquire the knowledge and skills that they need to improve their situation in society with the support of an advisor. This Balkan model of Sign Language Work presented in the manual has been implemented by the Finnish Association of the Deaf (FAD) in development cooperation projects together with the Deaf Communities in Albania and Kosovo.
In this manual we take a human rights approach; we use as our frame of reference the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). The UN CRPD recognises that equality and the human rights of deaf people depend upon access to sign language. The manual also follows the policies set out by the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD).
The information in the manual is available both in International Sign and in written English. Target groups of the manual are deaf people (in developing countries), advisors working with a Deaf Community, organisations and institutions funding and implementing development projects, and stakeholders and governmental institutions and representatives collaborating with Deaf Communities.
The manual is a result of cooperation between FAD, the WFD, the Albanian National Association of the Deaf (ANAD), and the Kosovar Association of the Deaf (KAD).
The seven chapters of the manual cover the following topics
Introduction – framework, target groups, and key messages
Basic information on sign languages and Sign Language Work
Starting Sign Language Work – initial survey and planning of the work
Elements needed for Sign Language Work & working methods
Topics for Sign Language Work training
Best practices and challenges – e.g. concerning communication, involving the Deaf Community, and implementation of the work in practice
Summary “Do not” – common basic mistakes that should be avoided