Kerala

Keeping them updated on COVID-19 through sign language

NISH faculty member Silvy Maxi Mena and interpreter Vinayachandran in one of the daily news bulletins.  

When the whole world pores through newspapers and tunes into news channels for their daily dose of COVID-19 news and updates on the latest guidelines, students of the National Institute of Speech and Hearing (NISH) here turn to their English teacher to stay updated.

Ever since the lockdown began, Silvy Maxi Mena has been running a daily news bulletin in sign language with interpreter Vinayachandran.

Short and snappy, the bulletins, ranging from 10 to 20 minutes, are uploaded around afternoon in NISH’s YouTube page. She began the bulletins as many of the students do not read newspapers as they have language deficiency and the news bulletins for the speech and hearing impaired in some Malayalam news channels have been discontinued during the lockdown as the interpreters are unable to travel.

“Many of them have been trained only in sign language during their school days. So, for our degree course, we usually train them in English and Mathematics for one whole year before we begin the actual course. In some cases, even their parents might be speech and hearing impaired too. They would find it hard to keep updated on the latest guidelines issued by the government without access to the special news. That’s why we decided to start this daily bulletin, covering news from across the world besides national and State news related to COVID-19,” says Ms. Silvy.

Tracking news

She keeps track of the daily happenings and prepares the script in the evening, for which her background in journalism comes in handy. Her daughter Kripa, a college student, shoots the video on her mobile phone.

Due to the patchy Internet signals in Thachottukavu, where she lives, she sends out short two-minute clips of her news reading to the interpreter who then shoots the sign language part and combines the videos.

“When I first suggested this idea to Sheeba George, NISH’s executive director, she supported the idea, but asked me to ensure that all the news was authentic. There has been a lot of positive feedback from the students and the faculty. I use these bulletins to improve the English language skills of the students too. They are given assignments to watch the news, try to write it down and then send me,” she says.

Some years ago, she had carried out a similar experiment in NISH, with daily news bulletins for students. Though this was discontinued one year ago, a proposal was prepared this year to start a bulletin by the students. Work on a news studio in NISH was progressing when the COVID-19 outbreak happened and the lockdown was announced.

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Printable version | Jan 25, 2021 10:11:43 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/keeping-them-updated-on-covid-19-through-sign-language/article31407634.ece

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