Why sign language matters

Sign language is an important communication tool.

Like English, Samoan and other languages, it is a beneficial communication tool for everyone.

With that in mind, members of the Deaf Association of Samoa (DAS) are teaching sign language at Nuanua o le Alofa (NOLA).

Josefa Sokovagone, Vice president of DAS, said the three-day training will cover topics such as the alphabet of sign language, commonly used phrases, strategies of communication, deaf culture and different types of hearing.

"We are aiming for effective communication with members of the community who are deaf. We are teaching them on how to do gestures as well as showing objects and such which helps members understand each other better," he said through interpreter, Marie Enosa.

Also present at the workshops are members of the NOLA subgroups. Some of them are blind, which has proven to be a challenge within the training. 

"That's another challenge for us, is the effort to assist and provide sign language for the blind by making them feel the hands of the communicator as well as trying to sound the words for the blind to hear in order for them to interpret," said Mr. Sokovagone.

Participant, Kiwi Fa'amanatu from Vailele, said the training has helped him understand the usage of sign language by learning the alphabet in sign language, numbers as well as important gestures. The 23-year-old is blind.

"Although I am blind, I know I have the ability to teach sign language.

"I hope that by the end of this training, I am able to effectively communicate with someone that is deaf or anyone who has a disability in hearing through the usage of reading lips and gestures if I am unable to understand sign language," said Mr. Faamanatu.

Mr. Sokovagone highlighted that everyone can learn sign language and understand if English isn't a mutual language.

"In those situations, yes it can be understood thorough gestures but it may be slightly different. So yes, you may be able to communicate with anybody despite it's slight differentiation depending on the languages," he signed.

Coming from Fiji, sign language in his country is different from Samoa's as signs depend on the spoken languages. 

He added that sign language for each country comes from their own deaf communities.

"Generally understood with the assistance of gestures, but still slightly different," he signed to explained.

The Deaf Association of Samoa aims to expand their training programme to the big island of Savai'i.

Mr. Sokovagone acknowldegd NOLA and staff for being instrumental in the planning of the sign language training and wished to also acknowledge Samoa Civil Society Support Programme, for funding.

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