Turkey

Awareness of sign language in Turkey has increased in recent years

Awareness of people with hearing loss in society is very low compared to other disabilities, says expert

Burak Dag and Dilara Hamit   | 07.06.2021
Awareness of sign language in Turkey has increased in recent years

ANKARA

Worrying about not being understood is the biggest problem among people with hearing loss, said a sign language instructor, marking Turkish Sign Language Day.

In an interview with Anadolu Agency, Mesut Yazici said that, unlike other disabilities, it is not possible for deaf or people with partial hearing loss to be noticed the first time, and as a result, the awareness of such people in society is also very low.

Yazici said the situation had gained his attention during his years at university when he started taking photos.

"I took a photo of a hearing-impaired person for a competition I wanted to participate in. Hearing impairment is not an obvious disability. I got an award for that photo. Thanks to this, I had developed a relationship with hearing-impaired people.

"At the same time, I started going to one of the associations of the hearing impaired. While sign language was not yet available in Turkey, we used to go to the association and learn sign language. The Education Ministry did not have a sign language curriculum or certificate programs. There was no trace of sign language anywhere. No one has looked at it as a profession until now," he said.

Pointing out that sign language education is a very new field, Yazici underlined that it was needed in many fields.

Yazici said many experts worked as interpreters at police stations, courthouses, land registries, and notaries public and noted that many people could also work as instructors at public education centers or universities that have incorporated sign language as an elective course.

He said that some of his students taught the Quran in sign language to disabled people or accompanied the hearing impaired in city hospitals.

He added that the use of sign language on television started in Turkey in 2020.

5% of Turkey's population hearing impaired

According to Yazici, 4 million people or 5% of the country’s population are hearing impaired.

He said many of these people start their day worrying about not being understood no matter where they go.

"Have you ever left the house with such anxiety? You have never been out with this concern because you never think of communication problems. However, this is the biggest problem of a deaf person's life," he said.

Underlining that people with hearing loss are one of the most disadvantaged groups among the disabled in the field of education, Yazici said that while the percentage of hearing-impaired people who attend university is around one in a thousand, this rate is around 11% for the visually impaired people.

“In sign language, there are three different groups of words: first are unpredictable words like ‘mom,’ ‘dad’; the second are predictable [words] like [gesturing] ‘going,’ ‘coming’; and third is also theatrical marks (facial expressions)," he said.

He said that as all languages have grammar, sign language also has grammar, however, he added that there are regional differences.

Mentioning that he has students from different professions and age groups, he said his students want to learn sign language with the motivation to help people with hearing loss. He noted that there are also students who want to learn it professionally.

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