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UAE's first sign-language dictionary to include Emirati cultural icons

Each emirate has its own accent and sign language [Portland Press Herald]

Date of publication: 16 February, 2016

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A new sign language dictionary created by deaf residents and specialists in the UAE will include newly devised signs for Emirati culture to facilitate communication among different emirates.

The UAE's first sign language dictionary will be released in summer with an aim of promoting cohesion and understanding between deaf citizens in the country.

Compilers of the book hope it will enable easier communication between deaf citizens in the country, where different sign languages are often used in the country's seven emirates.

The dictionary will introduce new symbols for local food, traditional clothing and other emblems of Emirati culture.

"Each emirate has its own accent and sign language, some of the signs are similar and some of them are not," Abeer al-Shihe, a deaf specialist at the Fujairah Rehabilitation Centre for the Disabled told The National.

"Having a unified sign language will solve many communication issues that deaf people face and will make communication much easier."

It has taken deaf residents and sign language specialists two years to compile the dictionary, which is expected to be completed in June.

New symbols for words specific to Emirati culture were decided with a simple show of hands. 

"Forty deaf society members have joined the workshops and voted for the best suitable sign for each word," the deaf specialist added.

Nadia al-Barouti, a 44-year-old deaf Emirati woman, said the dictionary is something she has waited all her life for.

"I created my own sign language when I was a child, and when I grew up I learnt the international sign language and I still use them both," she said.

Barouti said she faced difficulties communicating with deaf friends from other emirates because they used different signs for the same words.

"So we end up writing instead of using sign language," she said.

"Implementing this dictionary throughout the country will make us feel more unified and we will have a better understanding between one another."

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