Over the past 19 years, I have been working among the Deaf in India. From 1998 – 2001, I was involved in a survey of the sign language across India (https://muse.jhu.edu/article/627362). From 2005 until now, I worked among the Deaf in Kolkata. In the last year I co-authored a paper in Sign Language Studies of Gallaudet University that identifies the West Bengal Sign Language as a separate language for ISL (https://muse.jhu.edu/article/627362). Subsequently, I submitted a proposal to the Ethnologue to give the language official recognition. The proposal has since been accepted (https://www.ethnologue.com/language/wbs).
Over these years of interacting with the Deaf, I have come to understand that, “ the ability to communicate - a basic human right”, is the Deaf’s greatest need. In an endeavor to empower the Deaf I have developed vocabulary video clips of the West Bengal Sign Language (WBSL) and posting them on YouTube and this website.
Approximately 3000 vocabulary words of the WBSL were first elicited from 15 West Bengal Deaf in 2011 and 2014. The vocabulary was then proofed with Deaf and a sign language linguist in 2015 and the final video taping of the vocabulary was then completed.
Purpose and Vision……
This website is designed primarily for the 1.3 million Deaf in West Bengal, India. Among these Deaf, 75% have yet to learn WBSL and may use this website to learn WBSL vocabulary. The other 25% who know WBSL may use this website to learn more Bengali and/or English to advance in their education, improve their ability to obtain and sustain employment, and communicate with friends and family. The website is designed with pictures so that the Deaf can more easily search what they are looking for. All vocabulary signs had been proofed by many local Kolkata Deaf, fluent in WBSL. The signers in the dictionary are local Kolkata Deaf.
Hearing workers among the Deaf, in particular, schools for the Deaf, have the greatest opportunity to make use of this WBSL dictionary. This dictionary could but you on the cutting edge of Deaf education; being the first in India to utilize this educational tool. This educational resource will also be attractive to the Deaf community as it is their language and will give you a step above other schools in recruiting students. Schools or the Deaf have a leading edge in sustaining and developing this unique and previously unrecognized language, and may receive peer status among Gallaudet University academia. Hearing workers among the Deaf may use this dictionary to learn WBSL vocabulary and as an educational tool for Deaf education. A “QR code book” has been developed with this website to access the signed vocabulary through computers or cell phones.
Uses and advantages in schools:
Bengali, English. WBSL learning tool
Help with language standardize of the west Bengal Sign Language
Promote the use of the sign language in the school and encourage the use in families
The use of sign language as a part of total communication has been proven to be very effective in the US and many other countries
Opportunity for School staff and administrators to learn the regional sign language and have better communication with the Deaf.
While the Indian Sign Language has been promoted in many schools for the Deaf, WBSL is the local language among the Deaf and far more understood in West Bengal than ISL
Many thanks go to all the Deaf and hearing that have helped in the process of making this dictionary including Indians and Americans. A special thanks goes to Trideep Naskar and Biswajit Sen for their many years assisting with the sign language and my wife, who has been a big support and encouragement in making the QR code book to connect the schools for the Deaf to the website. Russell Manuel, Jacinta Kujur, and Deb Batacharia were great in voicing and proofing the Bengali and English. I would also like to thank American Deaf; Kathleen Goodet and Peggy and Jack Wood for their help collecting the video tapes and for proofing the work. You all have not laboured in vain (Is 65:23)! Most of all I give thanks to the Lord who has and will sustained this project to completion (Ps 127:1)! Thank you SIL International, 2009, and Shutterstock for the use of their photos.
How to navigate the website…….
Video clips of the WBSL vocabulary may be accessed by the following methods:
Vocabulary pages – Vocabulary pages are organized by category and can be found by clicking on “Vocabulary Categories” in the menu at the top, and picking a category in the drop down menu.
West Bengal Sign Language - QR code book – This book may be downloaded from this website and printed or stored on your computer. The QR codes are listed by 48 vocabulary categories. To access the vocabulary categories by smart phone, download a QR code reader to your smartphone and follow the instructions they provide.
YouTube search – All vocabulary video clips are posted on YouTube and can be found by entering “West Bengal Sign Language WBSL” in the YouTube search menu.