Icelandic sign language open to all on new website

Icelandic sign language is now, for the first time, available to everybody online. Iceland’s education and culture minister opened the new internet language learning portal today, which already contains over 1,200 signs.

Thanks to the open sign language website SignWiki, Icelandic sign language is finally available to everyone in the world with a computer, smartphone or tablet. The website contains a signing dictionary where users can look up the meaning of signs or see videos of sign language.

There are also short lessons on the language, as well as articles about it, and much more.

As the site is made on the open Wikimedia network, it means anyone in the Icelandic sign language community is free to contribute and edit material. The site marks the first time Icelandic sign language is available for study to all.

Head of the deaf people’s communication centre, Valgerður Stefánsdóttir, told RÚV that it is always fun and lively in sign language classes; but that many students have no opportunity to practice anywhere else. Children, for example, who need a lot of practice, have not had good enough access to materials up until now.

It is not actually known how many individual signs are in Icelandic sign language. There are some 1,200 on the website already and the number is steadily growing. The education and culture minister added the signs for ‘education’ and ‘culture’ onto the website when she formally launched it. The website is already gaining attention overseas.

Valgerður says that the Norwegians, who have an excellent deaf people’s communication centre, intend to visit Iceland at the end of the month to study and that it is also planned to make use of the site in Africa, among the people already being helped by the Icelandic Deaf Association.