Supporting use of sign language in Singapore


© Julia Freeman Woolpert -

According to a report by AsiaOne News, the Singapore Association for the Deaf (SADeaf) says sign language still has an important role to play, as not all deaf people are suitable for speech therapy. Since fewer children in Singapore now develop serious hearing loss thanks to early screening and medical progress, and given that newer methods of coping with the condition like speech therapy have become more popular, the use of sign language has been on the decline over the last few years. According to the article, the Singapore School for the Deaf, run by the SADeaf association, had about 300 students annually learning sign language in the 1980s and early 1990s, but over the last few years, that number has dropped to fewer than 20.

The problem highlighted by the association is that not all patients can afford the hearing devices needed to benefit from speech therapy, and not all people with hearing loss are suitable candidates, specifically those with severe to profound hearing loss, or those with no hearing at all. Some medical conditions such as a congenital absence of the auditory nerve are also contraindications.

The Singapore School for the Deaf now has only 11 students, with parents of deaf children who have undergone speech therapy preferring to enroll their children in mainstream education. The school stopped accepting new students in 2010 and is likely to close in 2016, when its current students graduate. SADeaf noted that sign language is often perceived as inferior to spoken language or not a real language. But the association’s President, Mimi Ng points out that “It is not a gesture or mime for those who cannot speak or hear, but a human visual language with its own grammar structures.”

Source: AsiaOne – Singapore