MORE than a tool to communicate, the Malaysian Sign Language (BIM or Bahasa Isyarat Malaysia) is about cultural identity, equality and the promise of a better future.
Recognising BIM, said teacher Albert Wong, not only puts deaf children on an even playing field with their hearing counterparts, but it also gives them a sense of pride.
“In Sarawak, we have so many ethnicities, each with their own dialect. These are incorporated in the BIM so our children understand better because they can relate to the words.”
Deaf couple Amir Hamidi, and his wife Eamienor Zakiah have a 12-year-old daughter and a boy aged 10. Their youngest is deaf so the entire family communicates using their mother tongue.
“When my husband and I were schooling, we learnt to sign using the Kod Tangan Bahasa Malaysia (KTBM or Manually Coded Bahasa Malaysia). It was tough and tedious. My son uses KTBM in school and he wants to know why he isn’t allowed to learn using the language we use at home when it allows him to communicate better,” said Eamie.
Ginger Hazel Brand agrees.
Describing Skyla Cheah, 6, as “way smarter” than she was at that age, Ginger shares how easily her daughter picks up reading and writing.
“She is such a ‘chatterbox’. Her vocabulary is must better than mine. Skyla could already spell when she was two-and-a-half. I used KTMB in school and it was so boring because the sentences were long and very focused on structure.
“Skyla loves kindergarten – even when she’s sick she wants to go. I believe it’s because she enjoys learning.”
Amir remembers feeling a sense of belonging when he first came across others using BIM.
“It gave me an identity, a culture and a sense of ownership. I only found out that the Malaysian deaf community has its own language after I graduated from university.
“My early learning experience involved a mix of American Sign Language (ASL), KTBM, or signs my parents – who can hear – made up. It would have been so much easier if I was taught in my mother tongue.”
Excellent teacher (Guru Cemerlang) Teh Kean Hoe stresses the importance of visual learning.
“It’s not just about writing sentence structures on the board. We need visual aids like LCDs, strong leadership and school level, trained teachers, and an effective sign language that is grounded in local content and context.”Read more at https://www.thestar.com.my/news/education/2018/08/26/a-sign-of-their-cultural-identity/#5Lhlxw9DWjMeZz6H.99