Cambodian Sign Language
Sign language is new to Cambodia. Most countries have had sign languages for deaf people for more than one hundred years. In Cambodia there was no sign language before 1997 when a field worker for the Finnish Association of the Deaf began gathering deaf people in Phnom Penh and encouraging them to communicate with each other. From those beginnings, a formal Cambodia Sign Language (CSL) has evolved. With support from the Nippon Foundation, the Deaf Development Programme focused on identifying and recording Cambodian signs and has published them in five books of CSL signs and grammar, both in Khmer and in English. After that first phase of sign language work, DDP has now switched its focus to the teaching of Cambodian Sign Language to deaf and hearing people and to the recognition and acceptance by Cambodian society of CSL as the primary mode of communication for deaf people in Cambodia.
Sign Language Unification Committee
In 1997, as the Deaf Development Programme was beginning to gather young deaf adults and start to develop Cambodian Sign Language with them, the Krousar Thmey NGO began a formal education effort for deaf children, beginning with first graders. Needing a complete sign language immediately in their deaf school environment, Krousar Thmey utilized existing American signs as the basis of the sign language used in their schools. Everyone recognized the inherent problems in having two programs using dissimilar sign languages but various efforts to bring the two sign languages together were not successful. Then in 2013, with assistance and funding from the Pre-College Education Network of the National Technical Institute for the Deaf in the United States, a committee was set up with members and support from both the Deaf Development Programme and Krousar Thmey and was charged with developing and promoting a common Cambodian Sign Language for use by both NGOs. That committee is now working well and making progress with its assigned task.
What’s New in the CSL project?