Brunei youth pick up sign language skills

James Kon

At least 35 states in the United States (US) have recognised American Sign Language as a modern language, Charge d’Affaires of the US Embassy in Brunei Darussalam Emily M Fleckner said.

As the guest of honour at the closing ceremony of the two-day Brunei-American Sign Language Workshop which concluded yesterday, she said, “American Sign Language originated in the early 19th Century from the American School of Deaf in Connecticut. It is now one of the most widely used languages in the US and the fourth most studied language at American universities. Instead of learning French and Spanish, people are taking up sign language classes which is another way of bringing us closer together.”

Thirty-seven youth got a taste of using the sign language to communicate during the workshop.

Held at Avenue 41, Kiarong, the workshop was organised in conjunction with International Day of Sign Languages by the Brunei-US Association (BUSA) in collaboration with BUSA-UBD, BUSA-UTB and BUSA-PB Chapters. It was supported by the US Embassy in Brunei Darussalam.

The participants from higher institutions and organisations learnt the basics of sign language during the workshop facilitated by Ong Siok Yan, a teacher for the hearing impaired at Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Saleha Hospital.

Charge d’Affaires of the US Embassy in Brunei Darussalam Emily M Fleckner presents a certificate to a participant. PHOTO: JAMES KON

In addition to working with hearing impaired individuals, Ong Siok Yan has provided sign language services to family members of hearing impaired individuals and is also a seasoned facilitator on sign language workshops and lectures.

Fleckner presented certificates to the participants.

She also expressed, “I am looking forward to supporting more BUSA activities and events. I am also very excited that such an organisation exists in Brunei Darussalam. In my time here for the next three years, I will work to strengthen ties between Brunei Darussalam and the US. I think we have a lot to learn from each other.”

Participants learnt palm positioning to form correct fingerspelling, a technique used for signing letters of written alphabets and numbers in sign language.

They also learnt basic greetings and variations of sign language used in different countries.
The participants also had the opportunity to communicate with one another as well as members of the National Association for the Hearing-Impaired (OKP).

The participants split into three groups showcased their sign language skills in either videos or in person.

BUSA was founded in 2015 during the 30th anniversary of Brunei Darussalam and US diplomatic relations. Its mission is to support the shared interests and foster closer friendship between both countries through commerce, education and cultural and social exchanges.