98% Deaf People Unable To Master Local Languages – Expert

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By Robert Tapfumaneyi

AT LEAST 98% of Zimbabwe’s deaf population does not understand most of the local languages because sign the language they learn, is only taught in English.

This, according to a linguistic expert, Lincoln Hlatywayo was done to reduce hurdles created if the deaf were taught various local languages.

“(At least) 98% of deaf people do not understand Shona. If you write the word Baba, they do not even understand its meaning because it’s a policy in our country that persons who are deaf are taught in English to reduce confusion associated with learning many languages in sign languages. So they do not know Shona or other local languages,” Hlatywayo, a university professor said.

“So, every communication that is meant for people who are deaf is supposed to be in simplified English because also they do not understand ‘hard’ English words.”

Hlatywayo was speaking at the National Aids Council (NAC) workshop for editors and radio station managers in Chinhoyi Friday on the topic – “Hearing and Impairment Challenges During Pandemics such as HIV and Covid-19.”

“During pandemics such as HIV and Covid-19, the situation is worse for deaf people and they are usual left out and remain forgotten,” he added.

“There are those who are hard of hearing but the major issue now is hearing aids are very expensive in Zimbabwe for one ear to part with (you need) US$3 500 for one digital hearing aid and for two (hearing aids) you need an amount that is equal to buy a car and how many are able to do that yet disability and poverty are intertwined.

“The persons who are deaf need materials in sign language, videos should be captioned in simplified English because they do not understand those strong words.”

Hlatshwayo also appealed to the media and society to use disability friendly language.

“It’s very important. Do not call them deaf and dumb. Dumb it’s just a term that was developed because they were usually dumped at special schools.”