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Learn x-ray, endoscope, and other physics terms in sign language

Learn x-ray, endoscope, and other physics terms in sign language

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A glossary of 119 physics and engineering words have been translated into sign language. This lifts a huge burden on deaf students and interpreters, who used to have to finger-spell esoteric words.

Well, here’s a new way to visual scientific concepts.

The sometimes obscure language of physics has been translated into British Sign Language (BSL). It’s now available online, complete with videos to help you learn.

These 119 physics and engineering words include: Milky Way, ampere, wavelength, vacuum, and weightless. And it should remove one of the barriers to deaf people taking part in science. New Scientist reports.

"Because physics is a cognitively demanding subject, and the BSL terminology did not exist, this placed a heavy demand on teachers of deaf children and communication support workers," says Rachel O'Neill at the Scottish Sensory Centre (SSC) at the University of Edinburgh, where the system was developed.

Finger-spelling is sometimes too time-consuming and not every deaf person can lip read. (Imagine mouthing "endothermic" versus "exothermic.”)

For example, teaching junior high kids the difference between mass and weight is already tricky. And if there’s a deaf child in the class, it’s especially hard since there’s no established sign for mass, and the sign for weight doesn’t convey its scientific meaning.

Using visual and metaphorical relationships, existing signs build on one another to help convey the scientific associations between the terms.

The sign for mass is a fist that’s then used as a basis for the sign for density (pictured, a hand around the fist) and weight (the hand and fist moving downwards).

This glossary, designed for deaf students 16 and under, is the first to include a signed definition of each term, as well as the sign for the word – helping students and teachers use it like a dictionary.

The SSC has already devised biology, math, and chemistry glossaries.

In the US, there’s an equivalent website for American Sign Language called Signing Math & Science, which uses avatars to demonstrate the signs.

At the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, interpreters had to study papers ahead of time so they can come up with ways to sign them and decide whether to finger-spell or make up new terms.

[Via New Scientist]

Image: SSC

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Janet Fang

Contributing Editor

Janet Fang has written for Nature, Discover and the Point Reyes Light. She is currently a lab technician at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. She holds degrees from the University of California, Berkeley and Columbia University. She is based in New York. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure