A library of Turkish sign language was opened on Monday in Bursa to serve hearing–impaired people. In the library, Turkish sign language interpreters have been hired to teach new words to hearing–impaired people. Those who wish to learn sign language can use CDs in the library to teach themselves.
According to Recep ?ahin, the founder of the library, Turkish sign language has been used for more than five centuries and Ottoman statesmen used this language to prevent foreigners from understanding what they were talking about.
“The idea of sign language was transported to Europe via French diplomats who discovered Ottoman statesmen used a specific sign language during their negotiations. Later, the Americans learned of sign language from French diplomats and started to use it,” stated ?ahin, adding that sign language used to be common in the Ottoman palace and was also used in various parts of the empire. According to ?ahin, many hearing–impaired people from Turkey can communicate with people from North Africa, the Balkans and the Arabian Peninsula because the traditional imperial sign language has had an influence on sign language used in those regions.
Discussing literacy among hearing–impaired people, ?ahin stated: “Even educated hearing–impaired people in Turkey do not know many words in sign language, and those who cannot use Turkish sign language have very restricted ways of communicating with the world around them. We decided to open a library to standardize sign language.” In the library, books are summarized and loaded onto CDs that can be copied for free.