Irish Sign Language

Irish Sign Language (ISL) is the language which the majority of Deaf people use in the Republic of Ireland. There are other forms of ISL which include Signed English, Cued Speech and include the use of speech. These other forms is not representative of  natural ISL because all of your body, hands and facial expressions are all used in ISL but are not in the other forms. ISL is a very visual language which has it’s own grammar and structure so for you to use speech when signing in ISL, it would be like trying to speak French and English as the same time! IMPOSSIBLE!

Where can I learn ISL?

The best way for you to learn ISL is to join a class in your local area. You can contact the ISL Academy under the Irish Deaf Society who run FETAC accredited courses Level3 and Level 4. They run classes from 16 – 24 weeks depending on the FETAC Level.  There are resources out there which is intended as a guide when attending ISL classes but remember, you cannot learn ISL fully from a book or videos as ISL is largely based on the visual side of things and through your facial expressions and body movement.

Interesting Facts about ISL

  • The Irish part of the term ‘Irish Sign Language’ doesn’t mean the sign language is in Gaelic. It is simply called ISL because it is the language which Deaf people use in Ireland, and what are Deaf people of Ireland called? Irish!
  • Each country has their own sign language. Where there is a spoken language, there is nearly always a sign language. Did you know that even Northern Ireland uses a different sign language? They use BSL (British Sign Language) which goes for the rest of the UK however they also use ISL.
  • ISL is not yet recognised as an official language in Ireland yet. The Irish Deaf Society and other organisations have been campaigning on this issue for a number of years. If ISL is recognised it will mean better education policies, better access to information and making sure that Deaf people get their basic human rights.
  • ISL is probably the only language with so many variations! There are gender differences, age differences, hearing-based differences, generational differences and so on!
  • ISL is more similar to French and American Sign Languages than it is to British Sign Language! BSL and ISL is to what English is to Japanese!

A Kickstart…

If you search on YouTube for ISL videos, you will find various tutorials and clips of Deaf people signing. Remember though, those videos are not a substitute for ISL classes but it can help you with basic phrases you may need when meeting a Deaf person.

Here are some videos which can guide you in the right direction…