Game of Signs

Medellin recently ran its annual Book Festival, and this year Bibliolabs had a bigger space with multiple events. One of the group set up a drum machine using Arduino to sense taps on boxes and send the signals to a midi player on his computer. Others created instructional videos for various technology projects. The main event though, at least for me, was the Game of Signs – a website for people to learn Colombia’s sign language.

Sign Language might seem a universal language, but it must also account for local differences such as gender which is used for most nouns and adjectives in Spanish. It also takes on a life of its own with visual slang. Other sites on the web are therefore only partially useful in Colombia, so we decided to build our own

Almost everyone in the group, and many volunteers from other parts of the libraries, got involved, demonstrating signs from various categories. I did the majority of the coding, with a lot of design input from the rest of the team and some tweaks by a more experienced web designer.

It was very satisfying to see it received so well at the festival. School groups were delighted to learn a few words and signed up to receive the URL after the festival. We sat by nervously as even a deaf group ran through the application, picking up some mistakes in our signing, but thankfully loving the concept and implementation. One man became quite angry with another member of his group, and from what the more fluent in our group made out, he was upset because he’d had the idea in the past and presumably didn’t get support from his peers to make it happen.

In any case, it’s out there now and being used by hundreds of interested citizens, and that’s the sort of impact I was hoping to have when I moved to Latin America.

Categorized as Colombia

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