The 5-year-old teaching the world sign language

Aws Odeh
(Photo: Handout from Ashraf Odeh)
AMMAN – Always calling on you to “stay focused” while avidly pointing his index finger to the side of his head, 5-year-old Aws Odeh is teaching the world sign language on Youtube.اضافة اعلان

The little signer makes short two to three-minute videos, to encourage learning a key means of communication with people with hearing impairments.

With a spontaneous performance and heightened excitement, Aws’ thematic clips depict him explaining concepts of sign language in places related to the topics.

“Aws is the youngest among his siblings, but we noticed his distinctive hand flexibility and quick learning. He really enjoys learning sign language and loves teaching it as well,” Aws’ father, Ashraf Odeh, said in an interview with Jordan News.

Although it seems to come easily to Aws, synchronizing hand movement with spoken speech is a tough task, even for professional interpreters, owing to the differences between the grammatical rules of sign and spoken languages, the father noted.

Aws, nonetheless, appears to have natural, timely, and complementary gestures.

Curiously observing his father doing some hand movements in front of a device, Aws tried to mimic him. “I decided then to record Aws teaching a lesson of sign language to send it to family and friends, who highly encouraged us to start a YouTube channel to teach others as well,” Ashraf said.

Aws’ knowledge in sign language is owed to his father’s unique upbringing.

As both of his parents have hearing impairment, Ashraf grew up learning signing as a first language, and later learned the spoken language at pre-school age through interacting with the larger world.

Today, he works as a sign language interpreter. 

Odeh has been chosen to interpret important events including Friday prayer in Al-Aqsa Mosque, Palestine, and the Islamic Conference in Indonesia, he told Jordan News.

While Aws acquires some signing skills unconsciously from his grandparents, the same way children pick up spoken language, he also needs to be explicitly taught, the father said. “I monitor and direct what he signs to ensure accuracy,” Ashraf added. 

With over 21,000 views on his channel, the father said that “the love people showed for Aws’ lessons highly motivated us to further spread the culture of sign language.”

Creating an educational YouTube channel is also an enriching activity for the young child. “If it is utilized to communicate enlightening content and purposeful messages, video creation can be a great activity. We noticed how Aws’ personality and how he talks have positively changed,” Ashraf said.

In the future, the five-year-old wants to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a sign language interpreter, according to his father. Ashraf expressed intentions of expanding and reaching a broader audience.

As an expert and interpreter himself, the parent hopes to include sign language, which is one of the easiest languages to learn in the world, in the formal educational curricula in schools across the Kingdom, to promote deaf culture among the younger generations.

Sign language is a right, argued the father. He further quoted the international Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on how “the state is obliged to create conditions in various institutions for people with hearing impairments to meet their right of access to information and different services through sign language.”

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