Kotha Bondhu: Translating Sign Languages into Bengali Voice for Marginal Mute & Deaf Community

Title Kotha Bondhu: Translating Sign Languages into Bengali Voice for Marginal Mute & Deaf Community
Authors Mahabub Hossain Joy(mahbub2204@gmail.com)
Supervisor Dr. Nova Ahmed
Semester Fall, 2018

Sign languages are the only communication medium for mute and deaf people all over the world, but all the general people are not familiar with it. It is really tough for the mute people to make other people understand their voice. That is why they need a different solution to communicate between communities. A mobile application can be a good possible approach to communicate. In the context of Bangladesh, there are no such technology interventions for a large number of mute people. We have studied our mute people specifically from Tablighi Jamaat community who use different sign language to communicate with people. By studying them we have gathered the local signs along with global standard sign languages in an android application named Kotha Bondhu. It is a very simplistic application which is under-stable to any community people and is able to translate the sign languages into Bengali voice. Our research initiative is focusing on all the mute people?s communication development in the context of Bangladesh. Sign language literacy is limited in Bangladesh and the task requires cultural adaptation when new words are added to the set of expressions. In a religious Tablighi Jamaat community, mute and deaf people require support in terms of expressing themselves. There is a limited number of interpreters to support them who are not adequate in numbers. Technology can play an important role to bridge the communication gap where this community can reach out to general people. We have conducted a user-centered study on 47 users of this community and worked on a minimalistic lightweight tool that translates regularly used sign languages, saved in the form of pictures and videos to Bangla language. The application development process was conducted through a close relationship with the community and many community members appreciated the effort that considered them. The application development initially intended to provide only translation added resources such as books and lectures as was asked by the volunteer participants. The tool is named Kotha Bondhu and it has been used for short-term and longer-term (over a month) among mute and deaf people of Tablighi Jamaat community. The design and development process revealed that technology can be an enabler in bridging various challenges such as communication-based ones. The initial positive responses reflect support from the community for further and future development of the tool.