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  • Writer's pictureThabo Baseki

Braille: A Language or Not?


Fingers on a page with Braille text

When I talk to people about how we read and write, this is one of the questions I hear most often. What do you think? In order to respond to this query, it is necessary to first consider where it came from, how it is created, and who can learn it. All these will be addressed in this article, which will also determine whether Braille is a language in the process.

What Is Braille?

Let's now quickly review the development of Braille. This widely used writing system is used by and for blind people, and consists of 63 characters made up of one to six raised dots arranged in a six-position matrix or cell. Braille characters are embossed on lines of paper, and the reader moves their hands on the paper to read text. Simply said, a person uses their fingertips to read from braille paper or a refreshable Braille display device.

Louis Braille discovered a system of tangible writing using dots that had been developed by Charles Barbier several years prior when he enrolled in the Paris school for the blind in 1819. Long believed to have been created for midnight battlefield communications, it was known as night writing. Nonetheless, it appears from Barbier's writings that he wished for the system to be accessible to those with visual and auditory disabilities as well as to those unable to pursue a formal education. In 1824, when Braille was only 15 years old and had only spent around five years studying at the Institution Nationale des Jeunes Aveugles (National Institute for Blind Children), he created a six-dot "cell" method. He began with Barbier's technique and divided its 12-dot arrangement in half. The system was first published in 1829; a more complete elaboration appeared in 1837. Encyclopedia Britannica

Who can learn Braille?

Braille is generally used by the blind and individuals with vision impairment, but anybody can learn it, including you, teachers, parents of blind children, aids or assistants, and anyone else. Generally, those with sight prefer reading it by their eyes. Nonetheless, learning braille is important for blind people to increase their performance and productivity in the workplace as well as their enjoyment of reading.

Braille: A Language or Not?

We have looked at an overview of Braille, but our question still remains unanswered. Let's respond to the query of whether it qualifies as a language. Blind individuals utilize the Braille writing system, which is not a language. In 1854, a year after Louis's death, Braille was accepted by France as the official form of communication for the blind. It was first used in Britain in 1861 and eventually adopted into English in 1902, but it wasn't made the official form of communication for blind people in England until 1918. Encyclopedia Britannica. Any characters or alphabets can be formed, and Braille can be written in a wide variety of languages. The 2013 Unified English Braille is a current international standard for English Braille (UEB).

Does Braille employ abbreviations the same way as does Sign Language?

Before we get to the end, you might question if Braille uses acronyms like Sign Language does? As each reader has distinct requirements, there are three grades of Braille. Let us quickly look at them.

Grade 1

In Grade 1, each possible configuration of dots within a cell only denotes one of the following: a letter, a number, a punctuation mark, or a special Braille composition sign. On this level of Braille, individual cells cannot represent words or abbreviations. Books and other materials created in Grade 1 Braille are bulkier and larger than typically written text since this grade is unable to condense words. Grade 1 Braille is typically only used by those who are new to Braille, but as of the early 2000s, a new trend among elementary school Braille teachers was in place to immediately introduce Grade 2 braille to children with sight difficulties after teaching the fundamentals of Grade 1 Braille.

Grade 2

As a more compact alternative to Grade 1 Braille, Grade 2 Braille was introduced. In Grade 2 Braille, a cell may indicate a word's abbreviation. This grade of Braille is the most widely used since numerous cell combinations have been developed to represent common words. There are whole-word contractions, where a single cell represents a whole regularly used word, as well as part-word contractions, which frequently serve as placeholders for common suffixes or prefixes. Words can be condensed by truncating the rest of the word or by using a single letter to represent the full word .

Grade 3

The final Braille grade, Grade 3, is essentially a Braille shorthand system. It is not used in publications because it is not standardized. As an alternative, people often use it for their own convenience. It uses vowel omission extensively and has approximately 300 word contractions. In order to make the finished document shorter, the spacing between words and paragraphs is also reduced. Moreover, it occasionally uses word substitutions made up of multiple punctuation marks. Rebecca Partington

Was the answer to your query regarding Braille being a language or not provided? Blind persons read from Braille-printed paper or a Braille display using their fingertips. Each reader's needs are met by the various grades of Braille. No matter if you have sight or are blind, anyone can learn Braille.

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