Malaysia producing its first Malay-English Braille dictionary

BANGI: People with visual impairments (visually impaired OKU) will have the opportunity to learn English with correct spelling and pronunciation when the country's first bilingual dictionary in Braille, which is currently in the prototype process, is fully completed.

Dr Mohd Norazmi Nordin, head of Special Education Programme, Centre for Education and Community Well-being Studies, Faculty of Education, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), said this bilingual Braille dictionary will not only benefit this group but also teachers who teach visually impaired students, especially in English.

"Previously, the available references were only word lists ... but this Malay-English and English-Malay Braille dictionary that is being developed is a complete dictionary from the letter A to Z along with clear explanations like any other dictionary," he told Bernama.

Mohd Norazmi, who is also a lecturer in special education (Visual Impairment), was met after the signing ceremony of the Letter of Intent for Cooperation between UKM's Faculty of Education and Muslim Care Malaysia here recently.

Apart from Muslim Care Malaysia, the bilingual Braille dictionary project has also received cooperation from the Malaysian Foundation for the Blind, City University Malaysia, and is supported by Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, the Malaysian Institute of Translation and Books, and the National Library of Malaysia.

Using the Oxford Fajar Bilingual Dictionary as the main reference, Mohd Norazmi said they would invite related experts for word selection and screening, as well as volunteers to input selected words into the bilingual Braille dictionary.

Mohd Norazmi, who has over 13 years of experience in special education, said the first prototype is expected to be completed within six months to a year and requires funding of up to RM130,000 to complete 20 volumes of the Braille dictionary.

According to him, the production of this dictionary incurs higher costs compared to regular dictionaries as it requires more pages due to the Braille writing system.

"If a regular dictionary is only 500 pages, the Braille dictionary will contain 1,500 to 1,700 pages due to the Braille dots taking up space.

"We also need to utilise expertise from the visually impaired community to ensure the dictionary is produced with correct and accurate coding and adheres to the set standards," said the former teacher of the Jalan Peel Special Education School.

He said that compared to audio materials, Braille reading materials can provide a better language learning environment regarding spelling, sentence structure, phrase arrangement and sentence construction.

"If one (punctuation) mark is missed, it could change the meaning, and the same goes for the use of lowercase and uppercase letters. So, to learn to spell correctly, we still need to touch.

"Moreover, the Braille writing system is a traditional learning method for the visually impaired community. According to studies conducted, their strength lies in touch more than hearing, so they can remember faster," he said.

He hoped the production of the bilingual dictionary would help visually impaired students in special education schools learn languages, especially English, so that they can compete globally in the future. - Bernama

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