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Free Digital Ethiopian Sign Language Dictionary Widens Access for Ethiopia’s Deaf Community with U.S. Government Support 

Ethiopian Sign Language Dictionary
Participants of the Digital Ethiopian Sign Language (EthSL) dictionary launching event, at the American Corner, Addis Ababa, December 1, 2023.  (Courtesy of U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa)

U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa

Addis Ababa – Deafness is one of the most prevalent disabilities in Ethiopia, with the deaf population growing each year.  The December 1 launch of the first digital Ethiopian Sign Language (EthSL) dictionary will lower language barriers, increase the inclusion of the deaf in social and economic activities, and spur economic growth and productivity.  The U.S. Embassy in Ethiopia is proud to support the game-changing efforts of Addis Ababa University’s Center for Special Education, led by Dr. Pawlos Kassu, and Gallaudet University (Washington D.C.) to develop the digital EthSL dictionary in four Ethiopian languages (Amharic, Afan Oromo, Somali, and Tigrinya) and English through a $110,000 grant.   

The development of the digital dictionary combined descriptive and applied linguistic research to minimize the challenges that deaf Ethiopians face in economic development and accessing public and private sector services.  The digital Ethiopian Sign Language Dictionary, containing more than 3000 signs, is available online at https://ethsl.aau.edu.et and as a free downloadable pdf for offline use.   

At the December 1 launch event, U.S. Ambassador Massinga noted the upcoming December 3 International Day of Persons with Disabilities, saying, “The research, time, and effort invested in this free, online dictionary will break down barriers in school, in the workplace, in healthcare, and throughout the public sphere for Ethiopia’s deaf community.”   

The International Day of Persons with Disabilities is a moment to celebrate the equal rights and dignity of disabled people everywhere and reaffirm our commitment to building a world where people with disabilities are afforded the opportunities, independence, and respect they deserve.  

To learn more about the U.S.- Ethiopia partnership, visit: U.S. Embassy in Ethiopia and follow U.S. Embassy Addis Ababa | Facebook , Twitter, and Instagram. 


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