Digital Ethiopian Sign Language Dictionary Unveiled

Addis Ababa University has launched a digital sign language dictionary, the Ethiopian Sign Language (EthSL), to widen access for people with hearing loss.

Led by Dr. Pawlos Kassu, AAU’s Center for Special Education developed the digital dictionary together with Gallaudet University, Washington D.C.



The dictionary – containing more than 3000 signs – has been made available in four Ethiopian languages – Amharic, Afan Oromo, Somali, and Tigrinya as well as English, online for free.

The EthSL is expected to help lower language barriers, increase the inclusion of deaf people with hearing impairments in social and economic activities, and spur economic growth and productivity. 

The US Embassy in Ethiopia funded the development project that combined descriptive and applied linguistics through a $110,000 grant.

“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,” U.S. Ambassador Massinga said at the launch event on Friday.

The event was held days ahead of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities on December 3, 2023.

The digital Ethiopian Sign Language Dictionary is available online at https://ethsl.aau.edu.et and as a free downloadable in pdf format for offline use.  

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