Vol. 3 No. 2
January, 2005


The Russian Sign Language Project
Work in Progress

by Joseph Kautz, Stanford University

URL -  http://www.stanford.edu/dept/lc/rsl/index.html

I became interested in RSL when doing research in Saint-Petersburg. I became involved with the deaf community there and realized there were almost no resources for the study of RSL.  The Russian Sign Language Project was born when I returned to the University of Washington in Seattle.  I have now expanded the site from 120 clips to about 600 clips.

The RSL Project is basically a video glossary of signs organized into thematic units.  The newest interface was inspired by my favorite web site, craigslist.org.

screen shot of russian sign language website

Design Notes

  • I am a strong believer in not hiding information from users.  The human eye is capable of scanning information at an extremely high rate.

  • I also wanted to make a multilingual interface.  At first I thought conventional, separate interfaces in English, Japanese, and Russian were the answer.  Hence the buttons at the top right for selecting language. Later, it seemed to make more sense to present the languages all together. The present example has English and Japanese together on one page.  I may create a page with all three languages. My reasoning behind combining languages stems from the fact that many different kinds of users will visit this site.  The site will draw hearing users in Japan and Russia who are interested in foreign sign systems.  I thought to myself, why not allow them to improve their reading/vocabulary skills while they are at it?  So, a visitor who speaks Japanese will be presented with glosses in English and Russian, as well as with the RSL video.

  • Glosses that appear with the video clips themselves are given in transliteration.  This is to aid English speakers to roughly pronounce Russian and Japanese words that are both written in different writing systems.  That is, English speakers will not have to know the Cyrillic alphabet or Japanese writing system(s) in order to get a rough idea how these glosses are pronounced.

  • Eventually I hope to mark up each sign with metadata based on GML (Gestural Markup Language) conventions.