Iran visit first for North East business woman
A North East businesswoman has just become the first person from Europe to deliver sign language training in Iran.
Tessa Padden, who is herself deaf, is co-founder of Signworld, an interactive online system revolutionising the teaching and learning of sign language.
The visit saw Tessa lead sign language training and linguistics awareness sessions to hundreds of Iranians at locations across the country, as part of a government-backed drive to improve the lives of deaf people in the Middle Eastern state.
As well as taking in sites like the Green Palace of Tehran and the ancient city of Persepolis, the trip also saw Tessa give a keynote address at the first-ever Iranian Sign Language Interpreters Conference in Zanjan and meet with a group of female volunteers at the Deaf Association in Isfahan.
Tessa said: “Iranian people are really lovely. They smile much more than we do and have a great sense of humour. At one point I caught my headscarf in a door and accidentally pulled it off – I was worried I’d offended people but they all found it very funny.
“All they have to teach sign language with in Iran at the moment is still photographs in books which aren’t the best way to learn as they don’t demonstrate movement which is key to sign language - especially when you’re trying to convey the differences between things like heavy rain or soft rain using the same gesture.
“The best way to learn sign language is through interaction, which is what we’ve tried to achieve with Signworld and the message I tried to give the Iranians.
“They’re much more animated signers than British people – when they argue, they really argue! I had a go at learning to fingerspell in Farsi while I was there, but with a different alphabet it was very difficult indeed!”
Newcastle-based Signworld was established by Tessa and business partner Linda Day to bring sign language education into the 21st century by using software technology and is inspired by their 20 years experience of teaching the language at universities across the UK.
Aimed at learners, teachers and interpreters, Signworld uses interactive technology to offer users 1-on-1 virtual tuition, and includes innovative features like allowing sessions to be customised to take into account 14 regional variations and dialects used in British Sign Language and whether or not users are left or right handed.
Signworld are being assisted in their growth by Sunderland Software City, the regional initiative supporting and driving the growth of the North East software industry, providing the firm with a market research report from the initiative’s Intelligence Service and guidance on taking the product to market and finding customers.
Chief Executive Officer David Dunn said: “North East software is now being used in every continent on Earth – and that’s because our region’s software industry specialises in creative solutions to universal needs.
“The fact that Tessa’s expertise is being sought out by people as far away as Iran is a testament to the quality of the Signworld product, and she was clearly a wonderful ambassador for both the North East and our software industry.”
This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by John Hart .
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