Indian Sign Language has 60 lakh users; interpretation diplomas fetch well-paid jobs

MDU Rohtak is launching two RCI-approved diploma courses on Indian Sign Language interpretation, teaching, a field with great career prospects.

Indian Sign Language has 60 lakh users; interpretation diplomas fetch well-paid jobs MD University Rohtak has launched courses on sign language (Image: Youtube/ Sign Library)
Team Careers360 | Jul 7, 2022 - 12:21 p.m. IST
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By Saurav Roychowdhury & Pallavi Kulshrestha

What comes to your mind when you hear of sign language? You might think of early-morning news in sign language on Doordarshan or maybe a chance meeting with a deaf person in the metro or in a café. Do you know, that according to Ethnologue, there are more than 60 lakh users of Indian Sign Language (ISL) in the country and that it is one of the most widely-used sign languages in the world?

Sign language interpreting is a professional field with excellent career opportunities and growth. Unfortunately, most people are completely unaware of it. The prime minister Narendra Modi has announced the introduction of Indian Sign Language (ISL) as a language subject, which has given an additional boost to careers in sign language in India.

Arun C Rao, founder of Association of Sign Language Interpreters (ASLI) India and one of the first interpreters from the country, confirmed that a sign language interpreter nowadays earns Rs 25,000 to Rs 45,000 or even more per month in private and government sectors. As freelancers, they can earn as much as Rs 750-1,000 per hour. The field of sign language has grown and even gained international visibility with movies like CODA (Child of Deaf Adult) winning multiple Oscars.

Sign Language: Interpreting vs. training

Learning sign language in an educational setting by deaf teachers and master trainers can be a life-changing experience. Interpretation requires converting from spoken language to sign language and vice versa, hence the interpreting course is for people who can hear, and have functional hands. It might be interesting for you to know that ISL is taught only by deaf teachers, hence the ISL teaching course is only for deaf people. Advancing from conversational skills to interpreting requires theoretical knowledge as well practical skills. As one starts learning sign language, the cultural transmission factor of language automatically starts working.

We start learning about differences and similarities between deaf and hearing cultures. Did you know that eye-contact is very essential for signed communication? Also, if you know sign language you can communicate under-water, and that is called “deaf gain”.

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Sign language interpreters can be required in numerous settings such as academic, legal, medical and. It is a challenging yet exciting field. One day, an interpreter is interpreting for a court case and the next day, they might be in a hospital interpreting for a patient.

From interpreting complex Sanskrit shlokas for a session on spirituality to interpreting for a family situation, there are innumerable settings where sign language interpretation may be required. One may even get to interpret for the PM when he addresses the deaf community, or interpret a movie for a deaf audience.

MDU Rohtak: Sign language courses

Maharshi Dayanand University Rohtak becomes the first university in the country to start two job-oriented diploma programmes approved by the Rehabilitation Council of India (RCI) from this academic session 2022-24. These are the following courses:

  • Diploma in Indian Sign Language Interpreting (DISLI) - Only for hearing candidates
  • Diploma in Teaching Indian Sign Language (DTISL) - Only for deaf candidates

For admission in Diploma in Indian Sign Language Interpreting (DISLI) at MD University, the candidate needs to have passed the Class 12 or equivalent exam with a minimum of 50% marks, must be fluent in at least one language and possess hearing in the normal range.

For the teaching diploma, the candidate needs a certificate of disability. They should have passed Class 12 with at least 45% marks. The proficient receptive and productive skills in ISL admission process will include relevant tests to assess ISL and written language skills plus an interview.

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Sign language career

These professional courses open up extremely good career opportunities in both government as well as private sectors, in schools, colleges, institutions and even as freelancers.

As per the provisions of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPWD) Act, National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 and the prime minister’s emphasis on ISL as a language subject, there will be demand for both ISL teachers and interpreters for providing accessibility.

Granted an “A+” grade by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC), MD University is spread over 700 acres in Rohtak and has a central library, sports facility, swimming pool, career counselling cell as well as hostels.

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Apart from MDU, sign language courses are also being offered by a few other institutions in India such as the Indian Sign Language Research and Training Centre (ISLRTC) New Delhi, which is a national institute under the department of empowerment of persons with disabilities, ministry of social justice and empowerment. The RCI website, rehabcouncil.co.in, has the details on institutions offering these courses.

The RCI conducts the All India Online Aptitude Test (AIOAT 2022) for admission to diploma courses. The AIOAT application form is at the RCI website. The application process began on June 22 and will continue till July 21.


Saurav Roychowdhury is a sign language interpreter and member of Association of Sign Language Interpreters (ASLI) - India. Pallavi Kulshrestha is a special educator and working at the Haryana Welfare Society for Persons with Speech and Hearing Impairments (HWSPSHI) as their project planning and management officer.


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