Braille is not a language

Braille is not a language. Braille is a system for making printed words accessible to blind people.

All braille looks the same visually.  Braille is always read left-to-right, even in languages that are printed right to left. Languages that are printed in different alphabets still look the same in Braille.

For example, even though Hebrew and English look dramatically different in print, they look the same in Braille. This can sometimes mislead sighted people into thinking that Braille is its own language, but it is not.

The only major difference between Braille and print is that Braille uses raised dots instead of visually distinct letters. (A minor difference: Braille uses a lot of contractions to make it less verbose.)

Braille is not translation, and putting something into Braille does not change the meaning.

If an English book is brailled, it’s still in English, and it still has all of the same words. It hasn’t changed languages; it’s just been encoded in a way that makes it possible to read by feeling rather than seeing.

Short version: Braille is not a language, and brailling books doesn’t change the meaning, Braille just makes it possible to read with your hands.

Making reading assignments clear to students who use electronic formats

When reading assignments are assigned in the form “Read pages 75-100 in the Book of Subject Relevance”, it creates a problem for students who use electronic formats such as Kindle or Bookshare. Those formats often do not include page numbers, and it can be difficult-to-impossible to know what to read just by seeing page numbers.

There’s a simple solution that allows students to do the assignment:

  • If you’re assigning a whole chapter, tell students which chapter you mean.
  • eg: “Read Chapter 3 in the Book of Subject Relevance (pages 75-100).
  • If you’re not assigning whole chapters, include the first and last sentence in the assignment.
  • This allows students to use the search function to find the place you’re talking about.
  • eg: “Read pages 75-100 in the Book of Subject Relevance. (From “I have a slightly plausible theory.” through “In conclusion, I have shown that I am definitely right.”)

It’s good to also include the page numbers, because that’s better for students who use the print edition, and it gives all students a sense of how much reading there is.

Short version: Giving reading assignments in page numbers causes a problem for students who aren’t reading the print edition. There’s a simple solution to this. Scroll up for details.