Foolishly, before starting at Lingua Translations I had never considered that Braille is not just a form of writing used in English, it is effectively a language.

As well as the three main forms of Braille; Uncontracted or Grade 1 (the complete system), Grade 2 (including contractions) and Grade 3 (a kind of short-hand style of Braille), there are also forms of Braille for different languages, which logically makes sense because alphabets, vocabularies and grammar etc. vary between languages.

Originally, Braille was based on a form of code that was designed by Charles Barbier, a captain in the French army during the 19th Century.

This code, named Ecriture Nocturne was intended for use by Napoleon’s soldiers to communicate silently at night.

Following rejection of this code for use by the military, Barbier met with Louis Braille who altered the code and built it into what we now know as Braille.

This of course means that the original system was based around the order of the French alphabet. The system uses a six-dot cell as the basis and the letters are marked out accordingly. The top four dots are used to mark out the first ten letters of the language’s alphabet.

These are also used for the numerals 1-0. The next ten letters are the same as the first 10 except they are marked out using the third dot, whereas A-J are not. Then the sixth dot is incorporated for the remaining letters. That is the basic overview of how the original Braille language form is used.

Other languages have their own Braille systems. Most Braille alphabets follow the 26-letter Latin alphabet and the French order, this was intended to prevent confusion with each language adapting the order to their own.

Some languages, such as Algerian, have re-ordered the system and it remains so today. In this instance, they have re-ordered it to match the Arabic alphabet.

These Braille systems are numerically ordered, however there are also languages, such as Japanese and Korean, which don’t order their Braille systems numerically. Japanese is a syllabic system whilst Korean Braille also works based on consonants and vowels.

There are Braille forms for most languages, however some use contractions whilst other languages don’t. If you have learnt a foreign language, have you ever considered learning the Braille system as well?

I have always been fascinated by the system used and how so much information can be contained in code forms. Much like my fascination for Chinese characters and the amount of information they represent. Have you ever tried to learn Braille in any language, including your own?

For more information on the languages we work with here at Lingua Translations, please visit our languages page.