Braille is a method of reading by touch, rather than sight. Although it is mostly used by people with low vision, those with myopia can also learn to read it. Braille may seem like a language to you, but in reality, it is more like a code. There are braille codes for almost any language, as well as different types for each specialized discipline such as music, mathematics, and computers.
Method 1 of 3: Learn the Letters of the Alphabet
Step 1. Find braille instructional materials
If you are blind or nearsighted, there are several resources available for free to help you learn braille code and begin to read by touch. Look for nonprofits dedicated to assisting blind people. Schools for the blind will also have resources for the general public.
- The Hadley Institute for the Visually Impaired offers distance courses to read braille. These courses are free for people with low vision. Go to https://hadley.edu/brailleCoursesFAQ.asp to weigh the available courses.
- You can also buy braille blocks and toys to help you learn letters. These materials are very useful for young children.
Step 2. Memorize the numbers that correspond to the 6 dots in a braille cell
A standard braille cell is made up of 6 dots arranged in 2 columns of 3 dots each. All points are equidistant. The first point on the left is numbered "1", the bottom one is "2" and the last one in the first column will be "3". The points in the second column are numbered "4", "5" and "6" from top to bottom. Each Braille letter or symbol has a unique combination of dots and blanks.
- Braille printed for viewers may have "shaded dots" in the gaps, helping people to see dot positions more easily. Braille for the blind will not have shaded dots.
- To read braille by touch, you have to have quite sensitive fingers. Most adults have the sensitivity to read braille. If your sensitivity has been affected by injury or a health problem, you might be better off using "jumbo dot" braille.
Step 3. Start with the first 10 letters of the alphabet
In the braille code, the first 10 letters of the alphabet form the basis for all other letters. These letters only use the first 4 points of each cell. Thinking about the numbers of the points in relation to the place of the letters in the alphabet will help you learn them more quickly.
- The letter "a" has dot 1 only. This makes sense as "a" is the first letter of the alphabet. Similarly, the letter "b" has point 1 and point 2, as it is the second letter of the alphabet. The letter "c" consists of the point 1 and the point 4, the "d", in the 1, 4 and 5, and the "e", in the 1 and 5.
- The letter "f" has the points 1, 2 and 4. The letter "g" consists of the points 1, 2, 4 and 5, all the points above will be complete. On the other hand, the letter "h" has points 1, 2 and 5. Think that the "g" is formed by adding the point 3 to the letter "f" and then if you remove the point 4 from this "g" forms the H".
- Unlike the previous 8 letters, the "i" and the "j" do not have the point 1. The letter "i" has the point 2 and 4 and the "j", the 2, 4 and 5.
Step 4. Add point 3 to form the letter "k" through "t"
The braille code follows a distinctive pattern. To form the next 10 letters of the alphabet, repeat the same points as the first 10 letters, but add point 3 to each one to form the next ones.
For example, the letter "k" has 2 points: point 1 of the letter "a" plus point 3. Notice that the letter "l", which consists of points 1, 2 and 3, basically looks like letter representing lowercase
Step 5. Add point 6 to form the "u", the "v", the "x", the "y" and the "z"
In the case of the missing letters (except "w"), take as a basis from "k" to "o" and add point 6. Leave aside the letter "w", as it does not meet the pattern of all other letters.
- The letter "u" has points 1 and 3 from the letter "k", in addition to point 6. The letter "v" has points 1, 2 and 3 from the letter "l", plus point 6.
- Since you skip the "w" for now, the next letter will be "x", which has points 1, 3 and 4 of the letter "m" plus point 6. The letter "y" has points 1, 3, 4 and 5 of the letter "n", plus point 6. The letter "z" has points 1, 3 and 5 of the letter "o" plus point 6.
Step 6. Learn the letter "w" separately
This is the only letter that does not follow the pattern. This is because the braille code was invented by the Frenchman Louis Braille in 1860. At that time, there was no "w" in the French alphabet, so it was not included in this code.
A "w" has point 2 on the left side and points 4, 5, and 6 on the right side
Method 2 of 3: Understand Punctuation and Symbols
Step 1. To capitalize words, precede them with a cell that has only dot 6
Braille does not have a separate code for capital letters. Rather, a cell consisting of only point 6 and leading a word indicates that the first letter of that word is capitalized.
If 2 cells that have only point 6 appear before a word, that means that the entire word will be capitalized
Step 2. Bring the first 10 letters down to make the most common punctuation marks
The braille code for the first 10 letters of the alphabet is also used to create the most common punctuation marks in literary writing. The same code is lowered to the bottom of the cell.
- The braille comma has a dot 2. Think of it as a letter "a" that goes down one line.
- The braille semicolon has the period 2 and 3. This is the letter "b" that goes down one line. On the other hand, the two points in braille consist of point 2 and 5.
- The braille dot consists of dots 2, 5, and 6, and is also used as a decimal point. If there are 3 points together, an ellipsis is formed.
- The exclamation point has the dots 2, 3, and 5, while the question mark has the dots 2, 3, and 6.
- The quotes consist of 2 cells. The first represents if they are double or unique, and the second if they are opening or closing the sentence. In the case of a single quotation mark, the first cell will have the period 6. In the case of double quotation marks, the first cell will have the points 3 and 4. The opening quotation marks consist of the points 2, 3 and 6 (note that equals the question mark). The closing quotation mark consists of the dots 3, 5, and 6.
Step 3. Recognize when the first 10 letters are used as numbers
The braille code for the first 10 letters of the alphabet also symbolizes the numerals that appear in sentences of text. If the intention is to use them as numbers, they will be preceded by a special number symbol (points 3, 4, 5 and 6).
- The letter "a" is the number "1" and so on until the letter "i", which is the number "9". The letter "j" is used as the "0".
- There will only be one number sign, no matter how long the figure is.
- Commas and periods (for decimals) are used in Braille as well as in Spanish. The mathematical comma consists of the point 6 instead of the point 2 of the literary comma.
- In the Nemeth code, which is used for math texts and nonfiction writing, the codes for the first 10 letters of the alphabet are lowered to the bottom of the braille cell.
Step 4. Look for the punctuation symbol in the numerals of the Nemeth code
These numerals and common punctuation marks are the same. If a punctuation mark follows a mathematical expression, the punctuation symbol will usually precede the sign. This symbol tells you to read as a punctuation mark and not as another numeral.
The punctuation symbol has periods 4, 5, and 6. It usually appears before punctuation marks such as a colon, period, quotation marks, question or exclamation mark, comma, and semicolon
Method 3 of 3: Recognize Contractions and Shortened Words
Step 1. Identify the contractions of a single cell
For the most common contractions, a letter or a combination of dots is used instead of a whole word. The purpose of these contractions is to save space and make reading easier.
A filled cell (all 6 points) means "for". If all points are present except 5, you will have the word "and". On the other hand, points 2, 3, 4 and 6 represent the definite article (el, la, los, las)
Step 2. Read a separate letter as a whole word
There are many commonly used words that are represented by a single letter of the alphabet. Usually the letter is the first of the word, although there are some exceptions. For example, the braille code for the letter "z" can be used in place of the word "like" in English.
- The letter "b" is used for the word "but" and the letter "c" for the word "power" in English as well.
- Some of these abbreviations are also used in text speeches. For example, the letter "v" can represent the word "very."
Step 3. Learn letter combinations that are grouped in 1 cell
Many common letter combinations collapse into 1 cell to save space and avoid repetition. In English, for example, these include common endings, such as "-ed" and "-ing," as well as consonant blends such as "ch" and "sh."
A chart, like the one at https://www.teachingvisuallyimpaired.com/uploads/1/4/1/2/14122361/ueb_braille_chart.pdf will help you memorize the contractions so you can read without problems
Step 4. Go to shortened words
Braille doesn't just use contractions, there are many words that are shortened even more. Some of these short forms are more intuitive and easier to understand than others. Using a chart will help you memorize the ones you think you need to know. Just learn a few more each week as you study.
- For example, in the English braille code the letters "b" and "l" are used to represent the word "blind."
- Some short forms use a contraction in conjunction with another letter. For example, the contraction of "ser" (points 2 and 3) plus the letter "c" (points 1 and 4) represent "because" in English ("because").