Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Deaf people & multi-lingualism - Kristina Svartholm

In South Africa there are 11 official languages: there are three languages fully recognised and  also South African Sign Language (SASL).

In 1996 the legislation came through in South Africa (SA) and since then multilingualism is full accepted. English is the dominant language in SA.

In Sweden SL got recognised in 1981 and in 2009 it became a part of the language act. Swedish, and five minority languages are mentioned in the law in addition to a special passage on sign language. In the act it says that anyone who needs sign language should be given the opportunity to develop and learn sign language. The language act does not say they have to learn sign language, but they have to be given the opportunity

English is not recongisned in Sweden in the language act. but it is used in many settings, such as university. The higher you get in education the more English is used. Because of the importance of the use of English this is also compulsory for deaf children. Deaf children learn first SL, then Swedish and then the third language is English.

In countries as the USA and the UK it is also important to learn another language besides English. Learning more languages than one is imporant for international communication and contact.

The presenter then continues and explains the triangle of learning three languages. The three languages go together and they assist the language learner to understand more about the three languages.

I support the definition of multilingualism in which you can understand more than two languages fluently and meaningfully. It is imporatn that the wishes and the needs of the language learner are forefronted and not what other people think is best for the language learner. This is the free choice of linguict identity as a basic human right. each person shoul decide on that identity themselvis.

In Sweden there are currently 8 to 10 hearing sign lanuage users to each deaf person, so the deaf sign language users are a minority among the total group of sign language users

In Sweden now 90 percent of all deaf children receive a CI, some of these children do receive sign language at an early age as well, but some parentss wait to see what the result are of the CI.

In the future there will be more late leaners of sign language, due to the increase of CI users, but there will also be children  that come to deaf schools, because they have not acquired Swedish enough to manage. This means we will have to have adapted education for the late sign language learners.

The question is if sign language will survive in the future? In order to have a better understanding of this it is fundamental to understand the language processes. From knowing one sign language deaf people can learn other languages.

In closing the presenter states that it is essential that we have tolerance, openness and respect for other people and for other languages.

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