Teaching English to deaf students – part 2

Last month I mentioned that the deaf are able to learn a foreign language provided that certain conditions are respected.

I understand that there is an influence of L1 on L2, because taking off from the basis of the first language can help develop the second one through the inevitable comparison made by apprentices, which can also lead them to making mistakes that would not occur in the acquisition of the first language. In this context, the previous contact with other languages seems valid, especially if you are learning a foreign language, in the case of the deaf.

Let us bear in mind that Brazilian deaf people have Libras as L1, which is visual-spatial. In this case, having some experience with writing in the L2, which is an auditory-oral language that uses the Latin alphabet, can facilitate the work of the educator. This means that if your deaf students are somewhat fluent in both L1 and L2, you may be only concerned with focusing on a (more) “effective” methodology, thus, leaving aside concerns with the time it takes your student to become familiar with the alphabet and, in many cases, the teaching of different text genres.

I was able to identify improvements in deaf people’s fluency in my MSc research, and explain it as follows:

They presented development in English from their interest in accessing and staying on the website, showing an expansion of the vocabulary from the previous knowledge as well as that brought by the occurrence of new words based on suggestions that the interaction made possible.

The primary tool selected for use in the classroom greatly facilitated the participation of the subjects, which motivated subjects to invest more in communicating with other colleagues in the country and other countries and the researchers.

Today, individuals are able to provide personal information such as name, age, preferences, description of pictures (in this case the subjects had the opportunity to be more creative since images allow discussions about different aspects according to the experiences of each one of the subjects).

They showed clarity in the use of verbs which had been taught, using the forms required for the type of communication.

They also demonstrated a difficulty that occurs, as well, with hearing students in language schools – subject-verb agreement. Clarifying the item, I can say that they needed more time to incorporate a habit to transfer from a proper name to a pronoun.

They sought to express their thoughts without having the vocabulary that would be appropriate to that situation and, for failing, they show some impatience. At that point they could always make use of the dictionary, Google translator and / or other tools which allowed them, in most cases, to resolve the question with which they had encountered.

The texts analysed show that our subjects developed, achieving better results, independent of the appropriation of the language, after all, improper uses are common in classrooms where foreign languages are taught to different types of students, being part of the construction of knowledge.

To finalise my observations I can say that, contrary to some expectations that circulate in society when it comes to learning a foreign language, we can make foreign language teaching more humane, giving the deaf a chance to learn it. The deaf are able to do so provided that certain conditions are respected as any other student in a similar situation.

Antonio Coutelo

Antonio Coutelo - Graduated in Portuguese and English Languages by the Catholic University of Pernambuco (2009), holds an MSc degree in Language from the Catholic University of Pernambuco (2012) and is now pursuing his doctoral degree. He currently lectures at the Catholic University of Pernambuco and researches the following subjects: foreign language, English, deaf, teaching-learning and Brazilian Sign Language.

2 Comments
  • TANIA CRISTINA FONSECA
    Posted at 01:26h, 22 agosto Responder

    I am very happy to read your post. I’ve been studying about this subject on my Master Degree too. I’d like to talk more about it with you. Thanks for sharing it! Congrats! Hugs.

    • Antonio Coutelo
      Antonio Coutelo
      Posted at 10:12h, 22 agosto Responder

      Hello Tania! Thanks for the love!!! You can find my thesis online. It’s entitled DESCRIÇÃO DO DESENVOLVIMENTO LINGUÍSTICO EM LÍNGUA INGLESA POR SEIS SURDOS. Add me on Facebook and we’ll be able to share some ideas. 🙂

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