University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) BSL and Deaf Studies lecturers, Luigi Lerose, Nicola Nunn, and Junhui Yang, recently went to Paris to visit a school for deaf children and attend the Second International Conference of Sign Language Teachers (LESICO-2).
“On 14th October, we visited the National Institute for the Deaf in Paris and Henri Bimont, a Deaf staff member, took us on a guided tour of the school and provided us first-hand with detailed information about Abbe de l’Epee, founder of deaf education in the manual method (see photograph below). This was a very different experience to reading about the history in textbooks. We were told about many French educators of deaf children over the years and it was good to learn their original sign names and some stories that are not in the history books, or perhaps are in French and have not been produced in English.
Henri explained how the school had survived during the oralism vs. manualism debate. We also saw a statue of de l’Epee and giant painting of him, and looked at some educational resources and archives that were used during his day. It was amazing to see this history of deaf education in Paris. The next day we visited de l’Epee’s grave inside a church, which also houses a statue of him and the manual alphabet carved in stone. This school visit was very beneficial, as we received first-hand knowledge, and we are now able to share this with the students on our BSL & Deaf Studies course.
Following this visit we attended the LESICO-2 conference, on 16th and 17th October, which was attended by 252 delegates, from 22 different countries. The programme covered the sign language curriculum, embedding the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR), teaching methods, assessment, and language policy and planning across Europe. Clark Denmark gave a plenary talk about issues that the sign language teaching profession has faced from a research project based on BSL teachers’ experiences: “No time, no support and no idea!”, which was carried out by our BSL & Deaf Studies team at UCLan.
Clark also imparted his wisdom and gave advice on how to manage sign language variation in order to preserve a natural sign language and its local dialects. This is particularly important as sign language teachers have faced these sociological changes in the last 20 years when teaching a national sign language at a time of great technological advancement and international influence.
Dr Luigi Lerose was chosen to continue in his role as Vice-chair of the European Network of Sign Language Teachers (see photograph above). He gave a presentation about the current European project, “SignTeach: An open educational resource for sign language teachers in Europe”, an innovative package for sign language teachers sharing resources and good practise online. The website showcases good examples of teaching and demonstration videos in multiple sign languages as well as providing additional introductory information and reflective comments in International Sign which sign language teachers around the world will certainly appreciate.”