[Toegepaste Taalwetenschap in Artikelen 39] 1991
► pp. 75–82
De Nederlandse Gebarentaal En Taalonderwijs
Sign Language of the Netherlands (SLN) is considered to be the native language of many prelingually deaf people in the Netherlands. Although research has provided evidence that sign languages are fully fletched natural languages, many misconceptions still abound about sign languages and deaf people. The low status of sign languages all over the world and the attitude of hearing people towards deaf people and their languages, and the resulting attitude of the deaf towards their own languages, restricted the development of these languages until recently.
Due to the poor results of deaf education and the dissatisfaction amongst educators of the deaf, parents of deaf children and deaf people themselves, a change of attitude towards the function of sign language in the interaction with deaf people can be observed; many hearing people dealing with deaf people one way or the other wish to learn the sign language of the deaf community of their country. Many hearing parents of deaf children, teachers of the deaf, student-interpreters and linguists are interested in sign language and want to follow a course to improve their signing ability.
In order to develop sign language courses, sign language teachers and teaching materials are needed. And precisely these are missing. This is caused by several factors. First, deaf people in general do not receive the same education as hearing people, due to their inability to learn the spoken language of their environment to such an extent, that they have access to the full eduational program. This prohibits them a.o. to become teachers in elementary and secondary schools, or to become sign language teachers. Althought they are fluent "signers", they lack the competence in the spoken language of their country to obtain a teacher's degree in their sign language. A second problem is caused by the fact, that sign languages are visual languages: no adequate system has yet been found to write down a sign language. So until now hardly any teaching materials were available.
Sign language courses should be developed with the help of native signers who should be educated to become language-teachers; with their help and with the help of video-material and computer-software, it will be possible in future to teach sign languages as any other language. But in order to reach this goal, it is imperative that deaf children get a better education so that they can contribute to the emancipation of their language.