Why bilingualism is important All hard of hearing children must early ! in their life be given the opportunity to learn both a national Sign Language and their native spoken language so that they, later on in life, can choose what type of communication they want to use. That is real freedom of choice.
The language equation Who are you without a language? It is a breath- taking question. Accessibility to language is fundamental for social interaction, personal development and abstract thinking. Developing a language during childhood occurs unconsciously and automatically. But everyone who has been struggling with vocabulary, late night classes and” phrase-books, knows that it becomes harder to learn a language later on in life. Nor is it necessarily the case that the language one develops as a teenager or adult, can be maintained at the same level as the one that develops from an earlier age. Bilingualism, for a person with reduced hearing,Native spoken means that she or he can master – and need – both a national Sign Language and a native spoken language language. To be bilingual increases an individuals + ability to participate in society by being able to switch between the two languages.National Sign Language Bilingualism enables for children and young people with reduced hearing to participate in everyday = life, to be independent and also gives them the ” opportunity to develop on their own terms. We Participation believe that all hard of hearing children should be given an opportunity to learn both a national Sign Language and a native spoken language early on in their lives.
My bilingualism makes it possible forme to use Swedish Sign Languageinterpreters during classes. It givesme a sense of security, because I caneasily follow what is being said and ”I don’t have to be afraid of missingout on information.– Heléne, 23, hard of hearing since childhood, social studies-student
Why bilingualism?Sometimes it is hard for me to It is important to have a life long perspective whenhear everything that is being it comes to people with reduced hearing. It issaid, and then it’s good to impossible to predict what good technical hearingknow Sign Language. I always aids can do for a particular child in the future, oruse Sign Language on the in which situations his/her hearing ability isn’tsubway for example because enough. For instance, what works in the classroomof the noise. At home and atschool I speak Swedish, but I may not necessarily work during recess, in theuse Sign Language with my woodwork room or at a café. ”deaf and hard of hearingfriends. It is perhaps first at the transition point from upper secondary school to university or further- Emma, age 13, uses cochlear into working life, that technical hearing aids areimplants and goes to a class for no longer sufficient to allow meaningful participa-children with reduced hearing tion in a discussion, a group project or a meeting. Having to learn a national Sign Language at that stage in order to be able to use an interpreter is for a majority of individuals not an easy option. The right to a bilingual upbringing is essential in order to guarantee participation and access in a wide range of situations, both in the present and in the future. We advocate that all hard of hearing children are given the opportunity to learn both a national Sign Language and a native spoken language in order that they can at a later stage in life themselves make appropriate choices about what language to use.
Bilingualism and educationAt the playground, the dress-up box or during hideand seek, is not always oral communication thatmatters. But when a child starts school, conversationswith classmates start to play a more central role. Whena child has reduced hearing a lot of his/her energyis spent on reading lips and trying to hear what isbeing said. Today’s modern teaching that emphasizesgroup projects and discussions, unwittingly leads toless participation for hard of hearing students andnot surprisingly many of them complain of head acheand tiredness after a school day.In the special schools for deaf or hard of hearingstudents education is provided in Swedish SignLanguage and with the help of hearing technical ”aids. Today the student groups in these settings arequite different compared to earlier on since manydeaf children are operated with cochlear implants. A lot of hard of hearing stu-As a result there is a decrease in the number of deaf dents complain of headachechildren in the special schools. and tiredness after a day in school. Swedish Sign LanguageIt is important that the special schools continue to is a much more intelligent ”provide education in a bilingual environment that solution compared to pain-meets the children’s needs. Those students who are killers.integrated in a class with hearing students shouldhave the opportunity to regularly visit the specialschools in order to keep in touch with SwedishSign Language.
Bilingualism after schoolStriking numbers In the classroom it is usually possible for a personIt is only about 10 percent of with reduced hearing to participate, with the helphard of hearing high school of technical hearing aids. But the situation is quitestudents who go on into college different when one is hanging out with friends inand university, compared to a café or at the swimming pool. To be able to go45 percent of the hearing to a noisy café, and communicate in Swedish Signhigh school students. One Language with your friends is a major advantagein five students with redu- - it makes it possible to concentrate on communi-ced hearing does not have cating instead of hearing. Hearing aids and watera passing grade in the core is not a good combination! It is really hard to hear ”subjects Swedish, mathe-matics or English. at an indoor swimming pool where the acoustics are generally poor. To be able to use Swedish Sign- Information from the 2007 Language there, or to engage a Swedish Signannual report from the Language interpreter to be able to take part in aSwedish Association of Hardof Hearing People swimming class enables participation. To know Swedish Sign Language is also an advan- tage at the workplace, even if ones’ colleagues can hear. It does not matter how accommodating ones’ fellow workers are, it can be hard to get a technical solution that functions well during, for example, meetings. To know Swedish Sign Language and be able to use a Swedish Sign Language interpreter during such occasions is an effective solution for hard of hearing people.
We have never seen any oppositionbetween Swedish and Swedish SignLanguage, we feel quite the oppositesince the languages help each otherto develop. Emma’s first language isSwedish but we are convinced thatshe speaks as well as she does thanks ”to her early access to Swedish SignLanguage.– Ulf, dad to Emma who has cochlear implants
Problems and solutionsDouble use Option to chooseFor children who have a Problem: One sometimes hears that it is possiblesevere hearing reduction it to learn a national Sign Language if one wants to,can be difficult to start spea- and that it is freedom of choice that determines theking a native language. Sign learning. But in reality it is the hard of hearing child’sLanguage can step in and be parents who decide if their child should have access toa launching pad to help get a Sign Language or not. What happens if the parentsthe native spoken language lack commitment – or the knowledge – to take up thegoing. A native spoken langu- fight for their child’s right to bilingualism?age and a national Sign Lang-uage therefore benefit one Solution: Stop the option! A national Sign Lang-another in a linguistic com- uage is a must alongside the native spoken language. ”municative development. All hard of hearing children should be given the opportunity to learn both a national Sign Language and a native spoken language. TUFF Problem: In Sweden we have an ordinance called TUFF that gives parents and siblings of hard of hearing children the right to government funded Swedish Sign Language education. But TUFF does not include the hard of hearing child itself; para- doxically this child has no legal right to learn Swedish Sign Language. Solution: Toughen the law! Make an amendment that will give all hard of hearing children and adults the legal right to Swedish Sign Language education. Such a law must also be much more encompassing then the one we have today.
Problems and solutionsSign language environmentsProblem: Today there is no clear organisation forhow hard of hearing children and young peopleshould have access to Swedish Sign Languageenvironments. That is the case especially forchildren attending mainstreamed classes withhearing children.Solution: The National Agency for Special NeedsEducation and Schools in Sweden should have ”the responsibility for Swedish Sign Languageeducation and make sure that there is a possibilityto have access to Sign Language environments. How does it sound?Resource centers should be created where students Every hard of hearing person iswho attend mainstreamed classes should be able unique and it can be difficultto meet other hard of hearing children not least to explain how one perceivesin order to have access to Swedish Sign Language. sound. Hearing aids do notThe responsibility for the development of Swedish only help you with hearingSign Language should fall on the Swedish audi- what you want to hear, buttory rehabilitation, where Swedish Sign Language rather also enhance back-should be an integrated natural part of the services. ground sounds. As a result of that when you are in a classroom for example, you hear the noise from the classmates chairs as clearly ” as the teacher’s voice.
A new language law On July 1st 2009, a new language law was adopted in Sweden. The law states that Swedish is the main language in Sweden. This means that Swedish is the common language in our society and that all residents in Sweden should have access to it and that it will be used in all areas of society. Swedish Sign Language is also included in the law together with other national minority languages and the state has a special responsibility to protect and” promote this group of languages as well. The state also has a responsibility for individuals’ access to language. Anyone who is in need of Swedish Sign Language will have the opportunity to learn, develop and use Swedish Sign Language.Within the framework of thenew Swedish Language law, it The Swedish school systemis stated that the state has a The Swedish school system consists of kinder-responsibility to protect and garten, preschool, primary school, secondary school,promote Swedish Sign Langu-age. Anyone who is in need upper secondary school and university. Educationof Swedish Sign Language will is organized either in the public sphere (state,have the opportunity to learn, municipality or county) or privately driven (so- ”develop and use Swedish Sign called independent schools) or as a private school.Language. The responsibility for the school system is divided between the state and the municipality in Sweden. The state decides on the overall legislation, the curriculum, training teachers and supervises the running of the schools.
The National Agency for Education is the agencythat regulates the educational system. The muni-cipalities are responsible for the content of theeducation and for ensuring that all residents havethe right to education.FinallyThis is a brochure about how bilingualism can enablehard of hearing children and young people accessin schools and in society at large. The solutions we ”present in this brochure are morally, socially andeconomically justified. We advocate that all hard ofhearing children, will be given the opportunity to We advocate that all hard oflearn both a national Sign Language and a native hearing children, will be givenspoken language from an early age in life. the opportunity to learn both a national Sign Language and a native spoken language ”It is important to create opportunities so that from an early age in life.individuals are equipped to meet lifes challenges- bilingualism leads to access in the longer run.To make this possible an amendment is requiredin Sweden so that all hard of hearing people havethe right to Swedish Sign Language education. Questions and orders for theThis implies that society provides Sign Language brochure, please contact: Hardenvironments during the children’s growing up and of Hearing Young People, www. uh.se, firstname.lastname@example.org years. Native spoken language + nationalSign Language = participation. That is what our Translation & layout: UH inhouselanguage equation looks like. Printed: Ljungbergs, Klippan, 2009
Cooperation in SwedenSince the 1970s, DHB, HRF and SDR have collaborated. In the mid-1980sFSDB joined this collaboration. During the 2000s the group has expandedto include the youth organisations: DBU, UH and SDU, and also the adultorganisations: VIS and Barnplantorna, the Swedish organisation for childrenwith cochlear implant.Today there is close cooperation and consensus on most issues between ourorganisations. We see this cooperation as a strength, with our diverse expe-riences, to create a society that is accessible, offers participation and equality forour common target audiences.This brochure is a the result of a collaborative effortbetween the following organisations: The Swedish Association of Hard of Hearing PeopleThe Association The Swedish The Swedish The Swedish National of Sweden’s Association of Hard National Association Association for Deaf, Deaf-blind of Hearing People of the Deaf Hearing-Impaired and Language-impaired children Deaf-blind Hard of Hearing Swedish Deaf The Swedish National Young people Young People Youth Association Association of the Late Deafened