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Shifts in attitudes towards ‘sign bilingualism’ due to a demographic change: The case of deaf education in Sweden
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Linguistics.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-8762-7118
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Linguistics.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-8579-0771
2018 (English)Conference paper, Oral presentation with published abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

A ‘sign bilingual’ education was implemented across Sweden for deaf children in 1983, entailing a visually-oriented bilingual modal wherein the languages of instruction were Swedish Sign Language (SSL) and Swedish (in the subsequent national curriculum revision in 1996, this became framed as SSL and written-Swedish). As one of the first countries in the world with such a curriculum, Sweden gained attention internationally. During the subsequent decades, a large majority of deaf children were enrolled in deaf schools with such a ‘sign bilingual’ instruction. However, since the 2000’s, a demographic change has occurred within the deaf community, due to increased rates of early cochlear implantation (CI) of young deaf children. As a consequence, deaf children (with CIs or other hearing aids) are no longer primarily placed in deaf schools; they are commonly placed in mainstream public schools or in schools with special programs for hard-of-hearing students, where Swedish monolingualism and speech instruction are the norm. These increased expectations regarding the children’s hearing and speaking abilities have led to a conviction that they should function according to hearing majority norms of society, rather than align to a minority approach, i.e. visually-oriented bilingualism with SSL and Swedish.

Through the lens of postcolonial theory, this presentation examines the changing patterns in deaf education in Sweden, and is built on empirical data from i) semi-structured interviews with teachers of deaf and hard-of-hearing (DHH) students, and ii) ethnographic created archival data from three NGOs’ periodicals. The focus is on changes in DHH students’ language and communication, and attitudes toward visually-oriented education over time. 

Among other things, our results reveal that DHH students’ language use and skills have changed from being primarily visually-oriented previously to becoming more orally-oriented during the last decade. The students also vary in their preferred communication forms and knowledge of Swedish and SSL. This has brought new challenges to the different schools and their teachers who are required to teach a highly heterogenous group. In general, this demographic change has challenged the idea of ‘sign bilingualism’ within deaf education in Sweden.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2018.
National Category
General Language Studies and Linguistics
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-158440OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-158440DiVA, id: diva2:1236394
Conference
Sociolinguistics symposium 22, Crossing borders: South, North, East, West, Auckland, New Zealand, June 27-30, 2018
Note

Part of Long Colloquium Language Studies and Deaf Studies (LSDS). Theoretically framed empirical contributions on languaging across time and space. Chair: Progessor Sangeeta Bagga-Gupta, Jönköpings University, Sweden. http://programme.exordo.com/ss22/delegates/presentation/476/

Available from: 2018-08-02 Created: 2018-08-02 Last updated: 2018-08-13Bibliographically approved

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