Teaching English to Deaf Learners with Online Learning Platforms

Yang, Junhui orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-5239-1643, Meng, Fanling and Han, Jianyun (2019) Teaching English to Deaf Learners with Online Learning Platforms. Zhengzhou University Press, Zhengzhou.

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This book is an output of the British Council’s UK-China Partnership Innovation Challenge Fund project: “Academic exchanges regarding teaching English and Deaf Studies with an online multimedia platform” that ran for three years from January 2016 to December 2018. The main participants were made up primarily of lecturers and students from the University of Central Lancashire in Preston, UK and the Zhengzhou Institute of Technology in Zhengzhou, China. This book brings together the participants’ teaching and learning experiences, the presentations given during project and further details of related activities.

The book is divided into three parts. Part One provides the reader with deaf students and Deaf academics’ accounts of their experiences, including learning English as a foreign language, teaching English to deaf learners, short interviews and personal testimonies collected during the project. Part Two contains teachers’ research papers, teaching methods, reflections and examples of lesson plans and other course-related resources. Part Three comprises a time-line of the project, summary of the project meetings and field notes that were taken during the exchange visits that were part of the project. The appendix also includes QR Codes that include two project albums of academic exchange trips, short video clips of workshop feedback, PowerPoint presentations and three documentary films that were produced between 2016 and 2018.

The broadening of Chinese policy towards foreign language teaching and learning has led to a high demand for English as a Foreign Language courses, resulting in Chinese citizens becoming increasingly interested in learning English as a Foreign language for employment purposes, international communication and personal interest. This increasing interest includes Deaf Chinese citizens and is particularly pertinent, as emphasized by a PhD research study conducted by Zhang Songbai in 2013 which found that the current curriculum for Deaf pupils, which focuses predominantly on their learning of speech, is unsuitable. This project has encouraged the use of visual prompts and sign language in the learning of English, and in other areas of deaf education.

During the project, the opportunity to work with a European Sign Language Centre arose and led to Chinese Sign Language (CSL) becoming part of a multi-lingual online platform for learning English. The platform (www.spreadthesign.come/cn) enables the user to select translations into English, CSL or written Chinese language and has developed further as an educational resource with the addition of videos. The three-year project also included holding online discussion forums and workshops at universities, inviting teachers and other experts in the field of deafness to consider the potential of the teaching of English Language. A number of deaf people have expressed an interest in training to teach English in the future. The project has resulted in three online courses, presented in text and in sign language, that provides valuable information about deaf literacy and the importance of reading for literacy enhancement, alongside the importance of understanding the difference in learning styles amongst deaf and hearing learner groups. Along with studies that have revealed that the use of spoken and written Chinese can be cumbersome for deaf learners of English as a Foreign Language, this text recommends that deaf learners will benefit from learning English directly from CSL with visual prompts and peer to peer support, without the interference and complication that bringing spoken/written Chinese into the mix can cause.

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