Congratulations to our director, Professor Ulrike Zeshan, on being awarded an honorary professorship from Amity University Gurgaon in India for “her extraordinary achievements in the field of sign language typology, sign multilingualism & applied sign linguistics and for her exceptional research in the area of comparative sign language grammar of non-western sign languages and deaf studies in Southern Asia, the Middle East including Turkey, and Sub-Saharan Africa”.
Amity University organised an award ceremony on 19 July, after which Prof Zeshan delivered a workshop on transdisciplinarity in research and teaching, and talked about “change labs” and multi-stakeholder partnerships.
Indian learners and project team celebrate success of peer-to-peer deaf literacy work at dissemination conference
We would like to thank all of the participants who contributed to the impactful and enjoyable dissemination events in Vadodara, India, marking the successful end of our peer-to-peer deaf literacy project in June. The workshop and conference were covered by VNM News Magazine (in Hindi) and the regional Times of India.
At the hands-on workshop on 24 June, presenters discussed the project’s approach and participants shared their feedback; project members gave small-group demonstrations of the bespoke SLEND platform, and led an open discussion on the next stages for this work.
The conference on 25 June covered the learners’ and host organisations’ experiences, academics’ fieldwork, links between British and Indian partners, research assistants as cultural-linguistic consultants, and peer tutors’ leadership methods. Presentations were followed by a Q&A panel discussion and a screening of the project’s documentary film.
On 26 June, the project’s Indian Advisory Committee held their final meeting, with seven esteemed members discussing the results with the researchers and representatives from the learners, peer tutors and research assistants. They made decisions on how to scale up and distribute the deaf literacy model, adapt the approach for other learner groups, and implement the findings into realistic policy changes.
We have been impressed by the commitment and achievements of our learners during this project, and the iSLanDS Institute looks forward to expanding our work on deaf literacy in the near future.
Congratulations to our research fellow Dr Nick Palfreyman, who has been awarded a three-year early career research fellowship by the Leverhulme Trust. His project, entitled ‘Patterns of variation and local identities in Indonesian sign language varieties’, aims to conduct pioneering research on grammatical variation in conjunction with PUPET, the Indonesia research hub established by iSLanDS in 2014.
Indonesia has an estimated 500,000 deaf signers across a vast archipelago, but little research has been carried out to date on the considerable diversity between and within its sign language varieties. Working with deaf colleagues in Indonesia, Nick will look at grammatical patterns across six varieties and their social contexts, studying how Indonesian signers use variation to shape social meanings and identities.
Nick’s grant was one of around 100 early career research fellowships awarded in 2016 by Leverhulme, which offers fifty per cent match-funding towards three-year academic research positions, enabling early career researchers to undertake a significant piece of publishable work.
We hope you will join us in congratulating Nick as he embarks on this exciting fellowship project.
The iSLanDS team was delighted to host a visit from our Chinese partners at Zhongzhou University in July. Led by our colleague Dr Junhui Yang from the BSL and Deaf Studies team at UCLan, and Prof Fanling Meng from Zhongzhou, we are working on new approaches to teaching English literacy to deaf university students in China.
Zhongzhou University is home to China’s largest deaf college with 600 deaf students and was host to our SIGN7 conference. The deaf and hearing visitors, including a deaf Chinese graduate from our BA programme taught in India, stayed in the UK for 10 days, also visiting departments in London and Cambridge. In addition to planning the joint research with us, they also organised a Chinese cultural event on the UCLan campus together with the Confucius Institute.
Our research in China will build on the findings from the Peer to Peer Deaf Literacy project in India, Ghana and Uganda. Prof Zeshan commented: “It is very interesting to adapt some of the results from our literacy research to the rather different environment in China, and brilliant to see the benefits from this research spread to other countries. This was always our intention but I didn’t expect it to happen so soon”. The UCLan team members are looking forward to a return visit to China next year as part of this three-year project supported by the British Council.
We want to thank our talented research trainees for a successful and enjoyable week of capacity building in India last month. Led by our senior lecturer Sibaji Panda, the training enabled 22 participants to develop generic research skills as well as specific skills in conducting research within the Indian Sign Language community. The training took place in Vadodara (Gujarat) from 27 June to 3 July, with all sessions, travel, meals and accommodation provided by iSLanDS.
We are excited to be a part of the Deaf-Led Research movement and were pleased to host such a high calibre of deaf graduates and ISL researchers, instructors and activists. Mr Panda commented: “It was an honour to deliver this training and we hope it has contributed toward the empowerment of deaf ISL users, helping to enhance and harness their expertise so that they themselves can guide the pedagogy and linguistic research of their language. Such deaf leadership is a major component of iSLanDS’s mission and it is compelling to see it becoming a reality in India, which has a large population of sign language activists”.
Local implementation of the programme was facilitated by the iSLanDS international hub in India, and we are grateful for additional support provided by Vadodara-based Mook Badhir Mandal and Ishara Foundation.
A key member of our Peer to Peer Deaf Literacy project team, Marco was also instrumental in our Education Partnerships Africa project, focussing on building Ghanaian deaf students’ academic skills and improving their access to higher education through interpreter provision.
Please join us in congratulating Marco on his success in becoming a Mandela Washington Fellow.
Deaf signers in India are creating a bilingual resource library to provide sign-language-based educational materials for children and adults. Twenty participants from deaf-led organisations across the country met in Indore last month to undergo practical training and begin devising these bilingual resources for teaching purposes, including Indian Sign Language (ISL) texts on various topics.
Through hands-on instruction led by our senior lecturer Sibaji Panda, who drew on our deaf literacy project with Lancaster University and India’s National Institute of Speech and Hearing, the participants learned how to create ISL-based materials for a range of age groups. He commented: “The time has come now for ISL users to take the matter of learning resources literally into our own hands. I feel privileged to share the expertise and experiences acquired during our multi-partner project on deaf literacy with other like-minded deaf organisations”.
Thank you to all of the participants and language experts who are playing a part in building this exciting and unprecedented resource library.