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UK-China Partnership visit: Deaf students and teachers explore visual ways to learn English

24 July, 2017

We would like to congratulate our Deaf Studies colleagues for a successful academic staff exchange trip to China last month as part of the UK-China Partnership Project, funded by the British Council. The iSLanDS Institute has been honoured to be involved in this exciting three-year project led by our colleague Dr Junhui Yang, which focusses on using an on-line learning platform to teach English to deaf students.

UK-China project team - Mr Yao Jian, deaf, the project webmaster is on the left

Dr Junhui Yang with Clark Denmark and Yao Jian, the project webmaster


Dr Yang visited four universities in Beijing, Zhengzhou and Xuzhou alongside long-time deaf community educator and scholar Clark Denmark, whose MA by Research thesis was undertaken at iSLanDS and analysed the efficacy of an interactive learning platform for deaf Indian learners of English as a second language.

They delivered sessions at each of the four universities to demonstrate this innovative on-line and interactive learning approach, highlighting the use of multiple language dictionaries produced in cooperation with Spread the Sign in Sweden, which feature English, Chinese, and multiple sign languages. The trip also included a two-day workshop on 24 and 25 June at Zhongzhou University (ZZU) in Zhengzhou City, with 50 participants, including teachers and students from deaf schools and universities, and people from the local community.

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Workshop participants at ZZU on 25 June


Dr Yang commented: “The Chinese participants were extremely interested in our Deaf Studies degree course at UCLan, and the training of sign language interpreters in the UK. They asked many questions about course delivery and the support provision that enables deaf students to access higher education in Britain. We also met some deaf entrepreneurs and business owners who showed us that deaf people are experiencing increasing success at work in China.”

She said that English teachers face the challenge of teaching deaf learners who have had to cope with insufficient access to education, and thus lack foundational skills in written Chinese on which to build their English. The participants found the dictionaries and on-line approach motivating in terms of addressing this challenge, and academics from several countries came together to discuss the project’s aim of successfully exploiting visual teaching and learning methods that are naturally more conducive to deaf learners.

Clark demonstrated a lesson

Clark delivers a session at Beijing Union University


She added: “There was a high level of interest in the project, and especially in Clark Denmark, who is very well known and prestigious in sign language teaching and applied research, and has an amazing amount of knowledge and experience. It was interesting when they commented that British Sign Language was easier to understand and begin to learn than American Sign Language!”

“This all happened as a result of the British Council’s incredible support in making the project possible, for which we are really grateful.”

Congratulations to our colleagues and all the academics and participants in the UK-China Partnership on their impressive work throughout this project so far.

Two July sessions for our iSLanDS Seminar Series

21 June, 2017

We are pleased to invite you to two summer sessions in our iSLanDS 2017 Seminar Series.

The first is our Special Session on Chinese Sign Language, which takes place on Wednesday 12 July at 4–5.30pm in Livesey House LH227 here at UCLan. For this session we are delighted to have two talks, one by Dr Xiaochi Zhao from Nanjing Normal University of Special Education entitled ‘On the Construction and Application of Chinese Sign Language Vocabulary Corpus’, and the other by Dr Hongyu Liu, entitled ‘Clitic or lexical word? Another look at the nature of one crucial completive aspectual marker in Chinese Sign Language’. English-BSL interpreting will be provided for this event.

The second seminar is our Round Table Discussion on Sign Language Syntax, which will be held on Monday 17 July at 3-4pm in Harrington Building HA337. We are hosting this seminar as part of a special visit by Dr Gabrielle Hodge from University College London’s Deafness, Cognition and Language Research Centre. The round table will concentrate mostly on the syntax of British Sign Language (BSL) and Australian Sign Language (Auslan). This discussion will take place in BSL.

We look forward to welcoming you to these events, which are open to everyone, and we would like to thank all of the participants and presenters who have contributed to our well-attended 2017 seminars.

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iSLanDS goes to ISLOJ to share knowledge on Indonesian Sign Language

26 May, 2017

Our research fellow Nick Palfreyman has opened the Sixth International Symposium on the Languages of Java (ISLOJ), which took place in Semarang, Central Java, at the end of last week (18-19 May 2017).

Nick’s presentation, Towards a typology of grammatical negation in BISINDO, is part of a concerted effort to raise the profile of Indonesian Sign Language (BISINDO) in the academic community.

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Nick gives his presentation at the ISLOJ conference.

He was joined by Ferdiyanto Turut (‘Yanto’), a member of the Indonesian deaf community, in a move made possible by support from PUPET (our Indonesia hub), with funding from UCLAN.

After the symposium, Nick and Yanto went to Solo, where they met with members of the local deaf community to share information about their experiences.

“One of the aims of PUPET is to share research skills with deaf Indonesians,” Nick explained, “so I’m really pleased that Yanto was able to come to the conference. It was great to share this new experience with him!”

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Nick with Yanto, a member of the Indonesian deaf community who lives in Bali.

We asked Yanto to share his impressions with us. He said, “I had never been to an event like this before, and I found it thrilling to learn more about linguistics, it was an inspiration for me. I will benefit from this a lot, as I plan to conduct research myself in future.

“I was also happy to see hearing academics learning more about Indonesian Sign Language.”

Deaf signers in Java support our cutting-edge SIGNSPACE workshop

18 May, 2017

We’d like to thank our 16 deaf Indonesian participants for sharing their expertise and giving us feedback at our three-day SIGNSPACE workshop last week in Bekasi, West Java.

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The workshop, funded by the European Research Council, UCLan, and the Leverhulme Trust, was held from 11-13 May and aimed to test the effectiveness of materials created as part of our new SIGNSPACE project. It also provided an opportunity for participants to improve their skills in communicating with people who use other sign languages.

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Two participants, Firda and Hani, examine the SIGNSPACE materials


As we showed through our MULTISIGN project, signers can harness advantages of the visual-gestural modality, such as visually-motivated iconicity, to rapidly develop communication with other signers who use different languages. Focussing on these advantages and meta-linguistic skills, SIGNSPACE is creating online and app-based materials to allow signers to build connections with other deaf people around the world, in order to share experiences and increase their individual and community capacity.

The participants, including 10 from Bekasi and six from Solo, discussed these materials and also wanted to concentrate on knowledge transfer related to deaf identity, organisational development and leadership skills. Sessions on deaf identity, sign language, and deaf stories, lives, spaces, history were led by our research fellow Nick Palfreyman. Advocacy and lobbying sessions were led by co-facilitator Muhammad Isnaini, our Indonesian hub co-ordinator, who showed participants how to organise effectively to advance the rights of deaf Indonesians.

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Participants use a ‘statue’ activity to explore the meaning of leadership


Nick said: ‘Muhammad and I are delighted to have had this opportunity to share skills and experiences with deaf signers from Bekasi and Solo. Participants from each city quickly became firm friends, referring to themselves informally as the “BekSol” group! We are very pleased with their responses, and we look forward to following up on this success with a second workshop later this year.’

UNESCO post for our PhD student Rita Huhua Fan

17 May, 2017

Many congratulations to our PhD student, Rita Huhua Fan, on the commencement of her prestigious post at UNESCO in Paris. Working in UNESCO’s Education Sector, she is focussing on how ICT is used, monitored and evaluated in education. Her role, entitled Associate Project Officer at the ICT in Education Unit, involves coordinating the Leveraging ICT to Achieve Education 2030 project and its related publications.


As a PhD student working on our deaf literacy project, she is currently writing a thesis with the working title, ‘A developmental evaluation of an e-learning ecosystem for Deaf adult learners’ English literacy attainment in India’, and plans to submit in 2018. She said that her learning at iSLanDS during her doctoral studies and through her publication work has been very useful in paving the way for this exciting post at UNESCO. She commented:

‘Having worked in the field of education for several years with a recent shift to digital education, this role at the ICT in Education Unit at UNESCO is ideal for me. It is quite challenging and I also feel excited to work with people from diverse backgrounds and cultures.

‘Without my experience at iSLanDS, I would not have been able to get this job. I benefitted from my studies at iSLanDS in many aspects, including gathering international project experience in the Peer to Peer Deaf literacy project, improving my research skills, and gaining experience in publishing at Ishara Press. I am now familiar with the entire process of producing research publications in an international context, which is hugely advantageous in my new position as well as being an indispensable part of an academic career.

‘But it was the transformative, deaf-led approaches and the special attention paid to ethics at iSLanDS that have had perhaps the greatest impact on my personal values. I feel that studying at an institute that is leading in this area will have a long-term impact on my future career.’

Please join us in congratulating Rita and wishing her the best success at UNESCO.


SIGN8 Call for Papers deadline extended to 14 May

12 April, 2017

We are pleased to share that the deadline for the SIGN8 Call for Papers is now extended until 14 May. This exciting conference, the eighth in our ground-breaking SIGN series and the first to be hosted in South America, takes place this autumn at UFSC in Florianopolis, Brazil, from 9-12 October. Further details on submitting your abstract are available at the SIGN8 website.


iSLanDS PhD bursary

8 April, 2017

The iSLanDS Institute has advertised a PhD bursary with a deadline for applications on 30th April. For full information see this link:

This interdisciplinary PhD project explores the relationships between the implementation of capacity building measures in deaf communities in the Global South on the one hand, and the (subjective) experience and (objective) manifestations of agency by deaf people on the other hand. The aim is to track the ways in which deaf people with active roles in applied linguistics projects enact, perceive, and extend the level of their agency, which is understood as people’s capacity for conscious individual and collective goal-directed action in context.

Candidates should have (or expect to hold) a Master’s degree or equivalent in a subject area relevant to the project, and must have sign language skills. The successful applicant must start on 1st July 2017.

For further information, contact the Director of Studies Prof Ulrike Zeshan at