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Correspondence from China:
Teaching English to the Deaf

February 2004

Hello again Alistair,

Since we last communicated about teaching English to Deaf learners as a foreign language, several organizations supporting ESL and applied linguistics professionals have published agendas making special educational needs (SEN) among their top priorities. During the last three years I have received correspondence from many EFL teachers working with SEN students, either within an inclusive (mainstream) classroom, or in special education settings. Among these correspondences I found a great deal of confusion and misinformation about appropriate pedagogical practices for Deaf learners and students with disabilities. My colleague, Dr. Tang Ying, who teaches English to Deaf adults has received similar correpondences and has expressed that he shares my concerns for the potential negative impact of under-qualified teachers upon the developing Chinese Deaf community. The Chinese Deaf and hard of hearing population is estimated by the United Nations as being excess of 100 million people (Galloway 2000).The trend toward meeting the needs of SEN students in EFL appears to be increasing with some new urgency and we feel this is a positive trend. However, bearing in mind that foreign teachers in the developing world can have great influence in their assigned schools and communities and the human travesties experienced historically by Deaf people under the auspices of well-intended, but misguided hands, we decided the time was ripe to assert our preferences as stakeholders in international Deaf development. We therefore gathered together what we believe to be the key advocates for Deaf development in China and drafted a document to express our preferences. Our intention is to encourage qualified Deaf educators to come to China to share knowledge about Deaf education and teach English and foreign sign languages. We hope that EFL teacher placement agencies and organizations will set appropriate standards for prospective teachers of the Deaf and support the momentum of this growing area of applied linguistics.

Galloway, A. (2000) Deaf Children in China. P 49. Washington, D.C: Gallaudet University Press.

I am currently teaching at Beijing Union University's College of Special Education, English/ASL to Deaf learners and the Sociology of Deafness and Disability to teacher education students (hearing).

Yours for progress,
Lan Qing

Please note: We wish to retain the copyrights for the Stakeholders' Statement, in the interest of making it available to as broad an audience as possible.

Stakeholders Position on the teaching of English to Deaf Learners in China

We, the undersigned, as legitimate stakeholders in Deaf education and cultural development in China, assume the following position on the teaching of English to Chinese Deaf learners.

1. Given that the English language is a mandatory part of the National curriculum and given the potential socio-economic significance of English language learning for the developing world, we assert that optimum methods should be employed to provide fair opportunities for Deaf learners to access the English language, and

2. that those methods be informed by sound, relevant, research in teaching practices and outcomes appropriate for Deaf learners, and/or be inferred by relevant a priori research in the absence of directly obtainable data.

3. We assert our preference for whole language, communicative, approaches that meet the linguistically distinct needs of Deaf learners as is consistent with summative theoretical research-outcome derived recommended best practices in both Deaf education and foreign language teaching pedagogy

4. Based upon these preferences, we further assert that practitioners should be fluent, or have certification of near-native fluency, in an appropriate mode of manual language (not the student¡¯s native sign) and English, since both cognitively and culturally a bi-lingual, bicultural, learning environment is indicated to promote efficacious outcomes in language acquisition among Deaf learners, and that as members of the global Deaf community, Deaf peoples have the right to access and learn the appropriate foreign signed language with the required foreign host language.

5. Finally, in keeping with the published policies of the majority of organizations serving English language teaching professionals regarding respect for cultural and linguistic minorities, and Deaf education and cultural organizations in the English speaking world, we expect foreign language teachers endeavoring to teach Deaf learners in China to have expansive knowledge in, and respect for, Deaf culture, Deaf languages and history, and to be prepared to impart such knowledge in a manner befitting a well-formed foreign language teaching curriculum..

Lan Qing, MA
Beijing Union Univ College of Special Ed
Sun Han Lin
Shun De School For the Deaf
Fo Shan, GD
Li Ying, Ed.D. (can.)
Lamar Univ
Beaumont, TX


Tang Ying, Ph.D.(can.)
Nat'l Pres.
Chinese Deaf Assoc.
Prof. Zhang Neng Sheng*
Dept. of Special Ed
Liaoning Normal Univ
Zhou Ting Ting, MA
Gallaudet Univ
Washington, D.C.


Xiao Yang Mei
Beijing Univ
College of Special Ed
Li Cai Mao* Ph. D.
Beijing Disabled
Persons Federation
Shi Xiao Yi
Yuan Ping Special
Education School
Shenzhen, GD

The above signatories represent key people advocating for Deaf development in China. Additional signatures had, or being sought, from other key advocates and the Chinese Deaf community at large will be kept on file with China's National Association of the Deaf.

Except where indicated by an asterisk (*) all of the above signatories are both physiologically and culturally Deaf. Additional signatures will be kept on file with China's National Association of the Deaf.

For additional information please contact Tang Ying or Lan Qing

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