Ireland has about 800,000 people with some degree of hearing loss. This includes 2,590 Deaf native ISL users – and the senior population. About 2,600 deaf/hard-of-hearing children are currently in the education system. Of this total, 90% attend mainstream schools, with 10% at specialist schools.
With cochlear implants, deaf children can be fluent in one or more spoken languages (whether sign is used). This is a new form of bilingualism!
Read this >> The deaf culture versus the oral-only debate
Sign language has a very different syntax to written English, so any users may be learning two languages at the same time during their school years. One language may be best for children with implants (Leiden, 2012).
English can be the second language in bilingualism, which means literacy in deaf children and adults need more work and sustained practice to develop. Many families prefer to use listening-and-speaking as their model language.
Bilingualism (simultaneous teaching of sign language AND English) is used at some schools in the Nordic countries.
Ireland’s Model School for the Deaf in Dublin closed in the Noughties. This school taught children primarily in ISL with English as a second language.
Gallaudet University in the US also promotes bilingualism: a 2007 research project was entitled Bilingualism in International Deaf Education.
In the US, educational software is widely used to teach bilingualism.
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