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2021-06-08

To establish the talent pool of sign language teaching professionals, Chung Cheng University helps train the first batch of Taiwan Sign Language teaching support personnel

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Every day in recent years, when people turn on TV, the images of sign language interpreters conveying messages from hearing people to Deaf/deaf community will be immediately sighted in the live broadcasting of the press conference on Covid-19. It seems that the crisis caused by the pandemic disease has made sign language even more familiar to the wider population in the society than ever before. To Taiwan society, since Taiwan Sign Language was recognized as one of the national languages few years ago, the issues in relation to sign language or the Deaf culture have been taken seriously by people as a firm entity and unlikely to fade away easily under public eyes comparing to what it used to be before the official recognition. And the development for Taiwan Sign Language to become an optional language course as part of the curriculum in primary and secondary language education sectors that soon will be on its way to be realized, is definitely the latest exciting news to many concerning members in the community. In order to facilitate the curricular development, the Graduate Institute of Linguistics at Chung Cheng University (CCU), which is the organization that has invested enormously in sign language research for more than 20 years, consequentially has been commissioned by the K-12 Education Administration of the Ministry of Education (MOE) to shoulder the responsibility to recruit and train the first batch of Taiwan Sign Language teaching support staff and the seeded lecturers, and to help establish the talent pool for Taiwan Sign Language Education.

\"Though Taiwan Sign Language is the official language of the Deaf/deaf people in Taiwan, however, it’s true face was often ignored or misunderstood by the majority in the past.\" said Dr. Jung-Hsing Chang, Professor of CCU Graduate Institute of Linguistics. People used to assume that \"all sign languages are the same worldwide\", \"sign language is no more than a set of gestures\", \"sign language has no grammar, unlike other languages\", or \"sign language can be articulated following the wording and the word order of spoken language\", and so on. These were all the misinterpreted perceptions against Taiwan sign language from most people. Fortunately, the passing of the Development of National Languages Act which covers Taiwan Sign Language, and the changing attitude towards sign language due to the public performance of interpreters in the Covid-19 epidemic prevention during the past year making sign language interpreters the stars in the media, both of which, have allowed many people to understand that sign language is also a proper language.

\"Not everyone is competent to teach sign language simply because of knowing how to sign.\" Said Professor Chang. Chang, who also serves as the principal investigator of the Taiwan Sign Language Teaching Support Personnel Training Program further commented that from August next year, Taiwan sign language courses will be implemented in elementary schools, junior high schools and high schools nationwide, as one of the learning options in Native Languages Education according to current planning. Therefore, now there is an urgent need to prepare a large number of competent sign language learning instructor for them to be in the jobs next year in time. However, the cultivation of competent professionals is never an easy task. Professor Chang gave an example to explain the challenging situation. Ever since 2004 when the Government established the Sign Language Interpreter Technician Skills Certification system, up till today, there are only 475 people who have been certified with rightful qualification can work as officially recognized interpreters in the whole country. This example has not only described the lengthy process in finding professional talents, but also forecasted the heading challenges in searching for personnel with both communication and teaching skills of Taiwan Sign Language, against the training program mentioned above. Besides, since the expertise of most sign language interpreters lies in communicational practicality, a competent interpreter might not be automatically qualified as a sign language teacher knowing how to teach. So to speak, the sign language interpreters still need to engage with a proper training to become sing language teachers, if they wish to be.

In order to deal with the shortage of sign language learning instructors, the K-12 Education Administration of the Ministry of Education has specifically commissioned CCU Graduate Institute of Linguistics, the only academic institute on sign language linguistics research in Taiwan, to undertake the training of the first batch of Taiwan Sign Language teaching support personnel, as well as supervising its related certification process. In the training program, all participants will take classes on Taiwan Sign Language Grammar, The Introduction to Taiwan Sign Language Curriculum, Teaching Planning, Teaching Approaches and Class Management, in total of 5 different courses. Professor Chang revealed that in general, anyone who have had 72 hours of sign language teaching or guiding experience, ever obtained the sign language interpreter certificate or the proctor qualification on overseeing sign language interpreting performance, will be able to apply for the training program. The selected applicants, after completing the 42-hour course and passing the certification, will then be authorized the qualification to teach sign language in Elementary schools, junior high schools and high schools.

\"Sign languages should be protected and treated the same as spoken languages.\" Professor Chang explained that unlike the spoken language, which is a language produced in a linear structure that relies on auditory perceptions, sign language is in fact a 3D visual language which combines hand movements, gestures and other actions to visualize or picturize the relationship between components shown in the utterance in a three-dimensional structure and space. The facial expressions often seen in sign language production, similar to the use of tone or intonation in spoken languages, can also express thoughts and the intensity of feelings. But, compare with the communicational expressions in hearing society, the facial expressions are even more important and indispensable for the Deaf and the wider deaf communities in their daily communication. Professor Chang stated that with the introducing of these sign language teaching support personnel into primary and secondary education sectors, not only will help students realize that Taiwan Sign Language, like any other languages, has grammatical rules, but also make them acknowledge the unique cultural characteristics of the Deaf/deaf communities, for students to fully understand the differences of Taiwan Sign Language in cultural and linguistic diversity, and of the communication needs, from spoken languages.

The training program has been scheduled to recruit a total of 90 participants in three groups. The selecting process for the first group has been completed a while ago and the training will start at the end of June this year. In July and September, the program will open its registration process again for the recruitments of the second and of the third group respectively (https://fb.me/ 2021slts/). Professor Chang also stated that in the future, 50 out of the trainees that have passed the test will be chosen to join in the talent pool of Taiwan Sign Language teaching professionals as the seeded lecturers. When different counties and cities in Taiwan have the need for Taiwan Sign Language teaching training, the system will match the ideal seeded lecturers with those specific requires to give support in the cultivation of teaching support personnel.

Release Time  /  2021-06-08

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