Academic journal article Eastern Africa Social Science Research Review

Quality of Interpretation Services and Its Implications in Creating Inclusive Classrooms for Deaf Preparatory School Students

Academic journal article Eastern Africa Social Science Research Review

Quality of Interpretation Services and Its Implications in Creating Inclusive Classrooms for Deaf Preparatory School Students

Article excerpt

1.INTRODUCTION

Deaf learners are those whose primary communication mode is in sign language and have limited access to the hearing world. Due to inclusive education policy, the provision of education for deaf learners is increasingly in the mainstream classrooms with their hearing peers, where English is the language of instruction. Access to school curriculum for some of these population is through sign language interpretation or transliteration. According to Frishberg (1986), interpreting refers to the transmission of messages in sign languages through the spoken (sign to voice) and from spoken into the corresponding natural sign language (voice-to-sign); whereas, transliteration refers to the transmission of spoken language into a word-by-word sign system (e.g., English-based sign) or verbatim presentation. The actual interpretation practice in Ethiopian education for deaf students is transliteration. Sign language interpreting is a means of communication that creates access to communication between signing deaf learners and non-signing hearing individuals. It is an essential support service for deaf students enrolled in regular classrooms with hearing peers and taught by non-signing hearing teachers, to move towards inclusive education. Realising inclusive education is good indicator of the learner's equal value and status in mainstream settings. However, little is known about how and how well deaf students learn via interpreting (Harrington 2000; Lang 2002) and benefit from inclusive practices. As a result of "Education for All" motto, in Ethiopia, many deaf students (where the statistics is not available) may attend regular classrooms without teachers skilled in sign language or without sign language interpreters. These might have caused low participation of deaf students in their learning activities, inhibiting their natural right to education. Compared to hearing students, the participation, social interaction, and academic achievement of deaf learners was found to be poor, due to language and communication inaccessibility (Alemayehu 2000; 2003).

Even with interpretation services, the learning may not be similarly effective as it is with communication either directly through sign language for deaf or spoken language for hearing learners. In support to the above statements, Jacobs (1977) confirmed that deaf students, depending on the quality of sign language interpreter, learned significantly less from classroom instruction than their hearing peers do. The poor medium of instruction that lacked skills in sign language of the teacher or using interpreter may restrict deaf students to perform better in their education. As pointed out by Schick, Williams and Kupermintz (2005), even with a highly qualified interpreter, full access to the content and social life in a hearing classroom is challenging because language acquisition may be slow due to lack of early exposure.

Deaf children in Ethiopia experience a great variability in language input from their environment. Most parents and teachers are hearing, and do not communicate skilfully and actively with their deaf children, using sign language. Very few deaf children may have grown up in a native sign language environment, while the majority is without proper input of any language. For deaf people in Ethiopia, learning communication skills may have occurred at home and school environment. At home, exposure to the language occurs in speech and some limited home signs (Alemayehu 2003), which do not create effective communication among the family members and the deaf children. At school, learning sign as a subject, as well as learning other subjects through it is limited, due to limited sign language skills of teachers and peers in the classroom (Alemayehu 2000; 2003), that hinders deaf children's learning in sign language. This shows that lack of competent users of sign language, or lack of sign language models at home and school environments, and the inclusion of sign language as natural language in the existing curriculum for teaching and learning purposes seem inefficient. …

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