4. SignTeach: the Survey

Who to ask?

To find out more about sign language teachers and sign language teaching in Europe we wanted to collect quantitative and qualitative data from all countries in Europe.

We surfed the net and consulted our networks, but in many countries sign language teachers are not organized. There is no register of sign language teachers, and in many countries, not even a national organisation of sign language teachers. When we found sites for or by sign language teachers, the information was usually only available in the national sign language and/or national written language. Even with Google’s help, these sites rarely answered the many questions that we had.

We asked the European Union of the Deaf to help. “Can you please ask all your members to provide us with the information that we want?” The members of the EUD are national Deaf Organisations – and the EUD told us that most of these have little or nothing to do with sign language teaching.

We tried to find 2 or 3 experts in each country to consult. But in many countries, there are no generally recognized experts in this field. In some countries, there ARE competing factions or parties. WHO we’d consult would determine WHAT they’d tell us about their country.

Online Survey

So we decided for a grassroots approach. We would ask the sign language teachers themselves. We developed an online survey for sign language teachers in Europe. The survey could not be too long, What were the most important questions to ask?

Questions had to be relevant and easy to understand for sign language teachers across Europe.

Most questions would have to be multiple choice questions, because many sign language teachers are not able to write in English and even with the help of Google translate it would be difficult for us to deal with answers in many different languages.

The questions had to be about the personal experiences of the sign language teachers themselves, because each teacher is an expert when it concerns his/her own situation.

Ultimately, we agreed on 3 major topics and 22 questions.

Three topics

The three main topics are:

  1. Information about the respondents. Are they deaf or hearing? How old? How many years of experience?
  2. Information about their work. Who do they teach? At what level? How many hours per month? What materials do they use?
  3. Information about their training. What training had they had? What were their wishes, for further training?

International Sign

The questions were signed in national Sign by David Hay (EUD) and published in English and International Sign on the SignTeach website, August 2015. We used our networks, social media, conferences and personal contacts to get as many sign language teachers from across Europe to answer the questions of the Survey.


Over 240 responses

Early 2017, we had almost 275 responses. Some were by people who were not sign language teachers. We excluded their answers from the analysis. Some were from sign language teachers outside of Europe. It was good to see that sign language teachers from countries as far away and as diverse as the US, South Korea, Liberia, Australia and Chile took the trouble to answer our questions, but we did not include their responses in our analysis.

Ultimately (May 2017), 243 sign language teachers from across Europe had completed the Survey. Enough to get an overall impression of similarities and differences, but not enough for sophisticated statistical analyses.

For this report, we focused on the eight countries of the SignTeach partners. In alphabetical order: Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany, Iceland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway and the UK. We compared the data of these countries with the ‘average’ data of all countries.

For this report, we focused on the eight countries of the SignTeach partners. In alphabetical order: Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany, Iceland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway and the UK. We compared the data of these countries with the ‘average’ data of all countries.


A considerable number, 243 responses, but the main target group of the SignTeach project proved very difficult to reach. Most sign language teachers in Europe do not read and write English. For international communication, deaf sign language teachers who completed the Survey say they prefer International Sign to English.

To reach the majority of sign language teachers, however, we should have presented the Survey questions in the national sign languages of our target group. Unfortunately, we did not have the resources to do this.

As a result, the Survey was mostly completed by sign language teachers with many international contacts and/or working in academic settings. Sign language teachers who work independently, in adult education programmes or in informal settings are probably under-represented in the Survey. 

Country Reports

Consortium partners supplemented the Survey data with a short historical overview of the situation in their country and with interviews with experts. For the eight countries represented in the consortium, you will therefore find more elaborate descriptions in this report. 

Main conclusions of the Survey

    1. There are major differences between countries, but also within countries;
    2. In many countries, the majority of the respondents say that they are very much in need of more training, more materials, more support and more national and international collaboration.
    3. Respondents appreciate the SignTeach initiative and website, but many indicate that they need (much) more: more information, more information in their national sign language, more contacts with other sign language teachers, as well as answers to sometimes very specific questions.

Results SignTeach Survey: Europe

The number of respondents: 243 respondents from 23 European countries.

Hearing Status

83% of the respondents are deaf, 15% are hearing, with major differences between countries. In some countries, 100% of the respondents are deaf, in the Netherlands, 53% of the respondents are hearing.

Native signers?

Most of the deaf sign language teachers are native signers and learned to sign before their fourth birthday. Over 40% of the hearing respondents, however, learned to sign after age 20.

How many hours do you teach, per month?

For most respondents, sign language teaching is not a full-time job.

Who do you teach, most of the time?

The largest group of learners are hearing adults. In all age-groups, deaf learners (blue line) are a minority.

Open question: Good advice?

“More attention for teaching deaf children (and their family), they are the future and they have no-one to teach them sign language! Especially not in these times of integration.”

“I hope that more and more sign language teachers receive a good education and state certification. I would like to have a standard like the CERF and a platform to exchange our views/experiences.”

Open question: Barriers?

“Everything: very little support, few deaf people (one year ago a new deaf colleague at my work, but we have too much work so we hardly can work together), no platform with other deaf teachers (all too busy and systems that are too different), hearing environment, hearing education (learning hearing didactic methods), didactic and material for spoken languages,…”

You can find more results elsewhere on this website.


Print Email