Falko Neuhäusel (DE)

Falko Neuhäusel (DE)

Sign Language teacher at Hochschule Magdeburg-Stendal; owner / director of Gebärdenmanufaktur.

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What are the strengths/weaknesses within the situation/vocation of DGS instructors in Germany? What kind of professional training have you done?

There are two questions and I want to start with the second part. Shortly after the Wall came down, maybe 1992 or 1993, the first vocational training courses for DGS coaches were offered at the University of Hamburg. Before then, hearing people had taught sign language to other hearing people. The course members were international, for example, Deaf people from Spain, Portugal, Austria and so on. The teachers were employees of the University (the Institute). Thus, I’ve learned a lot of new things. We received a certificate. The training took two years and was done in blocks, including the exams. That was the first training in Germany. There, I didn’t just learn DGS grammar, but also how to develop teaching materials, how to work with technology, etc. We worked with the book VISTA. It was a great and enlightening time for me.

Now I’ll answer the first question. I can’t really judge that point, because I haven’t given it much thought. I just know that there is no training for DGS coaches at university level. There are several vocational training programmes at different institutes established. But no university level. That’s why we (University of Magdeburg-Stendal) have difficulties finding qualified sign language instructors.

Especially in Saxony-Anhalt, there are almost no sign language coaches. Some are teaching at community colleges (VHS) although they didn’t have any formal training. I don’t like that. They are not professionals.

The state’s Deaf Associations offer seminars for sign language instructors. Back then, the sensitivity about the quality of teachers wasn’t there (DGS grammar, methods, didactic, etc.). It has gotten better since then. We should support the motivation for coaches and the pay should improve. I don’t know if you can make a career out of it. I like it that the GIB in Nuremberg offers formal training for sign language instructors and some deaf people from Saxony-Anhalt have joined that training.

Since the recognition of sign language, the demand of hearing people to learn sign language has risen a lot, so we need more deaf coaches. A lot of hearing people are interested in learning sign language. I wish for more deaf people doing the training and working with us.

What standing do DGS instructors have in Germany? Are there differences between standings/vocational training/recognition?

I’ve already signed about this; some teach at community college and don’t have a higher standing. They teach following their “guts” but without didactic methods. But there are some coaches who have a higher standing because they work at a sign language school or university. They receive positive feedback and respect from the pupils.

It depends immensely on the teacher who has worked out the qualification. And the worked-out materials for class as well as the competence of the teacher. That’s why you receive respect. Even if you don’t have a degree from university.

Sadly, most teachers are “underpaid”. It would be great if we had a university degree. But I don’t have one, sadly. But the development in that area is getting better, there are more and more teachers with academic degrees and setting up their own businesses (sign language schools). I like that. They have the natural language and can facilitate it better. But I can’t speak for all of Germany.

Could you tell us about the development of curriculums of DGS classes in Germany? Do they follow the GERS (CEFR) guidelines? What is done for it? Do you use it in your classes?

The teaching material has improved a lot. Back then there was practically nothing and everyone had to “invent” it for themselves. Today, there are DVDs, books and course material. That way, you can develop a concept for your course. Nowadays you can take ideas or material from the internet and implement them into your concept. That’s great. We need to go further. It’s not perfect yet. Vocabulary material is still missing. A DGS corpus is great so students can learn at home.

I take GERS (CEFR) as an orientation, but I’m not yet following it by the letter, since it’s still new for all of us. My concept is similar to that which GERS is describing. Our goal is to implement GERS. It’s great, because you can easily see which level of DGS one has.

Also, I use more PowerPoint these days. My old transparencies are used less and less. But I still use the blackboard.

What should be done in the future to improve the situation of DGS classes in Germany?

First of all, I like it that there is the training for DGS teachers at the GIB Nuremberg. I don’t recall their requirements exactly. I wish that more deaf people could be working within the teaching field of DGS. They should be more courageous and self-conscious and found their own company and lead it. This should be supported. Also, I think GERS should be progressed further and more training for teachers should be offered. Many instructors don’t have a clue about GERS.

In Germany, they should all have the same level/knowledge. Thus, those who want to join a sign language school, a community college or university could switch between those institutions without having to get certificates for proof. That would be a huge advantage. They wouldn’t need to re-do their exams. And that’s not only for Germany, but for Europe. It’s not about language, it’s about the level.


Date of the interview: July 2017