Global Council for Tolerance and Peace

Deaf and Dumb Language Sciences at Hamburg University

Nearly 80,000 deaf and dumb people live in Germany. They have their special language, which is considered by those who have the ability to hear and speak as only a means to help them communicate among each other, but this does not quite match the truth.

The language of deaf and dumb people, or the so-called sign language (SL), is not less important than other languages, and it also has an integrated structure and linguistic grammar as well, and its peculiarities are studied and its use is taught at the German University of Hamburg.

Inside a white hall in the university branch in the city of (Bad Eisenach), students analyze the texts they wrote during the past week and discuss without talking, but in sign language. Even the class is taught by a deaf and dumb professor, Prof. Christian Rathmann, who is the first deaf and dumb professor in Germany. As for the 23 students, only two of them cannot hear and speak.

Integrated Language:
Professor Renata Fischer, Deputy head of the German Institute for Linguistic Studies for the Deaf and Dumb, attributes the small number of deaf the and dumb students in German universities to the fact that the “deaf and dumb students do not have good educational means at schools to complete high school exams. This makes the number of these students very limited.”

Students at the German Institute for Linguistic Studies and the Deaf and Dumb can study the Sign Language (SL), in addition to the translation of that language, and the graduates are awarded a bachelor’s degree.
Renata Fischer notes that not all the lectures are delivered in the language of the deaf and dumb, and the lectures are translated while being delivered for the students who can’t speak or hear.

She says “There is a part of the linguistic signs which are easy to learn, and then there is the linguistic and cultural level in which the person is interested in the structure of this language and its rules, and this side deals with the literary domain also such as the poetry, drama and novel, in addition to the history of the sign language and its development throughout the years.”

Through analyzing texts, it becomes clear that the sign language is not very different from other languages such as the German language, as after being introduced to the rules of the language during the first semester, students study the linguistics in the second semester. And this includes how to express the hands, face and body movement.

Communicating with others without an interpreter:
Student, Tura Hübner, is one of the students who cannot hear and speak, but she still prefers to communicate with others without going to an interpreter, as is the case, for example, when she orders cappuccino at the university restaurant, she says.

She can write what she wants to say, “but I sometimes see that some signs of the deaf and dumb language can be communicated simply to the others if one does not write what he or she wants to say, or she/ he writes only part of that,” she says, adding “If I thank, for example, using the language of deaf and dumb people, most people understand that, and this is what makes some people happy too.”

Student Tura Hübner, aged 26 years, expressed these ideas using only the signs, then a colleague of her translated.
Tura aspires to work as a nursemaid or as a teacher for deaf and dumb children. Whereas, the study of the deaf and dumb languages qualifies for work in economic, journalistic, or social fields. And also in the translation of deaf and dumb languages, which differ from one country to another.
The foreign students can also apply to study deaf and dumb language sciences at the University of Hamburg, and the conditions for application are not different from those for other major specialties.

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