An academic from the BSL and Deaf Studies team recently flew to China as part of a British Council’s UK-China Partnership Innovation Challenge Fund Project. The two-year project is a great success so far and the recent trip involved a senior lecturer and an associate of UCLan visiting four universities in China. The project is focussing on using an on-line learning platform for teaching English to deaf students and during the trip, the UK academics were able to demonstrate the interactive teaching that is used in the BSL and Deaf Studies team, and the development of on-line sign language dictionaries to aid teaching and learning. The Chinese participants were extremely interested in the Deaf Studies degree course that is run at UCLan, and in the training of sign language interpreters in the UK. They asked many questions about the delivery of the courses, and about the support that is provided to enable deaf students to access higher education. Part of the trip was the visits to cultural sites across the province and staff members from UCLan’s partner institution, Zhengzhou University (ZZU), acted as guides and took the lecturers to places of cultural and historic importance. They also met deaf people who had established their own businesses after their education was complete, observing the increasing successes in the employment of deaf people in China
A two-day seminar was organised and held during the trip, and this was attended by 50 teachers and students from deaf schools and universities, and people from the local community. ZZU University kindly awarded five official letters of appointment to distinguished visitors and professors, and Junhui Yang (the senior lecturer from UCLan) was fortunate to receive one of the letters. The seminar provided an opportunity to disseminate information about the UK-China Partnership Project, and there was a high level of interest in the project, and in UCLan’s associate, Clark Denmark, who is prestigious in the field of online learning of English for deaf learners. Many challenges are faced by teachers of English in China, including the high number of students that need this tuition and the fact that many deaf students do not acquire a good command of written Chinese on which to build the learning of the English language in written form. The seminar participants were also shown information related to an online resource developed by the Spread the Signs project, which is encouraging the use of sign language as a resource for teaching written English.
The trip to China was a huge success and has had a very positive impact on a large number of students and teachers. The outcomes of the UK-China Partnership Project so far are already being disseminated far and wide. The trip was particularly unique in that it brought together deaf academics from several countries, and provided a forum for discussion of the teaching and learning of English for deaf learners. The result of the project will include the development of the curriculum for teaching English to deaf learners by including alternative ways of teaching the written language to deaf learners, particularly those that encompass visual teaching and learning methods that are naturally more conducive to deaf learners. Thanks are given to the British Council for making this UK-China partnership possible, and also to Clark Denmark, for sharing his academic knowledge and experience in order to enhance the success of this project. This was Clark’s first trip to the Far East and many visa problems had to be overcome to make it possible, and many challenges were faced during the stay. Clark’s was received with a huge amount of respect and held in high esteem by the Chinese participants, and it was interesting to see that the participants found that British Sign Language was easier to understand and begin to learn than American Sign language.