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Background to our work

What it means to be deaf and bilingual (to use sign and spoken language) has changed significantly over the last ten years revealing new questions in deafness and language research and raising urgent issues for practice (Knoors & Marschark 2012). This change is explained by three main factors:

Firstly, there have been significant advances in hearing aid technology and cochlear implants. Newborn hearing screening secures access to these technologies for deaf babies and their families. These developments have changed the way in which deaf children use sign and spoken languages in their daily lives.

Secondly, more young deaf people are now educated in their local mainstream schools with sophisticated technological support. This has expanded deaf children’s contexts of language use and changed their language learning needs and potential.

Finally, deaf children are increasingly using more than one spoken or sign language at home. In the UK 14% of young deaf people (school-aged population is 41,406) use more than one spoken language at home but we currently know little about this linguistic diversity.

As a result of these contextual changes deaf children’s language repertoires are becoming increasingly plural, mixed and blended (bimodal). This poses new research questions about how we understand translanguaging and multimodalism (Lewis et al. 2012; Wei 2011) and requires changes to deaf education policy and practice.

This programme of work will articulate a new theoretical framework for language and deafness which recognises these plural and dynamic language practices and contributes new understandings of multimodalism to modern languages research. This will be disseminated in the form of national guidance for language teaching and assessment and new specifications for professional training and development in deaf education.

Klatter-Folmer, J., van Hout, R., Kolen, E., & Verhoeven, L. (2006). Language development in deaf children's interactions with deaf and hearing adults. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education (JDSDE), 11(2), 238-251.

Knoors, H., & Marschark, M. (2012). Language planning for the 21st century: Revisiting bilingual language policy for deaf children. JDSDE, 17(3), 291-305

Lewis, G., Jones, B., & Baker, C. (2012). Translanguaging: Developing its conceptualisation and contextualisation. Educational Research and Evaluation, 18(7), 655-670.

Marschark, M., Tang, G. & Knoors, H., (2014). Bilingualism and bilingual deaf education. New York: Oxford University Press.

Lichtig, I., Couto, M., Mecca, F., Hartley, S., Wirz, S., & Woll, B. (2011). Assessing deaf and hearing children's communication in Brazil. Journal of Communication Disorders, 44(2), 223-235.

Swanwick, R., & Watson, L. (2007). Parents sharing books with young deaf children in spoken English and in BSL: the common and diverse features of different language settings JDSDE 12 (3), 385-4.

Wei, L. (2011). Multilinguality, multimodality, and multicompetence: Code-and modeswitching by minority ethnic children in complementary schools. Modern Language Journal, 95(3), 370-384.