[lg policy] LRE launch in Budapest – ‘Hungary is trend setting in Sign Language policy’

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Sat Jun 23 14:22:40 UTC 2012

LRE launch in Budapest – ‘Hungary is trend setting in Sign Language policy’
Posted on June 22, 2012 by Language Rich Blog	

The Language Rich Europe launch took place in Budapest, Hungary on 15
June 2012. Simon Ingram-Hill, British Council Hungary Director writes
about the day.

Last Friday 15 June, we presented the findings of the Language Rich
Europe research in the morning and ran the first national workshop on
sign language in the afternoon. The beautiful and prestigious Banking
Hall in the British Embassy was a worthy venue for such an occasion.
Though not a full house, numbers held throughout the day and very
active participants included government, public and private sectors,
researchers and academics, NGOs and heads of cultural institutions.
Translation from and to sign language was provided for the whole
duration of the event.

The Hungarian government endorsed the significance of the launch in an
opening speech by Miklós Soltész, State Secretary for Social, Family
and Youth Affairs at the mega-ministry of Human Resources, which
covers everything from Education, Health and Culture to Sport and
Youth. State Secretary Soltész (see photo) made the point that nations
live through their languages, and Hungarians were justly proud of the
uniqueness of theirs. But he also emphasised the importance of
fighting for the preservation of minority languages, and the special
significance of Hungarian policy recognising sign language for the
deaf as an official minority language.

Jonathan Knott, UK Ambassador to Hungary, picked up on this
recognition of sign language pointing out that in policy terms Hungary
is trendsetting in the European context. The Ambassador also made a
strong reference to England’s own lack of national capability in
languages and that, despite languages being described as important, in
practice and provision there have been many fault lines; thus
anticipating the launch of the findings of the LRE report for England
on 28 June. His speech therefore was much appreciated for referring to
UK’s own failings and leaving it to others to set out the Hungary

Eilidh MacDonald, Project Coordinator (Berlin) and Project Director
Martin Hope (Brussels) then followed with their overview of the
project and comparative country results. The Hungary results were
presented by Dr Csilla Bartha, LRE project partner and Senior Research
Fellow at the Research Institute for Linguistics, Research Centre for
Multilingualism and a panel discussion followed. Some points worth
mentioning here:

    English is not a “danger” to other European languages.
    Hungarian is a majority language in Hungary but a minority
language in neighbouring countries.
    Hungarian sign language – should it be “integrated” into the
curriculum or should it be “segregated” taught in special schools for
the deaf?
    Multilingualism is not just about foreign languages but requires
support for its regional and minority languages, too.
    UK has a high reputation for teaching sign language at school level.
    It is difficult but necessary to preserve the identity of minority
languages such as Romani and crucially important to teach Roma
children and adults foreign languages (Director of Research Studies
for the Roma and adviser to the Minister of Economy).
    There are 7 sign languages in Hungary alone.
    If you want to be well qualified and be mobile for employment
purposes then foreign languages should be made compulsory throughout
    The LRE project has helped researchers and others to build up
contacts and networks between countries and across communities.

The afternoon workshop on sign language proved extremely rich,
including presentations by MEP Ádám Kósa and President of SINOSZ (the
Hungarian Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing), Koloman
Brenner, Deputy Dean responsible for strategy, ELTE University,
Faculty of Liberal Arts, and Csilla Bartha. Discussions were followed
by an extremely moving performance of a play performed by Ergo Sum
sign language theatre. This was filmed and will be made into a 15-20
minutes shortened version for Youtube with Hungarian and English
interpretations and hopefully for showing at the European Parliament
next March.

Finally there was a round table discussion moderated (in sign
language) by Péter Zalán Romanek which also brought in Vera Tóthmárton
from Tesco Hungary and Péter Horváth. Some striking points

    Is sign language a true language or just a tool? Officially EU has
acknowledged sign language but does not make it a legal requirement.
Is it a minority language or a language used by those with a physical
ability? Hungary legislation accepts both.
    Hungary is one of only 3 countries that protect the culture of the
deaf at the state level through the constitution.
    In US university students with hearing disabilities get extra help
to learn foreign languages instead of giving an exemption.
    Tesco as a responsible employer has developed good practice tools
for dealing with deaf customers and operates an equal opportunity
policy which has posts at different levels for deaf employees. Tesco
recognises this is very much work in progress.
    Very few deaf people have the opportunity to learn foreign languages.
    In USA, American sign language is the 5th most popular foreign language.
    At ELTE, special tutors are assigned to talented students from the
deaf community


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