Deaf and non-deaf research collaboration on Swiss German Sign Language ( DSGS) interpreter training in Switzerland


  • Patty Anne Shores University of Applied Sciences , HfH Zürich, Sign language interpreting training program
  • Christiane Hohenstein ZHAW Zurich University of Applied Sciences, School of Applied Linguistics
  • Joerg Keller ZHAW Zurich University of Applied Sciences, School of Applied Linguistics


Research collaboration with Deaf and non-deaf, sign language learning, teaching and assessment with CEFR


Teaching, training, and assessment for sign language interpreters in Swiss German sign language (DSGS) since 1985 was developed continually towards a current Bachelor level at the HfH Zurich. More recently, co-teaching with ZHAW non-deaf linguists in linguistics and intercultural competence training has led to a deaf-non-deaf research collaboration.

DSGS standards in training denote second language competences in DSGS are not yet in place. Despite DSGS being taught by deaf sign language(sl) instructors, socio-linguistic and pragmatic standards reflecting the practices of the deaf community are lacking. This situation calls for community based research on the linguistic practices embedded in the DSGS community and its domains. The ongoing need for research (cf. Boyes Braem, et al 2012; Bangerter 2013; Uhlich 2012), is to adapt unified standards according to the CEFR and the ELP which describe learners’ abilities and competences, rather than deficiencies (cf. Haug and Keller 2011).

A pilot project compiling existing DSGS teaching materials was carried out by deaf sl instructors together with non-deaf linguists under auspices of the Swiss Federation of the Deaf (SGB-FSS), HfH Zürich and ZHAW. The findings show at threshold level (A1-A2) a considerable amount of subjects related to pragmatic and intercultural aspects of DSGS not enlisted in the teaching materials or not even part of CEFR descriptors (cf. Shores, et al 2012). Consequentially, a community-based project including deaf and non-deaf researchers is under way. With cooperation of the current European project PRO-Sign, it focuses on those aspects of sign language that where descriptors of competencies are substantially different from spoken languages. Results from this project will permit the development of unified teaching materials, of standardized assessments and provide a basis not only for purposes of foreign language learning and interpreter training, but also help to foster the development of a CEFR for Sign Languages in Europe and Switzerland.