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Signs or lip reading?

For centuries, deaf people had an extremely difficult position in society. Since they could hardly communicate with hearing people, they were generally considered to be mentally retarded.

That only changed when the Paris clergyman, Abbé Charles Michel de L’Epée, founded the first school for the deaf in the second half of the 18th century. He is considered the spiritual father of sign language.

In Germany, at about the same time, Samuel Heinicke founded the "Chursächsisches Institut for the dumb and other people afflicted with linguistic disabilities" in Leipzig. Here deaf people should learn not to use signs, but to speak and lip-read.

Even today the sign language approach is also referred to as the "French method" and the spoken language approach is also referred to as the "German method". And supporters of the two languages ​​are still arguing about which method is better suited to make life easier for the deaf.

While sign language was frowned upon in many schools for the hearing impaired in Germany until the 1980s, it is now widely recognized.

Many parents of deaf children decide to raise their children "bilingually", that is, to ensure that they learn to sign as well as to speak or read lipids as much as possible.

Difficult communication

While communication among signing deaf people is not a problem, conversation with hearing people is usually exhausting - for both parties.

Some deaf people can speak clearly. But for most of them it is difficult to understand hearing people in every situation. Even if the deaf can lip-read well, they have to piece together most of what is being said.

On average, hardly more than 30 percent of what has been said can be clearly recorded. Many words are simply too similar to be distinguished by the movement of the mouth - for example "mother" and "butter" or "from" and "house". Sign interpreters contribute to stress-free communication between the deaf and hearing.

Family life without words

In Germany, an average of two deaf children are born every day. In around half of the cases, the disability is genetic. In the other half, for example, deafness can be traced back to a viral illness in the mother during pregnancy or serious illnesses in toddlerhood.

Deafness is partly hereditary, but many deaf parents have hearing children. In professional circles they are called "CodA children" - the name comes from English and is an abbreviation of "Children of deaf Adults" ("Children of deaf parents").

As a rule, these children grow up bilingual. They are therefore proficient in the sign language that their parents teach them and, like any other child, speak the spoken language that they learn from hearing relatives, friends or siblings.

Most of the time, they become interpreters for their parents at a very early age, sometimes even as small children. If a deaf child is born into a hearing family, the parents should definitely seek advice.

It is important that the children are encouraged at an early age. Parents can get help from early intervention centers or from the responsible health department.

Deaf culture

Many deaf people do not feel they are disabled, but rather as part of a cultural and linguistic minority with a wide range of activities. There are deaf clubs, deaf theater, the sign language culture festival and much more. In Bonn, for example, there is even a deaf carnival association that annually selects its own pair of princes.

Hearing people also have a place in the community of the deaf, provided they have mastered sign language. Some artists, such as the hearing Berlin singer Kerstin Rodger, incorporate sign language into their art.

Deaf sports also play an important role. The most important international competitions are held at the "Deaflympics", which have been held every two years since 1924. They used to be called "Deaf World Games" and were only renamed "Deaflympics" when they were recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).