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Andreas Costrau (DE)

Andreas Costrau (DE)

Director of gebaerdenservice.de and one of the first fully state-certified DGS instructors.

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What are the strengths/weaknesses within the situation/vocation of DGS instructors in Germany? What kind of professional training have you done?

Well, to answer your question about my vocation. I did the professional training and what I have learned was good and informative, but it doesn’t represent the “language of the people” (everyday DGS user). Us instructors oftentimes teach something different, not the “language of the people”. And that’s a shame. I would prefer us implementing this “language of the people” into the curriculum. For example: it is said that Deaf people are very blunt, but that’s not true – they are visual people. Only hearing people say that.

Deaf people are more open and direct without the stigmata of sexism (the meaning is apparent in the facial expression, not the sign alone). Also, you don’t introduce yourself at the beginning of a meeting with MY SIGN NAME WHAT – Deaf people don’t use those kinds of sentences. I think it’s a shame that DGS course books don’t implement the Deaf culture more. Right now, there are two different level of professional trainings. I’d love to see more of the everyday DGS sign language (BIO-DGS) and less academic DGS sign language (UNI-DGS) used. BIO-DGS uses less mouthing and more mouth gestures. And since you know me, I pay attention to hand forms. In our culture, using those ABC hand forms is not common (like in TEAM, WORKSHOP, IDEA, etc.) It would be nice if the instructors would dive more into the Deaf World. I know it’s not easy to get a good professional training.

I’d like to see a new task group being founded to deal with this subject. It’s a shame that the Association has different priorities. We should keep the 3D in the language and not change it to 2D. Meaning we should be using prepositions manipulations and substrates. I want to work with people who have grasped that.

Sorry, I’ve been diverting.

Okay, so my goal is to nurture and support our language. I’d love to see the curriculum being adapted to the new concept.

Could you tell us about the development of curriculums of DGS classes in Germany? Do they follow the GERS (CEFR) guidelines? What is done for it? Do you use it in your classes?

I love GERS (CEFR). I have understood what it is about. It’ll help to evaluate language levels on a common standard. But, I need intensive training for GERS. I’ve been waiting for an offer on it for 2 years. It’s important for my course concept. I am prepared for it and want to know the standards so I can implement it better. I am really looking forward to that.

This is a very good opportunity for all instructors. Some sign language schools have courses with GERS level. Now I want to know on what grounds they use it. I don’t like this. I would prefer if all of us instructors would use the same level/understanding with it. I think GERS has been specified to level A2. I’m waiting for level B1/B2, so that I can implement it. That’s why I need a training. Or the institute visits the sign language school and evaluates their eligibility. That would be great. I am happy to pay for such an evaluation of eligibility. I don’t know how it can be done, if it can be done like for spoken languages, maybe by universities or the Institute. But they should work with us and include is in the process. I think we should meet and talk about it. That will be crucial for the professionalisation.

What standing do DGS instructors have in Germany? Are there differences between standings/vocational  Trainings/recognition?

The interest in sign language grows. I think the level of popularity is on the same level as Spanish. It would be great if we could leave Spanish behind us and catch up with English. It’s got to do with inclusion. But inclusion is for the disabled. Sign language is not disabled. Many of those taking the course tell us they learn so much more than just language – they widen their horizons and get a taste of communication. It’s not just about learning the language and the culture, they say that they gain a lot more in their own lives by it. I think that is a positive thing. It’s a shame that many instructors don’t use sign language to build bridges. It should be more 3D. There are so little Deaf instructors dealing with this subject. It should be included in the professional training.

What should be done in the future to improve the situation of DGS classes in Germany?

Of course, instructors need qualification. But, we need to look at the system they are using. When they use the 2D scheme and ABC hand forms, then a qualification/certification is useless. They need to implement BIO-DGS into their curriculums. They need to re-evaluate what it is they want to teach. I have a qualification (comment: he’s one of the first fully state-certified DGS instructors in Germany). It won’t help to have the same qualification as someone teaching 2D style, it’s not the same value.  I think it’s a shame that this might happen, but nevertheless, qualification is important. The instructors themselves need to re-evaluate their way of teaching. I am not happy with their methods.

It requires a lot of time and experience to be a good instructor. When you are motivated and willing to learn, you will become a good one. It would be great if the course books could get an overhaul. Because an instructor in the beginning needs guidance to become able to develop an own curriculum for his course.

Date of the interview: July 2017