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  • Writer's pictureHector Devia Robayo

The Need of Research in Teaching English as a Foreign Language for Deaf Learners

Updated: Jun 24, 2023

Student at UNAD Florida University

Online Educational Research Course

Master of Arts in Teaching English as a Foreign Language

“La mayor parte de los estudiantes sordos que entran a la universidad no están capacitados para leer los libros de texto” (Pietrosemoli, 2007, p. 2).

According to the Colombian National Administrative Department of Statics the 2005 General Census indicated that there was 454.822 persons with Hearing Disabilities (DANE, 2006). And the Register of the Localization and Characterization of Persons with Disabilities - RLCPD (Registro para la Localización y Caracterización de Personas con Discapacidad - RLCPD; INSOR, 2017, Webpage) reported 181.405 persons with permanent hearing disability. All of them as Colombian Citizens have the right to access education for their own development as well for their own communities they had developed.

Deaf persons in Colombia also feel the need to grasp the world by writing and reading English as a Foreign language. But, teaching English to Deaf persons “implies much more than designing a lesson plan and implementing an “effective” strategy” (Ávila Caica, 2011, p. 144) because they need special adaptations of approaches, methods and techniques. Adaptations should be made on face-to-face, blending and distance language teaching/learning while Deaf Students work collaboratively in task based learning activities, and the way Deaf Students learn English Grammar. Here, there is a statement of some difficulties or challenges in English Foreign Language acquisition in Deaf students at reading and writing level.

The first thing that an English Teacher needs to consider is that Deaf persons cannot hear, so listening skills are out. If they cannot hear then, it is too hard for them to say something that they cannot hear, so speaking skill is out too. Any approach, method or technique must be adapted only for silent reading or reading comprehension, and for writing production. Deaf persons that live in Colombia are users of the Colombian Sign Language (LSC) as their first Language, Spanish as their Second language, but Spanish is far different from LSC in vocabulary, grammar and expression. Knowing this fact, will lead to understand that any attempt to teach English for Deaf Students must focus on Reading and Writing Skills only.

The second point for English teaching for Deaf in face-to-face, blending and distance education language teaching/learning is more effective in small collaborative groups of learning as showed teacher Álvarez Caica from Universidad Pedagógica of Colombia, because this learning method allows similar participation and learning between Deaf persons. Likewise, they will need some material in their native or first language to have some material to discuss within their collaborative groups.

A third issue here has to do with grammar acquisition, usually Deaf Persons do not write their second language according its natural grammar patterns. So, it has been suggested that grammar must receive special emphasis on the “acquisition and use of function words as articles, pronouns, conjunctions and prepositions” (Palma & Steyer, 2013, p. 42). So, videos and educative software adapted for grammar instruction would be useful to help learners to understand how English works, as well they need explanations in LSC to understand how to use the new learned grammar pattern. This would lead Deaf learners to know how to produce different grammar constructions depending of the communication intention.

The fourth and last point is that English instruction for Deaf Learners, at least at the beginning, must occur in Colombian Sign Language not in Written Spanish. Also, the use of Grammar Translation as a tool for English instruction needs put out of the frame Spanish language. Some reports show that many Deaf persons graduated from Secondary School with reading and writing skills equivalent to fourth grade, and that most of Deaf Students at University Level are incapables to read and understand a textbook, and that most Deaf persons are incapable to use reading skills of the spoken language as a work tool (Devia, 2017, Video File; Guzmán & Loaiza, 2015, pp. 34, 126; Pietrosemoli, 2007, p. 2). So, Spanish language is useless for most Deaf persons in English instruction.

In accordance with the previous statements, English instruction for Deaf Learners at University level as a Foreign Language in Spanish Speaking Environments, needs to research pedagogical and didactic strategies to teach English as a Foreign Language to persons who do not listen. This research would assure a high quality in face-to-face, blending and distance language teaching for Deaf learners.

The first language of the Deaf people is the Colombian Sign Language (LSC), their primary means of communication, Spanish is the official language in Colombia, so it is the Second language for the Deaf population and they need it to participate in official activities, business, social and education environments. But, Deaf persons also need English for personal development ant their participation in foreign official activities, international business, interact with people socially from other cultures and event in education in foreign institutions that require Deaf student may be able to read and write English.

This subject is a new field for reflection and review learning-teaching of foreign languages for Deaf people in Open and Distance Education Model mediated by ICTs focused in the development of communicative competences of the Colombian Deaf in reading and writing skills. This must be done using didactic, methods, strategies and activities to help them to research acceptable levels in foreign language communication. So, this research proposal can be framed in the selection of pedagogical and didactic strategies for teaching-learning English language for Deaf persons using the e-learning model.

The research seeks learners became assertive and competent in the foreign language thanks e-learning model. This will allow Deaf learners to hold opportunities as citizens and to be recognized from other cultures. As well their individual development as well of their community in real social inclusion. But teaching-learning English for Deaf persons requires high quality processes.

In brief, the statement of the problem is how to teach English as a Foreign Language to Adult Deaf Persons Learners, users of Colombian Sign Language. This research seeks to promote a field of reflection in Deaf Education within an approach of bilingualism in Distance Education Mediated by Technologies.


Ávila Caica, O. L. (2011). Teacher: Can You See What I’m Saying? a Research Experience With Deaf Learners. PROFILE Issues in Teachers’ Professional Development, 13(2), 131-146.

Departamento Administrativo Nacional de Estadística (DANE). (2006, septiembre 8). Censo General 2005. Discapacidad. Personas con limitaciones permanentes. DANE. Recuperado a partir de

Devia, H. I. (2017). Jorge Ivan Herrera (Sordo - Deaf) [Archivo de video]. Bogotá, D.C. Recuperado a partir de

Guzmán, R., & Loaiza, L. L. (2015, agosto 29). Efectividad de la prueba saber 11° en Lengua de Señas Colombiana: ¿Una evaluación incluyente o excluyente? (Thesis). Universidad Católica de Pereira, Pereira. Recuperado a partir de

Instituto Nacional para Sordos (INSOR). (2017). Estadísticas básicas población sorda colombiana - Observatorio Social [Institucional]. Recuperado 30 de julio de 2017, a partir de

Palma, J., & Steyer, E. (2013). Insights into Teaching English as a Foreign Language to Deaf Students. Lingua Americana, 17(32). Recuperado a partir de

Pietrosemoli, L. (2007). La lectura y la escritura en el sordo: Lo qué habría que replantear. Documento, Mérida: Universidad de los Andes. Recuperado a partir de

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