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  • Writer's pictureHector Devia Robayo

Adapting English Language Instruction for Deaf Individuals in Colombia: A Comprehensive Approach


This article explores the unique challenges faced by Deaf individuals in Colombia in learning English as a foreign language. While acknowledging the pioneering efforts of educators such as Teacher Ramirez at the Universidad Nacional of Colombia, the article emphasizes the necessity of tailored approaches in Deaf education. Special adaptations are required for face-to-face, blending, and distance language teaching/learning, encompassing collaborative task-based activities and a distinctive approach to English grammar. Utilizing Colombian Sign Language (LSC) in these adaptations enhances Deaf individuals' acquisition of written English and their understanding of the shared world with hearing counterparts.


In Colombia, Deaf individuals aspire to navigate the world through English language proficiency, necessitating innovative approaches in Deaf education. While teacher Ramirez at the Universidad Nacional of Colombia has taken significant strides, the complexities of teaching English to Deaf individuals demand more than conventional lesson planning and strategies (Ávila, 2011). This article addresses the crucial adaptations required in teaching methods, approaches, and techniques to meet the unique needs of Deaf learners.


Adaptations in language instruction for Deaf students should encompass face-to-face, blending, and distance learning environments. Collaborative task-based learning activities, tailored to Deaf students, need to be integrated, along with a distinct approach to English grammar. The utilization of Colombian Sign Language in these adaptations is highlighted, facilitating a more effective acquisition of the written English language and a deeper comprehension of the shared world with hearing individuals.

Challenges in English Language Acquisition

Deaf individuals face distinct challenges in language acquisition, particularly in listening and speaking skills. Given their inability to hear, traditional approaches to listening skills are not applicable. Moreover, the challenge extends to speaking skills, as Deaf individuals cannot hear themselves. As English teachers, recognizing these challenges is imperative for developing effective teaching strategies adapted to silent reading and writing production.

Considerations for English Instruction

In designing English classes for Deaf individuals, it is essential to consider their use of Colombian Sign Language as their first language, which differs significantly from Spanish. This divergence in vocabulary, grammar, and expressions necessitates a nuanced approach to English language instruction.

Interactive Teaching Methods

Interactive teaching methods are crucial for effective English language instruction for Deaf individuals. Drawing from the experience of Teacher Alvarez Caica at the Universidad Pedagógica of Colombia, small collaborative groups are proposed as a facilitative learning method. This approach fosters increased participation and a more engaging learning experience for Deaf learners, irrespective of the instructional setting.

Grammar Acquisition Strategies

Grammar acquisition presents a significant hurdle for Deaf individuals, who may not naturally align with the grammatical patterns of their second language. Building on Palma's (2013) insights, emphasis should be placed on function words such as articles, pronouns, conjunctions, and prepositions. The use of translation, starting from English to LSC and vice versa, is proposed as an effective tool for enhancing English grammar acquisition.

Language of Instruction

Recognizing that Spanish is often the second language for Deaf individuals in Colombia, English instruction, especially at the initial stages, should be conducted in Colombian Sign Language. This acknowledges the potential limitations in their command of Spanish, ensuring a smoother transition to English language proficiency.


This article underscores the multifaceted considerations and adaptations necessary for effective English language instruction for Deaf individuals in Colombia. By incorporating collaborative task-based activities, recognizing the role of Colombian Sign Language, employing interactive teaching methods, and addressing grammar acquisition challenges, educators can contribute significantly to the linguistic empowerment of Deaf learners. This comprehensive approach acknowledges the diverse needs of Deaf individuals and paves the way for an inclusive and effective English language education.


Ávila, O. L. ( 2011). Can You See What I’m Saying? A Research Experience with Deaf Learners. In Profile: Issues in Teachers' Professional Development. Vol.13 No. 2, 2011, pages 131-146. Avalilable at:

Downs, S., Owen, C. & Vammen, A. N. (2000). Make a Difference. Tips For Teaching Students Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing — Handbook. U.S. Deparment of Education, University of Tennessee, and University of Arkansas. Retrieve from:

Palma, J., Steyer E. (2013) Insights into Teaching English as a Foreign Language to Deaf Students. In Lingua Americana. Year XVII Num. 32 (January-June 2013), pages 33 – 46. Retrieve from:

Palma, J. & Torres, E. (2013) Video diccionario de lengua de señas. Proyecto para la cátedra de inglés nivel I. Universidad de Zulia, Venezuela. Dispobible en:

Ramirez, C. M. (2009). Nivel I de Inglés para Sordos. Programa de Educación Continua y

Permanente, Facultad de Ciencias Humanas. Universidad Nacional de Colombia.

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