Sign language users

Guidelines for teachers

Classes with one or more sign language users

Definition of terms:

Learner: student in non-formal education

Sign language user: learner with sign language as mother tongue

The following 10 tips are guidelines to increase inclusive education for sign language users. Focus is on creating a better basis for teachers in the adult non-formal education, so that they with awareness, a little creativity and small adjustments are able to include persons using sign language in most classes.

The target group for these specific guidelines is teachers who have no specific training in teaching persons using sign language. The guidelines are a first aid kit to get started and a source of inspiration.


If the learners have hearing impairments but do not use sign language, we will refer to the guidelines for classes with one or more hearing impaired learners.

10 tips

1. A sign language user is first and foremost a human being and should be treated like everybody else. From now on the sign language user is referred to as “learner”!

2. Deafness occurs differently depending on the learner are born deaf or become deaf after developing spoken language. Before the course starts or as early as possible you need information from the learner about special considerations and needs. Make room for dialogue on beforehand and do not hesitate to ask questions.

3. Learners may need sign language interpretation, written interpretation or sign supported interpretation.
It is preferable that the interpreter is the same throughout the whole course in order to maintain a flow in the learning process.
On beforehand it is also recommended to have a dialogue with the interpreter about the subject, teaching methods, talking speed, breaks etc.

4. Communication through an interpreter may cause some misunderstandings. So when you get a wrong answer it has not necessarily something to do with intelligence but could be loss in translation. Ask questions to find out if you are understood or not.
And remember to face and talk to the learners and not to the interpreter.  

5. Speak clearly and not too fast.
Try to speak in whole sentences and complete your entire sentence before you begin a new one. Fast talk, incomplete and interposed phrases make translation much more difficult for interpreters.

6. Speak one at a time. Visual communication is very important for the learner, so therefore only one person should be talking. If it is of any help the questions or comments should be repeated before answering.

7. Social life in the class has very much to do with communication. It is important that all learners are a part of the social life in the class. The hearing learners should also be aware of and agree to include sign language users. An open discussion in the beginning of the course may help uncover any issues.

8. Group work can be difficult because often a lot of people are talking at the same time. Whenever possible group work should be held in separate rooms to avoid noise from other groups.

9. Make breaks. Sign language users and interpreters use many resources to hear and translate, and therefore they need many short breaks.

10. Technical aids.

There are different kinds of interpreting. Sign language interpreting, write interpreting, sign supported communication, etc. In some countries it is possible to get interpreting for free. In other countries it can be very costly.

There are also developed different Apps for smart phones that can help translating into sign language and back.


You can contact your national organisation with expertise in hearing impairment or deafness.

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