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Paper presented at The Fourth International Conference on Education,
Athens, May 24-26, 2002

 Title: “I’m not good enough.”

Semi-structured interviews with deaf students centred on how they feel about the Swedish language.

Type of work: Thesis for the Masters Degree, Göteborg University, Sweden

Author: Carin Roos

Research into deaf literacy shows that deaf students have problems reading and writing due to their inability to acquire a first language that they can use when trying to express themselves through writing. The field of research supports two differing opinions concerning the development of reading ability and deafness: one that deaf students learn to read using essentially the same processes as hearing students do; the other that deaf students use qualitatively different processes when learning to read. There are also different opinions about whether to use sign language or not.

There is, however, little research done describing the importance of reading adults in the lives of deaf students and about students feelings about the written language. The research efforts reported is centred around themes like word processing, coding and different techniques deaf students use.

This paper will present a study with 10 deaf students that were interviewed, using sign language. The students range from age 13 -17, and attend a special school for the deaf. The paper will examine the feelings articulated by the deaf students about their second language, Swedish, focusing on the striking resemblance’s with what is found in the literature about hearing children with reading and writing difficulties. These resemblance’s regards their view that their Swedish is poor and that they are, therefore, not “good enough” as persons. They feel that Swedish, as a school subject, is theoretical and has little to do with the Swedish they use in day-to-day living. The paper will also address the pedagogical implications of the view expressed by the students. It will be argued that teachers have to be confident in the children’s ability to learn in a bilingual setting and that deaf adults that work within the schools for the deaf are of extreme importance for stimulating the child’s development of reading and writing skills.