Method controversy (deaf education)

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In the methodological dispute in deaf education , the question arises as to whether the method to be used or the most expedient method of conveying language and knowledge should be spoken language-oriented or sign- oriented . Since the 1980s, sign language has been considered a fully-fledged language and is used to define cultural affiliation .


Deaf pupil during a "speaking and reading exercise" in the deaf school in Leipzig in the former GDR , 1953

A dispute has developed over the language of the deaf in Europe and in the USA , which must be seen in a historical context. Historically, this dispute has become known as the methodological dispute because it was primarily seen from the aspect of the pedagogical methodology to be used. The auditory-verbal method was based on spoken language, whereas the “French” method used sign language. The method controversy was thus also a language dispute .

The Milan Congress of 1880 is often seen as the origin of the dispute - in fact, the language dispute arose as early as 1770, when Samuel Heinicke in Germany and the Abbé de l'Epée in France, each with a different approach, gave deaf children school education.

The Milan Congress turned into a radical change in a development that had not yet been decided. At this congress, the leading educators of the time decided to train all deaf people in spoken language, namely with the so-called oral method . In this method, the deaf person is trained to articulate and lip-read . The deaf found this oppressive, not least because their hands were tied behind their backs, for example, and flogging was administered to suppress sign language. Today practically all experts criticize the decision of 1880, especially the need to tie your hands behind your back.

Medical-technical development

Advances in medicine and technology promoted the trend towards the oral method. The first hearing aids were invented at the beginning of the 20th century, but they were far from being of help to the deaf. At that time these devices were only helpful for the hard of hearing.

In the 1950s, the so-called auditory-verbal method was finally developed in the USA and Canada , in which the deaf no longer only learn to articulate and lip-read, but above all to train their hearing and the focus is on input as information input for language understanding. The most important representatives of auditory-verbal education are Warren Estabrooks (Canada) and Susann Schmid-Giovannini ( Switzerland ).

But it was only with the development of the computer chip in the 1970s that it became really possible for the first time to not only allow the deaf to experience acoustic stimuli, but also to at least help them to understand the spoken language in part. The breakthrough came at the end of the 1970s, when hearing aids gained a lot in amplification and were miniaturized. It has only been possible to speak of real auditory-verbal therapy since the early 1980s. When the cochlear implant finally became established in children in the mid-1990s, the auditory-verbal method had already been simplified a lot, even if a lot of effort was still required to acquire spoken language.

Deaf culture

Since the early 1980s, some of the deaf have relied on sign language in the sense of a full-fledged language as a definition of their cultural affiliation. These deaf people usually do not feel integrated into the hearing world and experience the hearing society as isolation. It is also relevant here that after the first research by William Stokoe in the USA around 1980, the realization also prevailed in Germany that sign language is an independent and full-fledged language system, the development of which the signing deaf could be proud of. Therefore, some of the deaf prefer to use sign language, which can be perceived visually. The elderly deaf people are primarily dependent on sign language, since their auditory system has never been able to develop - this development is almost completely stopped by the age of 7.

Deaf people, especially those born around or after 1980, benefit from a favorable psychosocial environment and from technical and educational developments.

Some of the deaf feel integrated in the hearing society. These people prefer to communicate in spoken language, as they mostly do not have a command of sign language. It is therefore not true that all deaf people know sign language . From these young adults, a movement of spoken language communication emerged during the 1990s, which in the German-speaking region resulted in the establishment of the self-help organization Lautsprachlich Kommunizierende Hörgeschädigte Schweiz (LKH Switzerland) (1994) - after renaming since 2015, Lautsprachlich Kommunizierende Hörschädigte Schweiz ( Verbal Communicating Hearing Impaired)  - and the LKHD Friends' Association - Speech-Speaking Communicating Hearing Impaired Germany e. V. (2000).

On the other hand, there are deaf people who have been in contact with other deaf people from childhood. These communicate with each other from early childhood, mostly in sign language, without this having to be encouraged willingly. Thanks to the technical aids and appropriate pedagogy, they learn spoken language and use it in communication with hearing people. This is the way to deaf organizations use for today: children are bilingual ( bilingual are trained). Deaf people who grew up with this method mostly distance themselves from the movement of the hearing impaired communicating in spoken language; primarily because these associations have a negative attitude towards sign languages.

The later deaf experience the failure of the sensory organ, which is important for communication, as a shock. Usually the processing of deafness takes place in 3 phases: First the shock and the sadness about the loss, then resignation and isolation, sometimes accompanied by feelings of shame, then finally the opening, which is usually with a suitable medical indication, with the decision to use technical aids such as hearing aids or cochlear implants .

Since deaf, deaf and some - not all - deaf people are often isolated due to their communication impairment in the majority society, social contacts are preferred in all three groups within the community of deaf people.


  • Johannes Heidsiek (1855–1942): The deaf and mute and his language. 1889.
  • Johannes Heidsiek: An emergency cry of the deaf and mute. 1891.
  • Benno Caramore: Sign Language in Swiss Deaf Education in the 19th Century. Signum Verlag, Hamburg 1990, ISBN 3-927731-06-4 .
  • R. Fischer, H. Lane (Ed.): Looking back. A reader on the history of deaf communities and their sign languages. Signum Verlag, Hamburg 1993.
  • Ulrich Möbius: Aspects of “Deaf history” research. In: The sign. 6, 22, 1992, pp. 388-401 and 7, 23, 1993, pp. 5-13.
  • Paddy Ladd: What is deafhood? Deaf culture on the move. (= International studies on sign language and the communication of the deaf. 48). Signum, Seedorf 2008, ISBN 978-3-936675-18-4 .
  • Fabienne Hohl: Deaf culture. Sign Language Communities and the Consequences. Association for the Support of Sign Language for the Deaf (VUGS), Zurich 2004.
  • P. Schumann: History of the deaf and dumb being. Diesterweg publishing house, Frankfurt am Main 1940.
  • Elisabeth Calcagnini Stillhard: The Cochlear Implant. A challenge for the hearing impaired education . Edition SZH / SPC, Lucerne 1994, ISBN 3-908263-03-4 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. P. Schumann: History of the deaf and dumb being. Diesterweg publishing house, Frankfurt am Main 1940.
  2. Wolfgang Vater: Significance aspects of the Milan Congress of 1880. Organ 1880, No. 1
  3. ^ Elisabeth Calcagnini Stillhard: The Cochlear Implant. A challenge for the hearing impaired education . Edition SZH / SPC, Lucerne 1994.
  5. Statement LKH Switzerland ( Memento of the original from July 9, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /