Protecting and promoting sign languages in Europe
Reply to Recommendation
| Doc. 14892
| 21 May 2019
- Committee of Ministers
- Adopted at the 1346th meeting
of the Ministers’ Deputies (14 May 2019). 2019 - May Standing Committee
- Reply to Recommendation
- : Recommendation 2143
The Committee of
Ministers has carefully considered Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 2143 (2018)
“Protecting and promoting sign languages in Europe”.
It has drawn the recommendation to the attention of member States
and communicated it to the competent entities of the Council of
Europe for information and possible comments.Note
2. The Committee of Ministers concurs with the Parliamentary
Assembly of the importance of sign languages as natural languages
of deaf persons and welcomes the fact that several member States
grant the status of official language to their national sign languages.
It recognises that it would be of importance to improve the understanding
of how sign languages are protected and promoted in all Council
of Europe member States. Referring to paragraph 4.3 of the recommendation,
it underlines however that the European Charter for Regional or
Minority Languages was not set up or drafted so as to protect sign
languages and that its Committee of Experts is at present not in
a position to request States to provide information on the status
and the protection of sign languages.
3. The Committee of Ministers refers to the Council of Europe’s
longstanding Language Policy Programme and to the work of the Enlarged
Partial Agreement, the European Centre for Modern Languages of the
Council of Europe (ECML). At the heart of all of the Council of
Europe’s work in the field of language education, lie the concepts
of plurilingualism/pluriculturalism, which were first introduced
to language education in 1996 and led to the publication of the
Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) in 2001.
4. The Committee of Ministers considers that plurilingual education
and the wealth of resources produced by the Council of Europe in
this regard, may contribute to the inclusion of deaf persons; the
promotion and improvement of teaching of sign languages; and learning
of sign languages not only by deaf children but also by their peers,
teachers and family members. Examples of good practice of plurilingual
education for spoken languages may be adapted to sign languages.
5. Regarding the Assembly’s proposal in paragraph 4.2, the Committee
of Ministers would like to make reference to recent developments
relating to sign languages. The Council of Europe’s CEFR Companion Volume,
published in 2018, contains descriptors which were developed specifically
for signing competences and contribute to defining common learning
targets, curricula and levels for education in sign languages, drawing
on the work of the ECML in this domain. Moreover, the Centre in
Graz has created on its website for the European Day of Languages
(EDL) a thematic area dedicated to professionals working in the
field, linked the EDL to the International Day of Sign Languages
and included facts and resources on sign languages for learners.
6. The first ECML project on sign languages, ProSign 1 has established
European standards for sign languages for professional purposes
in line with the CEFR which have now been referenced in the CEFR Companion
Volume. These descriptors, as well as other aspects of the CEFR,
are increasingly used to structure courses in sign languages.
7. The current ProSign 2 project is working on a professionally-oriented
competency framework for sign language teachers, as well as B2 level
materials and learning activities from different European sign languages.
It is developing a European language portfolio (ELP) that takes
account of any modality-specific requirements for sign languages.
8. In the light of these elements, the Committee of Ministers
has considered with interest the Assembly’s proposal to set up a
working group on the status and protection of sign languages in
the Council of Europe member States with a view to the possible
drafting of standards for the protection of sign languages. It will consider
the possibility of exploring further this subject within the Council
of Europe framework with a view to protecting and promoting sign
languages in Europe. However, the Committee of Ministers underlines
that the setting up of additional activities and/or structures seems
difficult, in view of the current budgetary situation, unless they
could be based on the existing budget envelope of the Organisation’s
competent entities. Finally, it informs the Assembly that the Steering
Committee for Education Policy and Practice and the European Centre
for Modern Languages will organise a conference on sign languages
in Graz, on 5 and 6 December 2019, to give visibility to sign languages.