Foreign Language

Foreign LanguageImprovements in access and technology have expanded educational opportunities for students who are deaf or hard of hearing.  Some choose foreign language courses alongside their hearing peers rather than settling for alternative classes.  This raises the question: what kind of accommodations work with these courses?   Accommodations are generally determined on a case-by-case basis taking into consideration a variety of factors, including the student’s accommodation needs, available resources, and why the student is taking the course.

Why is the student taking the course?

Is s/he taking the class to fulfill a foreign language requirement? For personal enrichment? To prepare for a specific career path, or travel?

Previously Studied Foreign Languages?

If s/he has formal or informal experience learning a foreign language, s/he may have suggestions about what worked well and what type of accommodations were most effective.

What Type of Learner is the Student?

Is the student a visual or auditory learner?  Would s/he rather use residual hearing with a hearing aid or a cochlear implant, or does s/he prefer to use more visual accommodations? The answer will guide discussions about accommodations and strategies.  Auditory learners may choose accommodations like assistive listening devices, preferential seating, closed captioning or speech-to-text services.  Visual learners, on the other hand, may prefer speech-to-text services or sign language interpreting services.

Mitigating Learning Style Barriers:

Examining the course requirements and materials can mitigate potential barriers. Some strategies for include: 

  • Contact the instructor or department before class starts to ask about course requirements and materials
  • Schedule a student-instructor meeting before to the first day of class to establish a relationship and shared understanding of goals
  • Discuss how the student will handle the speaking and listening portion of class in addition to possible alternatives for assignments. Some students may voice for themselves when participating in class while others may prefer the interpreter to voice their responses
  • Stay flexible. Accommodations do not always work as planned – some trial and error may be necessary to find a successful fit.

The following strategies can be effective for both auditory and visual learners:

  • Use visual cues and prompts to aid learning or memorization
  • Make explicit connections between print/text and spoken/auditory content
  • Visual resources like transcripts can accompany auditory materials or content

This Quick Tip was adapted from pepnet 2 (pn2) Fast Facts. Funded by the Research to Practice Division, Office of Special Education Programs, U.S. Department of Education (Cooperative Agreement #H326D110003).