The Pro-Sign pre-conference workshop was held on the 18 October at the University of Belgrade and led by Thomas Geissler (Humboldt-Universität, Berlin) and Dr. Christopher Stone (University of Wolverhampton). The aims of the workshop were two-folds: (a) to develop effective strategies in the field of sign language teaching and interpreters' training in the Balkan countries and (b) to introduce goals of the third Pro-Sign conference in the following days.
The Pro-Sign2/efsli conference in Belgrade (19-20 October 2018) was attended by approx. 150 people from 39 countries. Themes were the European Language Portfolio (ELP), Assessment, sign language pedagogy and technology, plans to develop a (generic) sign language teacher training curriculum and of course, sign language teacher competencies – based on work by ECML project Towards a Common European Framework of Reference for Language Teachers. The presentations were innovative, inspiring and challenging, both for established programs and experienced teachers as for new players in the field.
The keynote by Prof. Dr. Jelena Filipovic and Prof. Dr. Julijana Vuco (University of Belgrade) titled Sign language in academic contexts from the perspective of language and human rights was impressive in that it painted a painful picture of the status of sign language in Serbia and elsewhere, but finished on an optimistic note about new developments in the deaf community about visibility and participation in the larger communities.
Actually, we learned that the rector of University of Belgrade, Prof. Dr. Ivanka Popović and the colleagues in the Faculty of Philology at University of Belgrade plan to include Serbian Sign Language in their program. It is an important step of language planning with the goal to enhance awareness of Serbian SL and human rights of sign language users in the Balkan region. We wish them good luck and all the best for the implementation.
In this light, the presentation of a study on Serbian Sign Language by Dragana Raičević, Mihailo Gordić, Gordana Nikolić and Mieke Van Herreweghe (University of Ghent, Belgium) was especially welcomed by the audience. It is an important study for the Serbian Deaf community.
Ivana Bucko (efsli) who coordinated and organised the conference, supported by the expert team of ProSign, had inspired about 60 volunteers, students of the University of Belgrade and members from the Belgrade Deaf Community to assist in all kinds of matters, and to provide the participant with coffee, tea and lunches during the breaks. Thank you volunteers!
The team members of Pro-Sign2 like to express their gratitude to all who contributed to make the event such a huge success, last but not least the wonderful people at the European Centre for Modern Languages (ECML) who supported us on all levels. We were delighted to have representatives from several of our associate partners with us, including ENSLT and Moscow State Linguistics University.
Also thanks to our sponsors: Anéla, Deaf Club Belgrade, ECML, efsli, ENSLT, Hogeschool Utrecht University of Applied Sciences, Humboldt-University zu Berlin, Interkantonale Hochschule für Heilpädagogik, Serbian Association of Sign Language Interpreters (ATZSJ), Trinity College Dublin.
The Pro-Sign2 project team:
Christian Rathmann (coordinator), Tobias Haug, Lorraine Leeson, Beppie van den Bogaerde