Sign languages are recognised as indigenous languages of Europe but their use as languages of instruction is highly variable across the continent. An ECML project team has worked toward the establishment of European standards for specifying proficiency levels for use in Deaf studies and interpreter education programmes under the auspices of the PRO-Sign project. These will benefit teachers of sign languages, the institutions in which they teach, hearing and deaf students of sign languages, the interpreting profession, and Deaf communities who access public services and crucially, education across the life cycle, via interpretation. (Leeson, June 2014)
Sign languages in Europe
Sign languages are an integral part of Europe’s multilingual diversity. Broadly speaking, each country has its own national sign language; some countries have more than one sign language, e.g. in Finland, both Finnish Sign Language and Finnish-Swedish Sign Language are used, in Switzerland, Swiss-German, Swiss-French and Swiss-Italian Sign Language co-exist. What is critical to note is that the spread of these languages varies, just as it is the case for many of the regional or minority languages of Europe. So, for example, while British Sign Language and Irish Sign Language are to be found on the island of Ireland, Irish Sign Language is prevalent in the Republic of Ireland with British Sign Language being the dominant sign language of Northern Ireland. In Northern Ireland, Irish Sign Language is predominantly used by members of the Catholic community (Sutton-Spence & Woll 2007). As rich as spoken languages in terms of grammar, structure, syntax and lexicon, sign languages rate among the various linguistic and cultural assets European countries have to offer.