National Sign Languages
- Suomalainen viittomakieli, SVK
- Finlandssvenskt Teckenspråk, SRVK, Suomenruotsalainen Viittomakieli
- SVK: 5 (Developing). Recognized language (2011, No. 61, Institute for sign language status)
- SRVK: 8a (Moribund)
"On 12 March 2015, the Finnish Parliament have voted the "Sign Language Act". Even though Finnish Sign Language did take its first step by having their Sign Language recognised in their constitution back in 1995. (..) This new Act also intends to increase authorities' awareness of signers as a linguistic and cultural group. The Act further re-establishes signers' right (enshrined in special legislation) to receive teaching in their own language and in sign language as a subject, and their right to use sign language or interpretation and translation arranged by an authority. The Act does not create any new rights, but rather aims to promote the linguistic rights signers already have, in practice, and clarifies their status as a language and cultural group."
Finnish Sign Language was recognised in the constitution in August 1995.
"Section 17 - Right to one's language and culture [...] The rights of persons using sign language and of persons in need of interpretation or translation aid owing to disability shall be guaranteed by an Act."
"Sign Language Legislation in the European Union", Wheatley, M., A. Pabsch., Edition II. Brussels, EUD, 2012:
"Finland is a country with two national languages: Finnish and Swedish. Along with Sámi and Romani, sign language is recognised as a language in the constitution in 1995 (Suomen perustuslaki). It was the first European country to mention sign language in its constitution (Section 3 par 17): 'The rights of persons using sign language and of persons in need of interpretation or translation aid owing to disability shall be guaranteed by an Act.'
The constitution (or most other acts) does not specifically mention Finnish Sign Language or Finland-Swedish Sign Language. It also requirs other acts to follow to ensure the rights of sign langauge users. Finland does not have a separate sign language act at the moment but a number of other acts that mention sign language.
Sign language is for example mentioned in the Language Act (Kielilaki 423/2003).Chapter 8 requires the government to provide a report to monitor and promote linguistic rights.This report should include sign language."
"Sign language is also metnioned in the Decree of the Ministry of Education on Vocational Basic Examination, which explains the requirements and context for the examination to become a sign language instructor.""
"The status of sign languages in Europe", Nina Timmermans, ISBN 92-871-5720-0 © Council of Europe, April 2005
"The Finnish Sign Language is the mother tongue of about 5,000 deaf people. In addition to this, about 10,000 hearing people use it as their second mother tongue, second language or foreign language. The Research Centre on National Languages has studied Finnish Sign Language since 1984.
The Act on The Research Centre on National Languages (591/1996) states that the research centre has to take care of Finnish Sign Language research and maintenance. The Finnish Sign Language Board on language was established in 1997. It is submitted to the Research Centre on National Languages and the work conducted has a basis in the Decree on The Research Centre on National Languages (758/1996).
The Sign Language of the Finland-Swedish deaf can be considered a separate language from the main variant of the
Finnish Sign Language. The Finland-Swedish Sign Language is the mother tongue of about 200 deaf people. Deaf Finns using Finland-Swedish Sign Language form a small minority that is in danger of extinction. The school for deaf Finns using Swedish Sign Language was closed down in 1993. Most deaf children, young people and adults of working age who use the Finland-Swedish Sign Language have emigrated to Sweden.
Finland is one of the first countries in the world to have adopted sign language in its constitution (1995). The Constitution Act of Finland (731/1999) was renewed in 1999 and contains the general anti-discrimination clause in section 6. The anti-discrimination clause rules that without acceptable grounds, no one shall be placed in a different position because of, e.g., language and disability. According to the fundamental statement, the anti-discrimination clause covers both direct and indirect discrimination. Besides this, according to section 17, the rights of those who use sign language and of those who require interpretation or translation services because of disability shall be guaranteed by the Act of Parliament.
Training of professionals
A training programme for class teachers of Finnish Sign Language users started in the autumn of 1998, and 10 students began their studies. In autumn 2001 another group commenced studies. University level studies in sign language are popular subjects both at Turku and Jyväskylä Universities.
In autumn 1998 a study programme regarding sign languages was started at the University of Jyväskylä.
Sign Language Instructor
The basic diploma in Finnish Sign language instruction started in autumn 2001. The professional title is “Sign Language Instructor” and it consists of 120 credit weeks. It is a completely new profession in Finland.
Sign Language Teaching
The Finnish Association of the Deaf, obtained financing from the Finnish Slot Machine Association for the HELY Project aimed at relatives of and people working with the deaf. This project runs from 2001-2006. The project studies how languages in general are taught and what methods can be applied to teaching sign languages to hearing people.
A teaching unit is being created, based on the level of skills, the examination system is being renewed and new teaching material is being produced.
The National Board of Education ratified the bases for a new curriculum that was implemented at pre-school level for a pilot project from 2000-2001. Account was taken of sign language users as an individual group. The Finnish Association of the Deaf participated in the preparatory process, and they were also asked to make a statement regarding the educational curriculum."
Number of Deaf Sign Language Users
- FinSL: 5,000
- FinSSL: 300 (EUD website, December 2016)
Number of Sign Language Teachers
Association of Sign Language Teachers
Training of Sign Language Teachers
Keski-Levijoki, J., Takkinen, R. & Tapio, E. 2012. Two Finnish Sign Language study programmes in tertiary education. In Working with the Deaf Community: Deaf Education, Mental Health & Interpreting.
This article describes the two Finnish Sign Language (FinSL) programmes at the university of Jyväskylä: primary school teacher education (i.e. primary school teacher education) and FinSL study programme. This chapter describes both the development and impact of the programmes and experiences gleaned from them. We focus specifically on the perspective of the course teachers and planners. Data for this chapter was obtained through questionnaires targeted at faculty teaching students studying signed language and students who are native signed language users. We have also conducted focus group meetings and reflected on our own experiences over the years."
Raising the Profile of Sign Language Teachers in Finland
JULKAISTU: 15. HUHTIKUUTA 2016 | KIRJOITTANUT: DANNY DE WEERDT, JUHANA SALONEN, AND ARTTU LIIKAMAA
"Sign language teaching in Finland has a long history. In contrast, sign language teacher training programs and research into the sign languages of Finland both know a short history. Due to this contrast, the field of sign language teaching nowadays can be seen as the ‘Wild West’. Till today, teachers from different backgrounds do teach sign language. We do not have a clear picture of what knowledge or competencies are expected from these teachers. In this article we would like to share our opinions about what the profile of a sign language teacher could look like in order to raise and advance the discussion and improve the quality of sign language teaching in Finland."
"Professionalization of Sign Language Teaching: A European Perspective
Four major areas:
- sign language proficiency,
The fact that most people have not received instruction in and about sign languages might lead to a lack of cognitive tools for self-reflection or assessment of one’s own or others’ sign language skills. Having meta-linguistic skills in FinSL or FinSSL leads to an awareness of how to teach the language.
- linguistic knowledge,
The ability to teach and explain signs, sentences or text structures requires the ability to explain how the linguistic units of sign language are built in order to express meanings. Assuming that every sign language teacher knows something about the linguistic structure of the sign language in question, we can also assume that no teacher knows everything. However, knowledge about sign language linguistics and keeping abreast of the latest trends in sign language research are essential, given the recent expansion in this field.
It is the responsibility of every teacher to keep their linguistic knowledge up to date.
- pedagogical knowledge
Knowing how to transfer your skills and knowledge to learners requires pedagogical knowledge. The scale for this area is similar to that of linguistic knowledge: no teacher will know nothing about how to teach and no one will know everything. How to teach a sign language depends above all on the learners’ linguistic background and/or aims. Teaching children requires a different approach than teaching adults. The teacher needs to know not only the general principles of didactics but specifically, how to teach languages.
Different target groups learn sign languages very differently. Mother tongue teaching differs from foreign language teaching, but they are all called sign language teaching.
In addition, there are very few teaching materials for sign languages compared to what is available for spoken languages. Most sign language teachers have to create their own sign language teaching materials by producing pictures, videos and other materials. Producing materials that are appropriate for the setting and for teaching also requires skills and knowledge. In our opinion, more sign language teaching material needs to be produced, but teachers also need to get over their unwillingness to share their materials with others, whether this is caused by doubts about the quality of the material, some kind of economic constraint, or the fear of giving and getting nothing back. Changes are called for here.
- frequent contact with the sign language community
Finally, we consider the fourth area, frequent contact with the sign language community. This is important for maintaining both one’s language skills and one’s knowledge of Deaf culture.
Sociolinguistic variation should also be taken into consideration: the older generation can sign differently from the younger generation, and the people who live in the north of Finland can sign differently from those who live in the south.
Full article (English):