Trude Schermer (NL)

Trude Schermer (NL)

Director of the Dutch Sign Centre, Amersfoort NL

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Can you tell us something about the Dutch Sign Centre?

The Dutch Sign Centre ( was established in 1996 and is the national independent centre of expertise for the Sign Language of the Netherlands (NGT) and for Signed Dutch (NmG). As Lexicographic Institute for NGT the Dutch Sign Centre aims to collect signs from Deaf native signers in the Netherlands, to maintain and develop the lexicon of NGT further and to make the lexicon available by means of an online sign dictionary which contains both standard signs and regional variants.

With our work, we want to build a bridge between Deaf NGT users, the Deaf community, and all people who use signs. We want to contribute to a greater visibility of NGT as a language in the Netherlands and to strengthen the position of Deaf people who use NGT in the Dutch society.

Another main activity is the development and production of teaching materials, (digital) dictionaries and educational materials.

Other activities: researching the grammar of NGT, workshops, providing information about NGT and advising on the use of signs in the communications with different target groups.

The Dutch Sign Centre employs a team of 11 staff members.

The Dutch Sign Centre team, 2016 

What, in your opinion, are the strengths or weaknesses of the current system in the Netherlands? 

One of the weaknesses of the Dutch system is that almost all students who study at the Hogeschool Utrecht to become a sign language teacher are hearing and achieve B2 level of NGT at the most. Many start without any knowledge of sign language or the Deaf Community. The link between NGT teachers and its native users is becoming less and less.

Can you give us examples of ‘best practice’, in your country?

 I can give you two examples. One: the development of almost all learning materials has been centralised in the nineties and it was a joint effort of the Dutch Deaf Community and Deaf Education Administrators. It has been the responsibility of the Dutch Sign Centre: a group of deaf and hearing professionals, working together.

Another best practice: the Dutch Sign Centre is also the national centre for NGT lexicography which is partly funded by the Dutch Government. All our materials use a growing database of standard signs and regional variants which is accessible via an online dictionary.

Can you tell us about the accreditation of sign language teachers in your country?

The training programme of the Hogeschool Utrecht meets all the requirements of a regular BA or MA programme. The Dutch Sign Centre trains sign language teachers, and so do the schools for the deaf. Unfortunately, we do not have a central registration system for qualified teachers; there is no quality control of independent sign language teachers. Anyone who wants can teach sign language in the Netherlands.

Can you tell us something about curriculum development in your country? Are curricula based on the CEFR?

The curricula developed by our Centre have been adapted and are now based on the CEFR. Curricula developed by Kentalis (the national organisation of schools for the deaf)  are also based on CEFR.

What, in your opinion, is the way forward for sign language teaching & the training of sign language teachers in your country, and/or in Europe?

We must cooperate much more closely, both nationally and internationally. Sign language teachers, especially those who work independently, often see each other as competitors, fighting for the same students or jobs.

Legal recognition of the Sign Language of the Netherlands will help, as will national or European standards for sign language teachers. Another development that we will have to deal with: most of the new materials that we now develop are for Signed Dutch, not for Dutch Sign Language, because this is what schools and parents of deaf children ask for. If we are not careful, soon only a handful of children, deaf or hearing, will learn the Sign Language of the Netherlands as a first language.

Do you have any recommendations that you want to share with us?

It is important to stimulate young deaf signers to inform parents of deaf children about their experiences in life and the advantages of a bilingual education.

Date of the Interview: June 2017