Sign Language in Göttingen

Liona Paulus

The American author Frank Harris (1856-1931) once said: „Every new language was like an open window, allowing for a new view on the world and enriching one’s perspectives on life.“ I felt the same way when I left Germany for a year to go to Brazil after my graduation in 2004. I volunteered at the Escola Frei Pacífico (school for the deaf) in Porto Alegre, where I studied Portuguese and Brazilian Sign Language (LIBRAS). From 2006 to 2012, I studied book science, art history and Portuguese philology at the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz, the capital of Rhineland-Palatinate. In 2009, I spent a semester at the University of Bologna, where I learned spoken Italian as well as Italian Sign Language (LIS). Since April 2010, I teach introductory classes of German Sign Language (DGS) at the SignTimes association in Mainz. I also took part in the continuing education course "Deaf Interpreter Training" at the Institute of German Sign Language at the University of Hamburg and passed the official examination in April 2014.

My interest in foreign languages - either signed, spoken or written – increased during my work in different projects and stays in foreign countries. I am particularly passionate about Brazil because I realized that compared to Germany, it is far ahead with respect to the school system and the education for the Deaf. Currently I am employed as a research assistant and PhD student at the University of Göttingen. In the context of my passion for Brazil, I intend to draw a language comparison between DGS and LIBRAS in my PhD thesis.

My fascination for (signed) languages and the Deaf culture is an immensely important aspect of my life. Thanks to my stay in Brazil and the resulting acquisition of new languages, I was able to enrich my perspectives on life, just like Frank Harris predicted over 100 years ago.