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Sign language was considered primitive

Her eyes sparkle, and with determined movements, she says with her hands and the clear mimicry.

Together with a sign language interpreter, I am sitting on Johanna Meschs office on the third floor at the end of a corridor in a long, narrow house with a bright blue-green lacquered glass façade at the university of Stockholm.

– To be the Nordic region's first deaf professor, and Europe's first female deaf professor is hard to take in. I have received lots of congratulations from the rest of the world, and I understand that this has a strong symbolic value. To become a role model for deaf academics. From this perspective, it feels great, " says Johanna Mesch, newly appointed professor of sign language at Stockholm university.

and grew up in finland. Then, 50 years ago everything was different. When she six year old began in a 1969 was that, in many countries forbidden to use sign language in teaching.

the Ban had been adopted by the researchers on an international dövlärarkongress in Milan in 1880, where deaf teachers have not had the right to vote. Sign language was considered primitive. The children would instead try to learn to speak and read lips.

But thanks to a diakonissa had Johanna started to learn sign language, and her older classmates signed in secret, in lessons and at breaks.

" I remember the first school year is very strong when the teachers did not use sign language but only spoke. I was very small but remember it still. They used sign language, it was as if you could not think to the full. It felt shameful with sign language and it affected her self-esteem, " says Johanna.

came the turnaround. The ban on sign language in the classroom was taken away in Finland. Similar happened in Sweden and later in other countries. With the school focused on speech and hörselträning had other topics been neglected, which contributed to a low level of education for the deaf. But now everything changed.

I had never even imagined that I would be able to become a professor. Just taking a student was a huge step.

Johanna studied further; studied media with the help of an interpreter, and got a job on the Finnish tv for the deaf. But his interest in linguistics took over. She met a Swedish boyfriend, moved to Sweden in 1987 and studied Swedish sign language, Stockholm.

She went on to teach in sign language at various colleges and was employed at Stockholm university in 2003. Johanna has been researching sign language for the deaf, deafblind and hearing, have helped to improve the Swedish teckenspråkslexikonet and was 2013 started tolkutbildningen at Stockholm university.

" I had never even imagined that I would be able to become a professor. Just taking a student was a huge step. And then, to take a bachelor's degree was something I felt very happy with. My doktorandexamen was another step which was absolutely amazing. I have gone a very long way, I realize, but it has been quite bumpy.

when Johanna was a small get many deaf children in the day kokleaimplantat. It is surgically placed in the inner ear, which can get absolutely deaf to, more or less, to perceive and understand sounds.

" But I'm so used to my deafness so I feel no need of it. Perhaps it would be fun to test but would at the same time, take much energy I can spend on other matters. The visual impressions are the most important for me, " says Johanna.

Her goal is to increase the knowledge about sign language. It is not all such as know that it is a separate language, separate from Swedish. Others believe that sign language is an international language, but about 160 different sign languages exist today. There are, however, international characters, that are inspired by sign language from different countries. But they are not counted as a separate language.

Swedish sign language mastered by about 30,000 people.

– some see deafness as a disability. But it is important to see sign language as a language of his own. This perspective leads to less prejudice and more openness. The bias has been reduced quite considerably from before. It is a completely different understanding today.

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