SILENT SEA OF PARADOXES – Communication challenges of linguistic minorities and ideologies around Deafness and multilingualism in the context of Luxembourg

July 2, 2018 9:00 am

Raquel Ferreira, a Communication Study Visitor at the Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament (Luxembourg) has developed a research on how the deaf community in Luxembourg copes with the multilingualism of the country, under the supervision of prof. Dr. Julia de Bres. She hereby shares her personal motivation and insights about this interesting investigation.


`Exposing the choices and strategies adopted throughout my study cannot go about without the essentially reflexive exercise that permeated the whole journey. With all due respect to academic standards, I include such considerations within the present section as a `first person` bracket, not only for justification of choices purpose, but in view of explaining how my different `identities` over the process play an intrinsic role in exposing and understanding the matter. What is more, the following personal insights ratify how the shift from `impartial observer` and `interviewer` to `active participant` (to a certain extent) throughout the methodological process cannot be completely detached from the auto-ethnography concept.

My first and mostly general question on communication was directly connected to the obstacles to it. What is more, it is particularly intriguing when these mere contrasts turn into the revelation of actual paradoxes.

As a matter of fact, I was personally concerned by the topic of being a monolingual within a multilingual environment. And vice-versa. Born and raised in Brazil, it was not before the end of college and beginning of adulthood, due to personal aims of pursuing further education and career abroad, that my Portuguese-speaking brain would start making room for other means of reasoning and my elementary English classes started to show some usability. The `late` acquisition of French, German, notions of Luxembourgish and most lately the introduction to DGS could not fail to become an object of my interest as a sociolinguist as well.  Besides, as a psychologist, not only the contrast between verbal and non-verbal, but also `listening` to the nuances of both cues have been nothing but a primordial component of my career. Why not put such a relationship to the test, by observing the same elements dance in the absence of sound.

Whereas these were perhaps the fuel to set the current thesis in motion, the bumps and curves certainly made it much deeper and interesting along the way. The metaphor that names this paper is thus not one of a puddle of stagnant water – if anything, it is about the course of a stream along a beautiful non-flat landscape.

Ultimately, and up to the conclusion of the thesis, stands thus the parallel of sound and silence. Or, better said, and perhaps the central question that lead me to seek the Deaf Community in Luxembourg: the parallel between hearing and listening. `


You can hereby access the abstract of the thesis in English, French and German, and an illustrated summary of the research through this link.

Keywords: deafness and multilingualism, sign language ideologies, semilingualism, minority languages, linguistic handicap, hearing versus listening


*Raquel holds a degree in Psychology and an MBA in Strategic Personnel Management from the Universidade Federal de Sao Joao Del Rei, Brazil and a Master’s in Learning and Communication in Multilingual and Multicultural Contexts from the University of Luxembourg.

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