Interdisciplinary Learning: Cameroon Meets Landshut

A report from the personal perspective of Prof. Dr. Sabine Fries and laboratory specialist Tim Hartmann.

On April 19, 2023, the Cameroonian school principal Innocent Djonthé gave an impressive presentation on the situation for deaf and hard-of-hearing people in Cameroon, and how he himself managed to establish a boarding school in the south of the country, in Bafoussam. He is a deaf Cameroonian, founder and principal of the CERSOM elementary and secondary school for deaf children and teenagers, vice president of Deafnet Africa, and founder and president of the deaf association in Cameroon.

For us, as students in the Sign Language Interpreting program, the language situation in Cameroon was particularly interesting: due to its colonial past, the official languages in Cameroon are English and French. However, the country is home to approximately 280 ethnic groups, each with their own languages and dialects. The Deaf Community in Cameroon uses American Sign Language (ASL) and French Sign Language (LSF), Cameroonian Sign Language (LSC), African Francophone Sign Language (LSAF), and various indigenous sign languages depending on the school location.

With limited resources, CERSOM school provides bilingual education throughout, putting Cameroon ahead of the German education system in this regard. On the other hand, there is still a lack of professional sign language interpreting training and fundamental linguistic research on sign languages in this country.

After the presentation, there was an opportunity to ask Innocent Djonthé questions, which the attending professors and students in the Sign Language Interpreting program, as well as guests from the deaf community in Landshut, were keen to do.

We would like to extend our sincere thanks to our colleague Dawei Ni, who hosted Innocent Djonthé for two days, and to the Friends of the IDS Faculty Association, who generously supported us financially so that our African guest could visit our university during his European trip.

Photos: University of Applied Sciences Landshut