Towards the end of March, during the ExchangeAbility Week, our section ESN KE organized an introductory Sign Language Course. The goal of the event was to teach students the basics about the Sign Language and the deaf community and the everyday struggles they face.

The speaker Ervin Mittelmann is a pastor and lector of Sign Language in Košice. Coming from a deaf family, but being healthy as far as hearing and speaking is concerned, Ervin is the perfect person to teach something about this language – and about life with a disability such as deafness. Not only did he introduce us to the life of people in the deaf community, he also spoke a lot about particular examples in our town and country. He answered some basic questions as well, such as: How does signing work? Is Sign Language international? Can all deaf people understand each other with no difficulties? Is it hard to learn Sign Language? These are thought provoking questions, aren’t they? :)

A very interesting factor of the class was that Ervin brought one of his students along with him, a healthy mom of a deaf little girl. He talked about their experience and what it is like to have a disabled child. He talked a lot about the importance of connection and learning the sign language despite the fact that the little girl may be able to hear later on in her life, because if she missed out on the first few years of communicating with her mom, she would never learn how to do it later. The stories Ervin told really sparked some questions and it made all of us realize just how precious hearing is and it opened up a whole new horizon of what life really is like for people, who, for different reasons, don’t possess it.

The event took 2 hours in a conference room of our university. It was also open to public, so local people came as well as international students and a few ESNers. It was not just a lecture, but a very lively discussion and we learned the basic signs, too, in Slovak.

Author: ESN KE: Timea Krauszová

Photos: ESN KE and Ervin Mittelmann