Workshop on the fieldwork grounding the sign language research
The main goal of the SIGNificant Chance project is to carry out both the description of Hungarian Sign Language and the characterisation of the language use and sociological situation of the Deaf community in Hungary with the help of fieldworkers chosen from the community within a bottom-up process. Therefore the adequate training of the future deaf colleagues is inevitable in the research, as well as teaching them the aims and methodological principles.
The biggest advantage of the workshop held on 10 July was without doubt that Trude Schermer attended it who is one of the most important experts on Dutch Sign Language research. The leader of the Nederlands Gebarencentrum shared the most important experiences she collected during her nearly three decades’ research with the participants. Though it is hard to compare the conditions of the sign language research beginning in the 1980s and the circumstances of the present project because of the different technical levels at that time and today, the presentation of the work processes set up during many years of research, and the demonstration of the mistakes made and their solutions were useful for the implementers. Trude Schermer’s team developed a careful method for standardisation being in continuous contact with the community and using up their feedback in the Netherlands, they paid attention to the importance of the preservation of the dialects precisely outlining the place and role of the unified version throughout their work.
The future fieldworkers above the Dutch example could informally get acquainted with the interviewing process, the most important theoretical and practical problems, e.g., the main characteristics of the sociolinguistically based fieldwork, general ethical and technical questions. They had the opportunity to get acquainted with other implementers, their duties and aims, the project effect on their own and on their fellows’ lives, the prospects provided by the description of sign language. The colleagues coming from the Deaf community could experience the principle of “Nothing about us without us” as the professional leader of the project emphasised that their feedback and recommendations would be relied on both in terms of the fieldwork and the questionnaire, as it is an essential requirement of the project to adopt itself to the needs and characteristics of the analysed community in methodology as well.