Flemish Sign Language

Flemish Sign Language

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Flemish Sign Language

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Flemish Sign Language (Vlaamse Gebarentaal or VGT, previously known as Belgian Sign Language, which included also the divergent dialect known as Walloon or French Belgian Sign Language) is the language used by signers in Flanders, which is the northern part of Belgium, a country in Western Europe. The Flemish Deaf community is estimated to include approximately 6,000 sign language users (Loots et al., 2003).


When in Flanders the first deaf schools were erected the teachers were influenced by the method used at the Paris deaf school (and consequently also French Sign Language) either directly (by having followed training programs in Paris) or indirectly (by having followed training programs in two deaf schools in The Netherlands; Groningen and Sint-Michielsgestel which were themselves influenced by the Paris school.

However, as with neighboring countries, the education of deaf children was strongly influenced by the resolutions that took placeat the Milan Conference in 1880. These resolutions banned the use of signs in the education ofdeaf children in favour of an oral approach. It has been viewed as a dark day in the history of sign language.

By the beginning of the 20th century there was a Deaf school in every major town in Flanders, and in some towns there were even two: one for boys and one for girls. Most of the schools were residential schools and pupils only went home during the holidays and later on also during the weekends. As a result, regional sign language...
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