NOTE: Since this post was written in 2008, digital hearing-devices mean better hearing for wearers. Accordingly some students can access sound for the first time – which raises their ability to complete oral and aural parts of language exams.
During a past conversation with a friend of a friend, it was a surprise to discover he studied five languages at school, up to fifth year. My question was, why had he stopped? The only other person I knew who had studied as many languages was now working as a translator.
By coincidence, this other linguist was at the same party. After some introductions, the conversation continued. “P” explained that languages were accessible to him as a deaf person, up to the fifth year of secondary school, when the aural work became too difficult.
Part-Exemptions in Language Exams
At the time, part-exemptions in Leaving Cert language exams were not available, so mid-way through fifth year, he transferred to another school. If he had taken only the written part of the language exams in his Leaving Cert, the impact on his overall grades meant he might not have passed. It was too big a risk. Instead, at his new school, he studied practical subjects – ostensibly giving him a better chance of employment.
Somehow, I have a feeling he’d be a translator if he’d been able to continue. “P” loves languages and is great at explaining structures as relevant.
Orals and Aurals in Language Exams
Since “P” did his Leaving Cert, the exams system gives deaf students part-exemptions in language exams, eg, in the oral & aural components. Student’s grades are based on the balance of their work in the subject and their certificate details how the assessment procedure was amended. Exemptions aren’t automatically given, however. Schools must apply to state examiners for accommodations based on the student’s deafness.
In some cases this leads to students taking the aural and oral components of a language exam, when their hearing may be insufficient for the tasks. Greater flexibility is needed in finding new ways to decide if a student has sufficient hearing to handle aural and oral exams. Then, maybe more students like “P” would consider a career in languages.
* School Subjects (including modern languages)