Resource Materials and Technology Center for the Deaf/Hard of Hearing

What accommodations are available to make a foreign language class accessible for students who are deaf or hard of hearing (DHH)?

The same accommodations applied to the B.E.S.T. English Language Arts standards for speaking and listening will be similar for foreign language speaking and listening standards. The students may need additional time, prompting, resources, practice, and error correction to acquire the skills necessary to use the language (Goyal, 2022). 

“Speaking is not essential to learn a foreign language.” (NDC, n.d.b)

The National Deaf Center on Postsecondary Outcomes (NDC) has detailed pages of considerations for providing foreign language classes to students who are DHH.

Each student who is deaf/hard of hearing (DHH) is unique and may use a variety of methods to access spoken language that range from low to high tech. The instructor must carefully determine the course objectives and collaborate with the Individual Educational Plan (IEP) team to determine equitable alternatives.

It may be necessary to discuss the options for specific situations to determine what accommodations the students will need. For example, some students who are DHH may be able to voice for themselves in the foreign language; others may not. Listening tasks may need to be replaced with reading tasks, or they may need to be in very small groups to take advantage of speech-reading or improved proximity to the speakers. Other students may need to write their responses instead of speaking. 

Continuous collaboration between the foreign language teacher, Teacher of the Deaf/Hard of Hearing (TODHH), student, American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter, speech-language pathologist (SLP), and the family will be necessary to decide which accommodations to provide and how to ensure the student is mastering the content in an accessible manner. The TODHH, and potentially the audiologist, can review the student's audiogram to determine if the available residual hearing (with or without amplification) will allow meaningful educational benefit of the spoken foreign language. The TODHH and SLP can give input into how well the student may be able to expressively communicate in the foreign language.

For the listening portion, technology like automatic speech recognition captioning apps can provide foreign language captions for the student to "listen" to or read the conversation. The student can write or type back a response in the foreign language. Monitoring may be required to make sure the student does not use the translation part of the app to aid in developing responses. A comprehensive assistive technology (AT) evaluation may be necessary to determine the supports needed for the student to access auditory information.

Examples of some alternatives:



Visual cues to learn the pronunciations

Hearing assistive technology (HAT)

Written response

Speech-to-text services

Use a chat/direct messaging program

Transcript of audio file

Trilingual interpreter

Captions of video language (not subtitles)

The information contained in the FAQs does not constitute legal advice. RMTC-D/HH does not endorse or sponsor any one product. Please refer to the original sources listed in each FAQ for more information.

Last updated: April 3, 2023

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