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Sign Language Linguistics (Linguistics)
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Anique Schüller

"The atmosphere was incredible. Amsterdam is obviously a big city, but the programme felt very safe and familiar."

While she was studying a different degree, Anique suddenly became deaf. Without skipping a beat, Anique went on to study at the UvA and is proud that she never let her diagnosis get in the way. She even found a job before handing in her thesis.

How did you first come into contact with Sign Language Linguistics?

While I was studying Human Resource Management I suddenly lost my hearing, it’s called sudden deafness. I realised I needed to learn sign language (so that I could use it to communicate with others) and that I could do that in combination with other courses. I enrolled in the Teacher Dutch Sign Language programme at the HU in Utrecht, but soon realised that teaching wasn’t really my ‘thing’. I was more interested in theory and so I made the switch to the UvA.

What is your fondest memory of the programme?

The Sign Language Linguistics programme is intimate; everyone knows each other and helps each other out when necessary. There’s a strong connection between all of the students and even with the professors. The atmosphere was incredible. Amsterdam is obviously a big city, but the programme felt very safe and familiar. I also have fond memories of the thesis process and the personal growth I achieved with it. That was in part thanks to my thesis group and thesis supervisor. I have a lot to thank for that time, including my job.

What was your favourite course?

Really cheesy, but I enjoyed most of my courses. I was particularly interested in psycholinguistics, which is about the influence of the human spirit or human behaviour on natural language and language behaviour. I found that to be really interesting, just like the psychology courses I followed during my Bachelor’s.

How was your relationship with your professors?

Great! The professors are really approachable. I appreciated the fact that they didn’t hesitate communicate with a deaf person through a sign language interpreter. They were open to it and even helped come up with alternatives to certain assignments like listening exercises. They were really cooperative.

What advice would you pass on to new students?

The world of linguistics is a really small world. If you want to pursue linguistics, make sure you build up and maintain a good network. Build relationships with your professors, and attend talks, discussions and lectures. Even your fellow students may one day become your colleagues.

Where do you work now?

At the end of my Bachelor’s, I wrote my thesis about the corpus of the Dutch Sign Language (NGT). The research for that was conducted at the Radboud University, where they have a team that’s completely focussed on sign language. They look at different aspects: phonology, morphology, pragmatics, psycholinguistics, etc. What’s really unique about the team there is that many of the researchers are signers themselves. (Almost) everyone that works there is knowledgeable about and uses NGT. Sign language is actually the main language used by the team when deaf persons are present. Once I completed my thesis, the team leader offered my a job as a research assistant, and in my first year I joined a project that was a joint effort with a university in London. So I actually went on my first business trip in my first year. In addition, I worked on an EEG project which looked at the cognitive skills of deaf native sign language users.

What are you most proud of?

I’m proud of the fact that I didn’t let any limitations associated with my deafness hold me back, and that I completed my degree and found a job that is directly related to my studies. While I was working in Nijmegen, I followed a year of psychology to learn more about language and the brain, and I’ve almost completed a Master’s in Utrecht. I’m about to start a Research Master’s in Linguistics in Utrecht so that I can become a researcher. I’m convinced that my own flexibility and ability to work with others ensure that everything is possible. Everything except hearing.