Stockholm university

Ingela HolmströmSenior lecturer, Reader, Head of Department (deputy)

About me

I am Ph.D. and reader/associate professor in Sign Language and bilingualism. I am also director for the Swedish Sign Language section.

Presentation in International Sign Language

Ingela Holmström
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I mainly teach at courses in Swedish as a second language for the deaf but also at courses in the bilingualism of the deaf, the history of deaf education and sign language theory. At present, however, I have a break in teaching to devote myself to the research project Mulder and administrative tasks at the department.


My overall research interests lie in communication and interaction between deaf, hard-of-hearing, and hearing people in different contexts, where they make use of different linguistic resources. I obtained my doctoral degree in Education at Örebro University in 2013 with the dissertation Learning by hearing? Technological framings for participation, which covers my main areas of interest described above. My dissertation included a socio-historical analysis of periodicals from 1890 to 2010 that report about technologies, language, and identity of deaf and hard-of-hearing people over the course of time. Moreover, I conducted two case studies about two children with Cochlear implants who are mainstreamed in hearing classrooms. Of particular interest in this study were the topics of participation, power, and technology use, together with overarching questions about communication and interaction.

I have been active at the Department of Linguistics at Stockholm University since 2014 and have worked on a number of different research projects. The latest is the four-year project Mulder, which is funded by the Swedish Research Council (2020-2023). The project is about the multilingual situation of deaf refugees in Sweden. Project Mulder information in International Sign.

Another of the projects I have worked on is about the bilingualism of the deaf and hard-of-hearing, the DHT project, which focuses on special schools as well as municipal schools and schools with special programs for hard-of-hearing students. In the project, we investigate how deaf and hard-of-hearing students' written Swedish and Swedish Sign Language looks like today.

Teaching-related issues are another of my special interests and I have in several projects studied e.g. teaching methods and classroom interaction. Among other things, I currently lead a project that deals with teaching Swedish Sign Language as a second language for hearing beginner students, UTL2. In this project, we study various aspects of the teaching, with the main goal of increasing the knowledge about how the teaching can be carried out to lead to good progression in the learning of Swedish Sign Language. Another related project is the MM project, in which we studied multimodal multilingualism in teaching conducted by deaf teachers in higher education (see Holmström & Schönström 2018).

Interaction outside the school context has also been one of my research interests. I have participated as a researcher in the project PAL (Participation for All?) which is led by Professor Sangeeta Bagga-Gupta at Jönköping University. The project focuses on young adults who have ADHD or are deaf and their participation in society.

I also have experience from studies based on surveys and interviews. The latest is a survey of parents' experiences of parenting a deaf or hard-of-hearing child and the forms of communication that families use, such as Swedish Sign Language, sign-supported Swedish, and/or spoken Swedish. A previously completed project that is also based on a survey together with in-dept interviews is the HP project where I mapped the competence that exists in the municipalities when it comes to hard-of-hearing school students. Results from this study can be found in Holmström & Schönström (2017).

For other publications from my different research projects, see the publication list.

Research interests

  • Communication and interaction
  • Participation
  • Swedish Sign Language
  • Swedish for deaf and hard-of-hearing
  • Bilingualism and multilingualism
  • Language acquisition
  • Teaching issues
  • Deaf education

Research projects


A selection from Stockholm University publication database

  • Communication, Information, and Support for Swedish Parents with Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing Children

    2022. Ingela Holmström. Scandinavian Journal of Disability Research 24 (1), 165-180


    Communication is an important but complicated issue for parents to deaf and hard-of-hearing (DHH) children. Professionals have debated whether a DHH-child should have opportunity to learn spoken language, sign language, or a mixture of both. Two perspectives dominate: the medical (viewing deafness as a disability) vs. the cultural-lingual (viewing DHH-people as a cultural and linguistic minority). Parents have to handle these conflicting perspectives while they would need support and information about parenting a DHH-child. This article investigates preferred communication in the families, whether parents get information about STS, attend STS-courses, if parents get adequate support and information. 118 parents responded on a survey focusing on these issues, and the results show that spoken Swedish was preferred, but that STS or sign-supported Swedish often was used in parallel. Most parents without previous knowledge of DHH-people were satisfied with the information and support received, while parents with previous knowledge had negative experiences.

    Read more about Communication, Information, and Support for Swedish Parents with Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing Children
  • L2M1 and L2M2 Acquisition of Sign Lexicon: The Impact of Multimodality on the Sign Second Language Acquisition

    2022. Krister Schönström, Ingela Holmström. Frontiers in Psychology 13


    In second language research, the concept of cross-linguistic influence or transfer has frequently been used to describe the interaction between the first language (L1) and second language (L2) in the L2 acquisition process. However, less is known about the L2 acquisition of a sign language in general and specifically the differences in the acquisition process of L2M2 learners (learners learning a sign language for the first time) and L2M1 learners (signers learning another sign language) from a multimodal perspective. Our study explores the influence of modality knowledge on learning Swedish Sign Language through a descriptive analysis of the sign lexicon in narratives produced by L2M1 and L2M2 learners, respectively. A descriptive mixed-methods framework was used to analyze narratives of adult L2M1 (n = 9) and L2M2 learners (n = 15), with a focus on sign lexicon, i.e., use and distribution of the sign types such as lexical signs, depicting signs (classifier predicates), fingerspelling, pointing, and gestures. The number and distribution of the signs are later compared between the groups. In addition, a comparison with a control group consisting of L1 signers (n = 9) is provided. The results suggest that L2M2 learners exhibit cross-modal cross-linguistic transfer from Swedish (through higher usage of lexical signs and fingerspelling). L2M1 learners exhibits same-modal cross-linguistic transfer from L1 sign languages (through higher usage of depicting signs and use of signs from L1 sign language and international signs). The study suggests that it is harder for L2M2 learners to acquire the modality-specific lexicon, despite possible underlying gestural knowledge. Furthermore, the study suggests that L2M1 learners’ access to modality-specific knowledge, overlapping access to gestural knowledge and iconicity, facilitates faster L2 lexical acquisition, which is discussed from the perspective of linguistic relativity (including modality) and its role in sign L2 acquisition.

    Read more about L2M1 and L2M2 Acquisition of Sign Lexicon
  • Diverse challenges for deaf migrants when navigating in Nordic countries

    2022. Ingela Holmström, Nina Sivunen. The Routledge Handbook of Sign Language Translation and Interpreting, 409-424


    A growing body of research focusses on migration issues for deaf migrants, particularly those in forced migration and resettlements. Despite this, knowledge is limited regarding their situation, opportunities and obstacles in the new host country. In recent years, the Nordic countries have seen a growing number of deaf migrants arriving, many of them for reasons of being in need of protection. And in the encounter between the migrants and the Nordic societies and systems, many things may come into conflict, particularly regarding language policy and education. In this chapter, the challenges deaf migrants may meet when navigating their way in Nordic countries are highlighted: for example, when they must learn both a sign and written language in parallel, and when they have to use national interpreters before they can master the new country’s sign language. The challenges are greater for the migrants with limited educational background who are emerging readers. The chapter concludes that greater awareness and understanding of the deaf migrants’ situation are needed, as well as further research in this field.

    Read more about Diverse challenges for deaf migrants when navigating in Nordic countries
  • Patient or Citizen? Participation and Accessibility for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing People in the Context of Interpretation in Sweden

    2021. Ingela Holmström, Sangeeta Bagga-Gupta. Scandinavian Journal of Disability Research 23 (1), 209-223


    Drawing upon ethnographic data from two projects, this paper focuses on interpretation issues in deaf and hard-of-hearing (DHH) individuals’ everyday lives. A specific issue is the importance of and the ways in which interpretation services and Swedish – Swedish Sign Language interpreters shape their experiences and participation. Three themes are illustrated, highlighting tensions that facilitate or obstruct DHH individuals’ participation. The analysis shows that they are positioned as both patients and citizens. Unequal power relationships position them in passive roles, as patients, with limited possibilities to shape the interpreter services, while they simultaneously shoulder major responsibility for its smooth functioning. The mundane nature of the analysis also highlights how they are accorded the position of citizen within the same services.

    Read more about Patient or Citizen? Participation and Accessibility for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing People in the Context of Interpretation in Sweden
  • Modality-Focused L2-Instruction in Swedish Sign Language

    2021. Ingela Holmström. Journal of Linguistics and Language Teaching 12 (1), 93-114


    Most second language (L2) learning happens in the same modality, i.e., a learner who has a spoken language as the first language most commonly learns additional spoken languages as L2. In such language acquisition cases, learners can build on what they already physically know about how to express language. But, if they begin to learn a sign language, they have to learn how to express language in a new modality, i.e. the visual-gestural one. It requires expressing the language using hands, arms, face, and body instead of the speech organs, and this is very unfamiliar for them. Furthermore, learners need to learn specific linguistic features that largely differ from those of spoken languages, such as spatiality, iconicity and simultaneity. In this paper, the teaching of such modality-specific features in a cohort of first-year hearing L2 students, who are learning Swedish Sign Language at the university level, is examined and described. This empirical study shows a language teaching context that largely differs from other language teaching contexts and how students experience this new language learning process.

    Read more about Modality-Focused L2-Instruction in Swedish Sign Language
  • Four Decades of Sign Bilingual Schools in Sweden

    2021. Krister Schönström, Ingela Holmström. Critical Perspectives on Plurilingualism in Deaf Education, 15-34


    This chapter provides insight into the progress and current status of a national sign bilingual program, with a special focus on the linguistic situation. The chapter begins with a historical overview and a description of sign bilingual education in Sweden and how it has changed during the last four decades, due in great part to advancements in hearing technology; i.e., cochlear implantation. Based on semi-structured interviews with teachers of deaf and hard-of-hearing students, the chapter then provides an empirical account of the current linguistic situation of sign bilingual education in Sweden. Approaching this situation from a bilingual perspective sheds some light on the schooling of the new generation of deaf and hard-of-hearing students and shows that the linguistic situation for deaf students has changed. The chapter ends with a discussion of how sign bilingual education in Sweden has shifted from a position of being acclaimed to one of being challenged, driven by various factors that are basically derived from monolingual norms. 

    Read more about Four Decades of Sign Bilingual Schools in Sweden
  • Sign languages

    2020. Ingela Holmström, Krister Schönström. The Routledge Handbook of Translation and Education, 341-352


    In this chapter, focus lie in translation as a language teaching practice in sign bilingual settings in deaf education. Due to limited or no access to sounds, many deaf pupils learn and use spoken languages primarily in their written form. Thus, in this translation practice, deaf pupils are translating between a written language and a sign language. The chapter focuses on translation practices in language teaching contexts and consider both experiences of using sign language translation as an approach in deaf education, sign language studies and translation studies, as well as (second) language teaching. Some concrete pedagogical examples of the application of translation as a pedagogical approach in sign language-based education at different levels, e.g. syllabus, classroom practice and assessment are provided. The chapter begins with an historical account of research on sign languages, sign language translation, and gives a brief account on the history of deaf education. A summary of key research approaches related to sign bilingual teaching with particular focus on translation as a method are also provided. Furthermore, some practical approaches and methods are presented with concrete examples from a sign bilingual classroom. The chapter ends with a conclusion and discussion about future directions.

    Read more about Sign languages
  • When language recognition and language shaming go hand in hand – sign language ideologies in Sweden and Norway

    2019. Hilde Haualand, Ingela Holmström. Deafness and Education International


    This article focuses on the similar approaches to, yet different contexts of legal recognition of sign languages in Sweden and Norway. We use examples from sign language documentation (both scientific and popular), legislation that mentions sign language, organization of implementation of sign language acquisition, and public discourse (as expressed by deaf associations’ periodicals from the 1970s until today), to discuss the status and ideologies of sign language, and how these have affected deaf education. The legal documents indicate that Norway has a stronger and more wide-reaching legislation, especially sign language acquisition rights, but the formal legal recognition of a sign language is not necessarily reflected in how people discuss the status of the sign language. Our analysis reveals that the countries’ sign languages have been subject to language shaming, defined as the enactment of linguistic subordination. The language shaming has not only been enacted by external actors, but has also come from within deaf communities. Our material indicates that language shaming has been more evident in the Norwegian Deaf community, while the Swedish Deaf community has been more active in using a “story of legislation” in the imagination and rhetoric about the Swedish deaf community and bilingual education. The similarities in legislation, but differences in deaf education, popular discourse and representation of the sign languages, reveal that looking at the level and scope of legal recognition of sign language in a country, only partially reflects the acceptance and status of sign language in general.

    Read more about When language recognition and language shaming go hand in hand – sign language ideologies in Sweden and Norway
  • Teaching a Language in Another Modality

    2019. Ingela Holmström. Journal of Language Teaching and Research 10 (4), 659-672


    This study focuses on a Swedish Sign Language (STS) interpreting education, in which the students learn a second language (L2) that is expressed in the visual-gestural modality instead of the auditory-vocal one. Due to the lack of research on sign language L2 instruction, the teachers have limited scientific knowledge and proven experience to lean on in their work. Therefore, an action research-based project was started with the aim to enhance teachers’ knowledge about effective ways of teaching STS as an L2, and to examine how teaching can lead to students making good progress and attaining deep knowledge in STS. The article presents results from one of the projects’ sub-studies, Initial teaching through different primary languages, where a hearing STS L2 teacher’s approaches are examined when teaching the hearing students the new language in another modality than their previous language(s). The results show how this teacher uses her own knowledge from learning STS as an L2 and how she, through using spoken Swedish, provides rich metalinguistic knowledge that contributes to the students’ deeper theoretic knowledge about STS in addition to their practical STS learning. This had pedagogical implications for the further development of the instruction at the interpreting program.

    Read more about Teaching a Language in Another Modality
  • Deaf lecturers’ translanguaging in a higher education setting. A multimodal multilingual perspective

    2018. Ingela Holmström, Krister Schönström. Applied Linguistics Review 9 (1), 90-111


    In a few universities around the world courses are offered where the primary language of instruction is a national sign language. Many of these courses are given by bilingual/multilingual deaf lecturers, skilled in both national sign language(s) and spoken/written language(s). Research on such deaf-led practices in higher education are lacking, and this study will contribute to a greater understanding of these practices. Drawing on ethnographically created data from a higher education setting in Sweden, this case study examines the use of different languages and modalities by three deaf lecturers when teaching deaf and hearing (signing) students in theoretic subjects. The analysis is based on video-recordings of the deaf lecturers during classroom activities at a basic university level in which Swedish Sign Language (SSL) is used as the primary language. The results illustrate how these deaf lecturers creatively use diverse semiotic resources in several modes when teaching deaf and hearing (signing) students, which creates practices of translanguaging. This is illustrated by classroom activities in which the deaf lecturers use different language and modal varieties, including sign languages SSL and ASL as well as Swedish, and English, along with PowerPoint and whiteboard notes. The characteristics of these multimodal-multilingual resources and the usage of them will be closely presented in this article.

    Read more about Deaf lecturers’ translanguaging in a higher education setting. A multimodal multilingual perspective
  • Resources for deaf and hard-of-hearing students in mainstream schools in Sweden

    2017. Ingela Holmström, Krister Schönström. Deafness and Education International 19 (1), 29-39


    Although once placed solely in deaf schools, a growing number of deaf students in Sweden are now enrolling in mainstream schools. In order to maintain a functional educational environment for these students, municipalities are required to provide a variety of supporting resources, e.g. technological equipment and specialized personnel. However, the functions of these resources and how these relate to deaf students’ learning is currently unknown. Thus, the present study examines public school resources, including the function of a profession called a hörselpedagog (HP, a kind of pedagogue that is responsible for hard-of-hearing students). In particular, the HPs’ perspectives on the functioning and learning of deaf students in public schools were examined. Data were collected via (i) two questionnaires: one quantitative (n = 290) and one qualitative (n = 26), and (ii) in-depth interviews (n = 9). These show that the resources provided to deaf children and their efficacy are highly varied across the country, which holds implications for the language situations and learning of deaf students.

    Read more about Resources for deaf and hard-of-hearing students in mainstream schools in Sweden
  • Communicating and hand(ling) technologies

    2015. Ingela Holmström, Sangeeta Bagga-Gupta, Rickard Jonsson. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 25 (3), 256-284


    Different technologies are commonly used in mainstream classrooms to teach pupils who wear surgically implanted cochlear hearing aids. We focus on these technologies, their application, how pupils react to them, and how they affect mainstream classrooms in Sweden. Our findings indicate that language ideologies play out in specific ways in such technified environments. The hegemonic position wielded by adults with regard to the use of technology usage has specific implications for pupils with cochlear implants.

    Read more about Communicating and hand(ling) technologies

Show all publications by Ingela Holmström at Stockholm University