UCL News


Spotlight on Robert Adam

21 September 2016

This week the spotlight is on Robert Adam, Director of Continuing Professional Development, UCL Deafness Cognition and Language Research Centre.

Robert Adam

What is your role and what does it involve?

I am Director of Continuing Professional Development at the Deafness Cognition and Language Research Centre. I organise short courses for professionals (Deaf and hearing) working with Deaf and hard of hearing children and adults (interpreters, sign language teachers, speech and language therapists, teachers of the deaf etc). I also teach Bachelor's and Master's students on the MSc in Language Science and MA in Translation Studies, and work with the Centre for Language and International Education and the School of Medicine in offering British Sign Language courses to UCL undergraduates and postgraduates. I am also involved with sign language linguistics research, particularly on bilingualism in two sign languages and in a spoken language and a sign language, and with endangered languages.

How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role?

Before I came to UCL I worked at City Lit, and then at City University, involved in both teaching and research. I've been at UCL for eight years and I was previously a Research Associate at DCAL, collaborating with researchers on a variety of projects. In this role I also organised public engagement events: a DCAL Deaf Day in March 2010, followed by a DCAL Deaf Roadshow. These were funded by the Public Engagement Unit at UCL and I received the Provost's Award for Public Engagement the following year. I am also a member of out@UCL and enable@UCL.

What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?

Aside from the Provost's Award, I am also proud of the roll-out of the Continuing Professional Development courses at DCAL, particularly the Deaf Awareness online course that Manjula Patrick and I have developed with support and funding from UCL Life Learning. We are really looking forward to increasing deaf awareness within UCL and other workplaces. Keep watching the Life Learning website for more details.

I am most proud of having carried out the first research into Australian Irish Sign Language, which is my mother's native language and which is a language community in attrition. There are only around 50 signers remaining in this community so it is becoming more and more important to document this language.

Tell us about a project you are working on now which is top of you to-do list?

My brief is to also work with UCL staff to introduce more courses at UCL in British Sign Language. Top of my to-do list is to get UCL to recognise BSL as a language satisfying its modern foreign language (MFL) requirements. This recognition would further increase the already high demand for BSL at UCL (and in the long term, support DCAL's plans to develop programmes to train teachers of BSL and BSL/English interpreters). See the Centre for Languages and International Education for more information on BSL courses for UCL students and staff.

I received a grant from the Endangered Language Documentation Project at SOAS to document Australian Irish Sign Language and I plan to prepare a record of the language, and to carry out research work into other sign language communities in attrition.

What is your favourite album, film and novel?

I read a wide variety of books and newspapers, but I would like to highlight two books written by a Deaf author friend of mine, Louise Stern, who wrote Chattering and Ismael and His Sisters, published by Granta, both of which show the Deaf everyday experience through Deaf eyes. Being Deaf is portrayed in the book as something that is very normal and every-day, as opposed to being something that is quite atypical and different.

Who would be your dream dinner guests?

I would not be so presumptuous as to think that Gandhi, Mandela, Bhutto (either one), Pankhurst, Benn, Maginn (founder of the British Deaf Association), Braidwood (founder of the first school for the Deaf in the UK), and Dorothy Shaw (who I knew and founded the Australian Association of the Deaf) would want to sit around my dining table, but I really enjoy having friends who are happy to huddle around and try my latest concoction, my latest wheat-free loaf or just to sample some of my regulars: my mother's pavlova, my step-mother's chocolate fudge pudding, or just a nice decent roast.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Don't worry about what other people think of you. In the end it really doesn't matter and you should do what really excites and interests you the most.

What would it surprise people to know about you?

I guess people would be surprised to know that I like to cook. I make all sorts of jams and chutney I also like to bake bread and cakes for when people come around for lunch or dinner. Most importantly of all for an Australian, I can make a mean pavlova.

What is your favourite place?

I would have to say Paris is my most favourite place to visit but sometimes I think I would just love to be back where I come from, swimming in a beach along the Great Ocean Road.