The Proper Way to Educate the Deaf

A Modern Annotated Translation

First Edition

By The Abbé Charles-Michel de l’Epée
Translated by Akbar Sikder & Carole Burnett
Introduction by Anne T. Quartararo
Notes by Anne T. Quartararo
Foreword by Yann Cantin
Afterword by Mike Gulliver

Imprint: Gallaudet University Press
Ebook : 9781954622357, 202 pages, July 2024
Hardcover : 9781954622340, 202 pages, August 2024
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Table of contents

Foreword                               Yann Cantin
Translator’s Preface              Akbar Sikder
Historical Introduction           Anne Quartararo
The Proper Way to Educate the Deaf: An Experienced Account
Author’s Foreword
Chapter 1        How to proceed in starting the education of the deaf and dumb
Chapter 2        How to continue the education of the deaf and dumb
Chapter 3        Tenses of the indicative form of the verb être [to be]           
Chapter 4        Pronouns
Chapter 5        Verbs
Chapter 6        Adverbs
Chapter 7        Prepositions
Chapter 8        Conjunctions
Chapter 9        Justifying everything so far explained
Chapter 10      Employing a productive sign system based on the infinitive form of a verb
Chapter 11      Explaining spiritual workings, which form the basis of logic, to the deaf and dumb
Chapter 12      Helping the deaf and dumb understand the first truths of religion
Chapter 13      Teaching the deaf and dumb the very mysteries of our religion
Chapter 14      Explaining metaphysical ideas to the deaf and dumb through the process of analysis and with the aid of methodical signs          
Chapter 15      Making the deaf and dumb understand, as much as possible, what it means to hear auribus audire
Chapter 16      Reflecting on a methodology and dictionary for use with the deaf and dumb
Preliminary observations
Chapter 1        How to succeed in teaching the deaf and dumb to pronounce simple vowels and syllables
Chapter 2        Necessary observations for the reading and pronunciation of the deaf and dumb
Chapter 3        How to teach the deaf and dumb to hear through the eyes by following the movement of the lips alone and without doing any manual sign
Controversy between educators of the deaf and dumb to be submitted to the judgment of the most renowned Academy of Zurich
Letter to the educator of the deaf and dumb at Leipzig written in the French language by the educator at Paris and translated by the latter into the Latin language afterward
The second letter of the educator at Paris to the educator of the deaf and dumb at Leipzig
The reply of the educator of the deaf and dumb at Leipzig to the preceding letter
The third and final letter of the educator at Paris to the educator at Leipzig
Decision of the Council of Scholars of the Academy of Zurich on the controversy that has arisen between educators of the deaf and dumb
To the most excellent D.D. Rector and to each and every Doctor of the Academy of Zurich from the educator of the deaf and dumb at Paris
An oration by Ludovicus-Franciscus-Gabriele de Clemens de la Pujade, publicly pronounced deaf and dumb from birth
Appendix 1     Copy of the programme of the exercise of the deaf and dumb, which was done under the auspices and presence of His Excellence Monseigneur Prince Doria Pamphili, Archbishop of Seleucia and Nuncio of His Holiness, 13th August 1783.
Appendix 2     Names of the deaf and dumb who will respond in the three languages        
Appendix 3     Names of the deaf and dumb who will respond only in French
Appendix 4     Contents of the Exercise
Appendix 5     Addition for page XX, made by the author since printing
Appendix 6     Endorsement
Appendix 7     Royal Patent
Afterword       Mike Gulliver

This new translation of the historic work by the Abbé de l’Épée offers the comprehensive, authentic edition that scholars have been waiting for. A translator’s preface, historical introduction, annotations, and other scholarly contributions will help readers interpret this classic volume in deaf education.



This volume presents the first complete English translation of the Abbé de l’Épée’s seminal work describing his methodology for educating deaf children. Originally published in French in 1798, this modern annotated edition offers readers a translation that is documentary in scope and that reflects historic attitudes toward deaf people and deaf education while maintaining the conventions of contemporary English.

De l’Épée provides an anecdotal account of his methods and philosophy for educating deaf children using a sign system based on the French Sign Language of the era but adapted to visually represent the linguistic features of spoken and written French. His work laid the foundation for the use of the “manual method,” or sign language, in deaf education. One section of the text, originally published in Latin, outlines the intellectual clash between de l’Épée and Samuel Heinicke, an early proponent of oral education who contested the use of sign language.

De l’Épée’s text holds significant cultural and historical value for the fields of deaf studies and deaf education. This English language translation reveals de l’Épée’s own story of how he came to be known as the “father of the deaf” and is enriched by scholarly contributions that provide essential historical context and a framework for modern understanding.


Akbar Sikder is a hearing child of two deaf parents and grew up bilingual in English and British Sign Language (BSL). He studied translation and interpreting at the University of Manchester, and now works as both a BSL/English interpreter and as the executive director of an interpreter training center. He has published on the lack of ethnic diversity in the signed language interpreting profession and was a founding member of the Interpreters of Colour Network (IOCN), where he also served on the board. In 2022, he was awarded the IOCN Evolution Award in recognition of his “outstanding contribution to the network and the signed language interpreting profession.”