Last year I made the decision to take up British Sign Language (BSL), it wasn’t new to me, I had attended a specialist school for people with a wide and varied range of disabilities, so much so my class mates and I were taught the basics of BSL to help me communicate with not only my deaf friend, but others who had communication difficulties.
And I’d often thought many times over the years, about gaining my level 1 qualification. After all as far as I was concerned BSL is a legitimate language in it’s own right and is a tongue I use far more than, French that I’ve actually got a qualification in.
It had been along time since I’d signed, I could remember the finger spelt alphabet and the odd phrase, so before I considered the qualification I signed up for a 10 week taster course before I went for it big time – and as I thought I fell in love with BSL all over again, it had been 20 years since I last signed, and in that time signs had evolved and changed a little and these days Makaton (a simpler form of sign language) is used for those who are hearing but cannot communicate.
The 10 weeks flew by and I made some great new friends, none of us really wanted to stop – Sign Language craves repetition and makes you inquisitive of the regional dialects of Sign Language, yes you can be deaf and still have an accent.
Those 10 weeks, with someone who was calm, encouraging and who has now become a close friend was enough to nurture my confidence and go and get my Level 1 Qualification.
This was a big thing for me, but I knew that this qualification would help show future employees how serious I am about advocating the rights of people with barriers and that not only that I would become fluent in a very exciting language.
The lady who teaches me is deaf herself, I recommend to anyone who is thinking about learning BSL at a qualification level to lean from a D/deaf teacher, you learn far more than just signs that way, the importance of your face, your body language, the movement and position of your hands all come far quicker when your mentored by a individual who is D/deaf.
It forces you to interact in your new-found language, you can’t be nervous, even if you don’t know the signs, if you want to be understood you must express yourself by any means possible. It’s quite liberating.
I’ve found a passion that I never knew existed, Sign Language craves repetition, you will find that if you stop signing for a short amount of time your brain gets filled up with other things and so the language you learnt makes way for reminders about groceries, to do lists at work, and just exactly what time are you meeting your mate for drinks?
Think about it, how long ago did you learn a language at school? Do you ever use it?
A few of my friends from my 10-week course didn’t want to give up what we’d learnt so we decided to set up Happy Hands Sign Language Club a place for those who are local and have an interest in Sign to come together a support one another in Sign Language practice
It’s brought people together who I’d never ordinarily meet and we’re becoming a great group of people, people who have some one who is deaf in the family, have recently had a diagnosis of deafness, those interested in sign language and those who are learning. We are becoming a support network and I couldn’t be prouder of what sign language has done to enrich my life and those around me.