#Sign2Sing Week – Why learn British Sign Language? I’m not Deaf!

Sharon Bishop 2

To mark #sign2sing week, BCU Speech and Language Therapy student, Sharon Bishop, shares why she started learning British Sign Language.

I first became interested in BSL when I was at a conference which was being interpreted. The movements and facial expressions fascinated me… but I did nothing more than watch.

A few years later, I taught a Deaf pupil and a Teacher of the Deaf supported him weekly. Through working with her, I learnt about Deaf culture and she taught me “useful”, functional signs for classroom use.

This was around the time that teaching a foreign language was introduced into Primary schools, so my class decided they wanted to learn BSL. We had to argue that it is a language – it is, as BSL has its own grammatical structure which is very different to English – and they wanted to be able to communicate freely with their classmate.

I soon realised that when vocab took me an hour to learn, it only took 10 minutes before the children were using it in sentences. Learning a language as a child is definitely easier than as an adult!

Years passed and I didn’t sign again, until a friend started learning BSL. She persuaded me to join the Signs for Worship Walsall group who sign but where everything is interpreted into English.

I loved it! I attended the group every week and learnt signed pop songs and hymns by copying others. I attended their BSL taster course and as I enjoyed this, I went on to gain my Level 1 BSL with them in June 2016 and Level 2 in June 2017. I will achieve Level 3, but there was no way I could balance this with my final year as well… one day…!

I still attend Signs for Worship Walsall, where we have some signed conversations. I lead the signing of a few songs and I have translated two songs into BSL myself. The biggest compliment I had was at Deaf church, when I was asked – in BSL – if I was Deaf or hearing (usually it is really obvious!).

I have the confidence that I can hold and understand a basic conversation should an interpreter be delayed. In my experience, Deaf people are forgiving of mistakes if a hearing person tries to communicate with them… but it is good to ask how it should have been signed afterwards.

Being in Deaf church is scary as a hearing person, but it makes me realise what everyday life is like for my Deaf friends.

The 5-11 February is #sign2sing week, an event organised by the Deaf Health Charity SignHealth, which raises essential funds to help vulnerable deaf children and adults.

To find out more about #sign2sing week and about how you can get involved, please visit: http://sign2sing.org.uk/

To find out more about British Sign Language, please visit: https://www.british-sign.co.uk/


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