Photo of Kevin, Mary and Becky spelling BSL in sign language

Coming together through sign language

Signal’s Introduction to British Sign Language (BSL) course has expanded geographically in Shropshire in response to growing demand, and it has become part of the enrichment programme at Harper Adams University.

We asked our tutors Mary and Kevin, who are deaf sign language users, and student Becky, who took part in our latest course in Telford, about their motivations for teaching and learning sign language…

Mary

“I really enjoy teaching British Sign Language. Back when I was little, a lot of hearing people teased deaf people, and I felt that there was a barrier to communication throughout. I felt this as I was growing up as well. Now with more hearing people learning some sign language and deaf awareness, it is a lot better, but there are still barriers around and we still need to break these down.

For example, once I was standing by a bus stop, when somebody in a car stopped and opened their window to ask the way. I said ‘Oh, I’m deaf’ and they said ‘No thank you’ and drove off with a negative attitude. Not everybody does that. Some people show me a map and I help to give them directions.

We need trained interpreters too. If I go to the doctor’s and they use a lot of jargon in English language, I cannot follow what they are saying, so with an interpreter I feel more confident.

Photo of Becky in Signal's beginners' sign language class

Becky (right) in Signal’s beginners’ BSL class

Teaching sign language is satisfying for me and Kevin – from watching the students struggle at the start, helping them to improve, and then watching them communicate a lot more easily with us at the end. It is important that we don’t use our voices when we are teaching, but that the students use their eyes and concentrate on our movements.”

Becky

“I have always had an interest in sign language as an alternative to sometimes speaking, as I have had a stammer since I was born, and I did a session in primary school. When I found out that Signal runs a beginners’ course, I really wanted to get involved, because I understand the issues which other people have with communicating as well, and I just went for it.

I enjoyed it so much, and I thought that I would also really enjoy using sign language in a job. I just want to be able to talk with the deaf community and get involved with them and help as much as I can. I have actually been to a university open day, because I want to pursue sign language and deaf studies, and they had an interpreter for almost all of the talks, which was awesome to see.

I feel like as a society we need to try harder to just get everyone involved and support everyone for all the individual differences which they have.”

Headline photograph: Kevin, Mary and Becky spelling out “BSL” in British Sign Language.

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