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Some deaf people struggle to communicate in spoken language, depending on how pronounced their hearing loss is.
In contrast, most hearing people would be able to communicate in sign language if they were given the opportunity to learn it.
As a hearing person myself, I have no idea how isolating it can be to have a hearing loss – wouldn’t it be ideal if more hearing people took it upon themselves to learn sign language and close the communication gap?
Awareness of deaf culture and issues
Not so long ago, I didn’t know there was such a thing as ‘deaf culture’. I thought of deaf people simply as people who couldn’t hear.
I thought signing wasn’t really a language, but just a way of communicating. It is of course so much more than that.
Through learning sign language I have begun to see how difficult things can be for deaf people e.g. discrimination in the workplace, and lack of accessible information. The more awareness and understanding hearing people have of deaf issues the better.
“Ssh, we’re signing”
There is something rather exciting about conversing in sign as most people won’t know what on earth it is you’re talking about.
Signing is especially useful of course if the subject matter is particularly sensitive! It is quite amusing to have people stare at you, desperately trying to figure out what you’re signing.
For myself, a hearing person who is new to sign language, it is a novelty. However I am sure that for deaf people the novelty soon wears off, and they won’t want to be stared at.
Noise? No problem
Signing has many advantages over spoken languages.
Recently I was in a pub with my dad, enjoying a drink, when a live band began to play. They were very loud, and there was no chance of us being able to talk.
The conversation was stopped dead in its tracks. I instinctively went to sign but of course my dad doesn’t know BSL. How convenient it would have been!
Similarly, I dislike going clubbing because the music is loud, and you don’t really get to speak to anybody properly unless you go outside. If I had signing friends then it would be problem solved. Turn up the volume, I’ll just use my hands…
Back at school I wasn’t very good at languages. French, German, Spanish – you name it, I can’t speak it.
However, with BSL I have found the second language for me. Having a BSL qualification will look good on a person’s CV, showing that they will go to the extra effort to communicate, especially if they want to work or volunteer with a deaf or hard of hearing organisation.
David lives in Manchester and is studying for his Level 2 in British Sign Language.
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