How I am learning to communicate using British Sign Language

I recently made the decision that I would like to try to learn British Sign Language to see if it is something I am able to do.

The idea first came to me last year when I watched a US drama series called Switched At Birth. A 16 year old girl finds out by chance that she was switched with another baby in the hospital a few days after she was born. Once the switch is discovered the families of the two grls meet. The girl she was switched with is deaf.

The cast of the show began to learn sign language as part of their storylines and it was possible to see the improvement in their communication over each series with the deaf actors who also starred in the show.

This made me very interested to find out more.

One of the actresses from the show, Rachel Shenton, then went on to win an Oscar for her short film, The Silent Child. A film about the difficulties faced by young deaf children who aren’t taught to communicate and therefore miss out on so much.

Last week, I went to my first lesson. My tutor is profoundly deaf. His interpreter was running late so for the first 20 minutes he had to try to communicate with a class of students who did not know any sign language, which he did very successfully.

He also did a demonstration of how difficult it was to lip read. He silently read out a paragraph to see if we could read his lips. We couldn’t. It turned out the paragraph was in German. He then silently read the same paragraph in English. It wasn’t any easier to understand what he was saying! He used this exercise to show just how difficult it is for deaf children at school when they have little chance of understanding what anyone is saying to them.

After a 2 hour class where we began to learn to finger spell, out tutor’s interpreter informed us that she would not be coming back for the next few weeks. This method of tuition is aimed to help us to learn, as without an interpreter we have no option but to find ways to try to communicate with our deaf tutor.

I’m really interested to see what happens over the next few lessons, how difficult or easy it is to pick up and how much I manage to learn.

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