Why I’m learning to sign

IMG_2900Having worked with a specialist organisation for pupils and students who are Deaf, hard of hearing or have communication difficulties for over a decade I decided that it was way over time for me to learn to sign.

My skills are developing, slowly, but what I’ve learned is that practice makes perfect.

I can see the people who work there coming on really quickly because they are signing every day, not like me, I remember to practice ten minutes before the weekly lesson but this week I thought I’d try a bit harder and while I was sat on the beach in Cornwall I was trying to sign the animal and pet signs we’d learned the week before.

At the lesson remembering 21 out of the 26 was great, as with everything in life, you get out what you put in (mouse and rat, I’ll remember you next time!).

Here are a few interesting things I’ve learned so far:

  1. Sign language is not international – every country has their own sign language and thankfully European funded projects like Spread the Sign have created online dictionaries to help Deaf people from other countries learn the signs they need.
  2. Sign language is not even national – yes there are the national versions but there are so many regional variations, I learned this the hard way when we were doing colours and I thought I’d swot up some of the signs!
  3. The grammatical structure of the sentences used by hearing people do not apply in sign language – where hearing people would ask ‘what is your name?’, in sign language we sign ‘name, you, what?’
  4. I talk too fast – this is something I am aware of and students always stop me in lectures and ask me to slow down (I get over passionate and excited about everything!). When talking to someone who is Deaf it is important to talk at a reasonable pace (not slowly, not loudly) just a pace that helps them to understand you if you can lip read.

Languages didn’t come easy at school but I can say that learning Sign Language is a great deal of fun, ask me the sign for an animal and I’m on it!


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