British Sign Language By Emily Why everyone should learn BSL My passion for sign language was first ignited through an extra-curricular club after school on a Thursday where we learnt the basics of sign language and my interest sky rocketed from there. I believe studying sign language and learning about Deaf culture is a vital life skill to help communication across all branches of society. Finger spelling (the sign language alphabet) was first invented by monks in the 8th century; they had a vow of silence and needed another way of communicating, and this then was introduced to deaf people. From then on sign language has been developed into a valuable, wonderful language. I spoke to a local sign language teacher, who is deaf herself, and asked her some questions about her everyday life and upbringing: Emily: What was it like growing up as a deaf child in a mainstream school? Jackie: I was a deaf child in a class of 30 hearing students and it was hard to communicate with others, I had to rely on lip-reading which was impossible at times. I had no access to sign language until I was 18 years old as Education in Cornwall thought that verbal education was best for hard of hearing and deaf people. Emily: How does Deaf culture differ to hearing culture? Jackie: Deaf culture is a beautiful world of its own where deaf people can be themselves without stress of daily life, we have a humour of our own. Emily: What difficulties/ discrimination have you faced in everyday life? Jackie: Oh gosh I have faced so many difficulties I don’t know where to start! The main difficulty is using the phone, when I ask a family member to ring on my behalf they refuse to speak. Emily: Why do you think it is important to raise Deaf awareness? Jackie: It is important to raise awareness for deaf people to live a less stressful life. There is a large number of deaf people with mental health issues as a result of no communication. Emily: What are the pros and cons of BSL being introduced into schools? Jackie: As previously said, the pros would be that the more people that know sign language the better it is for the deaf community. I believe that deaf role models should be introduced into schools for young children. However there is also a concern of hearing people taking over our language, something that is not appreciated by the deaf community. Some deaf people are concerned that the conversations they have will not be private when they are signing.