So for a while now I have been wanting to learn BSL (British Sign Language) for a number of reasons really firstly because I honestly think the language is so beautiful,
secondly as a skill and tool for myself to use what with my hearing loss, as I do still struggle a lot especially if I go out to restaurants that are really busy and or noisy either with people talking or loud music or a combination of both, and also for things like nights out where the music is sooo loud ( I know I sound like a granny) to the point you can’t hear, i mean let alone with hearing loss.
Thirdly because I work in the childcare sector I think it’s a really handy skill to have for that, as I have worked with two girls with hearing issues who were due to get hearing aids, a little boy non verbal boy whose mum taught him sign language as he got on better with that compared to makaton, and I have a little boy at the moment at my new nursery that I work with that is non verbal who may also have hearing problems and a second boy who is also undergoing hearing testing and I just think you just never know when a child may come in using BSL or needing to learn it, although it is more common to use makaton with children (something else I would love to learn and be fluent in) and yeah also looks good on my CV especially with childcare work .
Fourthly because it is an official registered language and I just think it is such an amazingly beautiful language (I know this was reason 1 but let me explain lol) and I would just love to be able to communicate with everyone really ,as it really upsets me that a lot of deaf people who rely on BSL actually live their lives in silence if they go into town for a bit of shopping that they won’t speak to anyone as they know nobody will talk to them or be able to communicate with them and this upsets me , everyone should have someone that talks and communicates with them when they’re out even if it only a shop assistant asking if you’d like a bag or asking you if there’s anything that they can get you or whatever.I mean I’m a talkative and chatty person so for me that would be my idea of hell not having anyone to communicate with.
fifth reason I would love to be able to teach my friends, family, boyfriend, brownies, guides, and rangers sign , even if it is only the basics just so that they can communicate with others and be able to have basic conversations with other people and to be able to understand the value of the skill too. Another reason is I am now working on my Queens Guide Award within guiding and part of that is I have to learn a new skill for a minimum of 60 hours over the course of a year and what a better thing to set myself as a challenge to learn to do and to become fluent in.
I have found finding somewhere to do an actual face to face course extremely hard to do as the ones near me run primarily by the ACL (Adult Community Learning) are all 9-11am in the morning during the week which just isn’t possible or doable for me working full-time 40hrs+ a week , and with it being childcare too so there is no way possible I would be able to do that. Online courses I find are expensive and you don’t always know what you’re paying out for, like whether they’re official courses and qualifications, whether it’s teaching you the thing etc and I just personally would rather face to face. This has been something I’ve been looking into for a while now and haven’t been very successful in finding due to them being weekday mornings and also not a lot of them about anywhere near me, so I have been hitting a blank.
I was walking home from work Friday 1st June for lunch when I spotted a post on facebook from one of the BSL charities that I have been following. Saying how they were holding a free 3-hour introduction to BSL course from 10-1pm on Saturday 2nd June in Southend, and how it had been fully booked up but due to people dropping out they now had spaces available if anyone was interested. I hadn’t seen the original post so had no idea it was even on until I saw this, of course I immediately said could I please have a place and within minutes they messaged me privately telling me the address of the venue and asking whether I would definitely be attending, of course, no doubt about it , this was the first chance I’d had of even finding anywhere remotely close to me to BSL (about an hours drive from me)
So yesterday morning I woke up early and got ready to leave mine at around 8.20am as I needed to get petrol on my way and didn’t know if the roads would be busy as it was due to be another hot weekend, so didn’t know if a lot of people with it being a Saturday would be heading that way to the beach for the day , and I also wanted to leave a little earlier than needed to make sure I had time to find somewhere to get parked before walking over. Luck I did as I didn’t get to the car park and parked until 9.45am, there were still plenty of spaces but it was starting to get busy, and I had 15 minutes to then get across to the venue.
I found the venue easily enough as I was very familiar with the area and knew the shop next door, I met a lovely lady on the doorstep to the venue and we got talking as we were both struggling to get in, as the door was locked but a note on the door said to press the buzzer and that the door would then open, which it didn’t , so we waited until Kayla the lady who had organised the course came down and let us in and explained how she didn’t think the buzzer was working .
We headed upstairs and took our seats waiting for everyone else to turn up. First Carol Cook and Paula Parker, who would be teaching and running the course gave us a bit of information on BSL covering common questions such as can it be used worldwide, what does BSL stand for etc.
We then started off by learning the alphabet starting with the vowels (A,E,I,O,U) before adding in all of the other letters which wasn’t too bad I already knew some of them from when I had tried to teach the Brownies the alphabet from their brownie books and how to do their names and had done it a few times before so that wasn’t too bad, although I didn’t know A, E,I,O,U were all on the same hand and the 5 fingers in order pointed at by index finger of your dominant hand and were a few other letters I wasn’t familiar with such as G, Y, Z and I knew F but wasn’t sure which way round it went, so was really interesting to do that , so we did this quite a few times so that it sunk in and we understood it.
We then split into 2 groups of 7 and were given a sheet with the alphabet letters in sign for our dominant hand and had to practise our first names in finger spelling which I think I was alright with as I had attempted it before with the Brownies and also again at work as in my previous nursery setting we had the BSL alphabet on the wall , and we then had to sign our first name to the rest of our group whilst also doing the lip pattern to our names and the others had to try to work out what our names were, Once we had done this we then had to do the same again but with our surnames.
Once we had done this we then stayed in our groups and had a competition between us to sign female names for each letter of the alphabet, the first person started with a name starting with the letter A and signed it to the person next to them and they then had to work out the name and sign it back to them before they could sign the next letter to the next person and so on and it was the first group to do it that won, so basically a race between the two groups, our group won this 🙂 .
After this, we had a tea break with tea, coffee, water, biscuits, cakes, and chocolate before we continued.
After our tea break, we then went onto learning greetings, keywords, and phrases to introduce ourselves such as :
- Hello/ Goodbye
- Good Morning
- Good Afternoon
- Good Night
and then went onto :
- What is your name?
- Nice to meet you/ You too
- How are you/ I’m fine
- Where do you live?
- Are you Deaf?
- Are you Hearing?
- See you Later
- Please/Thank you
We practiced these together as a full group of 14 for a while getting used to the signs and then watching Carol and Paula signing a conversation using these phrases and questions a couple of times and working out what they were saying and how they were answering.
We then moved our chairs so we had two rows of seven facing each other and we then had to sit and have a basic BSL conversation with the person opposite us starting with Hello or good afternoon, how are you and then replying, then going onto asking names and where we live and whether we are deaf or hearing and signing back names and places we live and answering questions back to the person who signed it to us, to show that we understood what they had said . This was really interesting to do once we had done that with the person opposite one half of us moved down one chair and then did the same thing again with someone different and we repeated this a couple of times. The reason being was to get us used to using the signs and finger spellings and also because everyone signs slightly differently so it got us used to different peoples ways of signing.
Once we had done that a couple of times we then watched Paula and Carol sign some more conversations to each other and then they chose people at random from the full group to have a sign conversation with and had to reply in sign to questions that they asked, as well as doing the facial expressions and lip pattern of the words.
After this, unfortunately, it was the end of the course, the time honestly flew by and it did not feel like we had been there for 3 hours and honestly all it did was grow my love of the language more and make me so much more determined to want to go forward with this and get my level 1, level 2 and level 3 and to be able to do it fluently and to be able to sign fluent conversations . The ladies running it were absolutely amazing and the course was fantastic I certainly learned a lot.
I enquired about going forward and doing my level 1 as I knew that they had mentioned earlier in the day about how they have their charity which I follow on facebook and was how I found out about the day (Don’t shout out “BSL”) and they had mentioned how they run both level 1 and level 2 BSL courses. They said that they have two level 1classes starting September this year on weekday evenings, However, unfortunately, both of them are fully booked, so I was told to keep an eye out on the facebook page and website as they said that they’d had a lot of interest and were looking into running another level 1 class . So I left feeling that I would absolutely be doing this and keep my eyes peeled, as I got on well with the two teachers as well as everyone else and left having made some new friends that are now on my facebook, who have said about us meeting up for coffee to practise our sign and to catch up , and I just thought I wouldn’t mind travelling to Southend once a week for a couple of hours to learn BSL.
I spent the afternoon looking around the shops in Southend to take a bit more of a day of it before returning home early evening. Where I then messaged Don’t Shout Out BSL page , as I had meant to speak to Carol before I left about getting a certificate of attendance made up as proof for work and for my Queens Guide Award record, as well as just generally thanking them for a fantastic course and to express my interest again in going further with it when I received this message back:
“Hello, Bethan. It was lovely to meet you this morning and so glad that you enjoyed it. Well, I have some good news! Paula and I spoke about you this afternoon as we were very impressed with how you were doing and your obvious enthusiasm. So we are very happy to squeeze you in to the Monday evening course if you are interested. If you are, please let me have your email address and I will send the details over to you. Also, if you can send me your home address and I’ll pop an attendance certificate in the post to you. X”
I was so excited I honestly couldn’t believe it, I was shocked. I had really enjoyed it but was surprised to hear that they both had been talking about me and had thought I had picked it up really quick , and of course messaged Carol back with my email address to get more information about the level 1 course sent over and of course my home address for an attendance certificate so I can use it as proof to work and my Queens Guide Award record, I honestly didn’t expect this at all but of course I have absolutely said that I would love a place on the course and have accepted can’t believe that from September this year I will be working towards achieving something off of my bucket list that I have wanted to do for so long and is such a vital skill too. I will have to do three exams for level 1 with the first being in November so 6 weeks after starting but I honestly cannot wait.
Things in life seem to be looking on the up and very happy and positive again which is great. I will update you on the course as and when I get more information about it and will try to make videos what I have learned so far or what I am learning as I’m doing it 🙂
speak soon 🙂 xxxx