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Learning Sign Language

07 June 2017

On Tuesday 6th June Year 5 had a special visitor who was profoundly deaf. He was called John, he is a BSL (British Sign Language) tutor at ‘I Can Sign’ in Bath. With him was his interpreter, called Christopher. He taught us the whole alphabet from A-Z, which we learned to spell our names, using our fingers and our mouths.

Our Theme this term is Communication and therefore it is interesting to learn how different people communicate, including people from the deaf community. Next week we are looking forward to welcoming Pat, with her guide dog Pearl, who is going to tell us about being blind and how she is able to communicate.

John has been deaf since birth and therefore he has been signing all his life. His mother was deaf and one of his brothers too, therefore growing up he was immersed in sign language.

He went to a school for the deaf and until he started his first job, he didn’t face any difficulties with communication or being understood. However, when he started his first job as an architect for the County Council, he realised how hard it was to communicate with people who couldn’t sign. He was always being asked to sign different words and that is when he realised that he enjoyed teaching and decided to change career and become a teacher of sign language. John told us that he has never wished he could hear and even if he was offered a special pill that could make him hear, he wouldn’t take it! He says being deaf is not an obstacle to having a full life. He has a job, a lovely family and he has lots of exciting things in his life. He has done a skydive and just finished the 3 peaks challenge, where you have to climb the highest mountain in England, Wales and Scotland in 24 hours! (His group managed it in 26 hours, because of bad weather.)

John taught us some different animals like: parrot, cat, dog and unicorn! He also told us that in BSL the order of sentences changes. Therefore if you say ‘My name is John’. In BSL you would sign ‘Name, me John’. Some of the signs in BSL are quite obvious and we were able to guess the sign for drink, car and baby. However, it is important to always say the word with your mouth at the same time, as the sign for car is the same as the one for van or lorry and therefore it is only your mouthing which tells the person exactly what you mean.

John believes that BSL should be taught to all children at school and therefore the hearing community would be able to communicate with the deaf community. Meaning that the 100,000 people in the UK, who are deaf or have hearing problems would be able to talk to anyone and there would be less barriers in our society.

Thank you to John and Christopher for a super lesson, we learned so much.

Issy Duncan and Dorothy Taylor

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