Deafness is something that affects a lot of people. 9 million people in the UK have some kind of hearing loss, with hearing deteriorating with age. Deaf Awareness Week, or The International Week of the Deaf takes place from the 14-20 May.
You may know someone who is deaf or suffers from partial hearing loss, your grandparents may well wear a hearing aid. However, according to the British Deaf Association, only 151,000 people use British Sign Language in the UK, and 87,000 of these are deaf themselves. Many deaf or hard of hearing people use other methods such as lip-reading to communicate with non-deaf people, partly because not many people use or understand any form of sign language.
Sign language is such a rewarding language to know, and like with most languages, you don’t have to be completely fluent for it to be useful. Many people prefer to learn SSE or ‘Sign Supported English’ if they are hearing themselves. Even knowing a few common signs is so helpful when communicating with someone who is deaf. An app I find extremely useful is ‘Sign BSL‘ which is essentially a dictionary for British Sign Language. You can look up a word in the search bar and find a variety of videos showing different people signing that particular word. Learning the alphabet and numbers is also very useful.
Sign Language is also useful even if you never come across anyone who is deaf or hard of hearing in your entire life (highly unlikely). Ever been in a noisy bar/club/pub and can’t hear what your friends are saying? Sign to them! Can you see your friend in their seminar and want to let them know you’ll meet them later on? Sign to them through the window!
The university also have a SignSoc that hold weekly non-professional sessions, teaching you the basics of British Sign Language. They meet twice a week so you can attend one that suits your schedule.