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Why bother learning sign language, anyway..?


7th September 2016 | by Rachael Rogan

Think learning BSL is just about doing something for others? Think again…

Many people learn British Sign Language because they want to help deaf people and hearing people communicate more easily, and whilst promoting inclusivity is fantastic, the benefits of learning sign language definitely go both ways.

Andy Palmer is Deputy Editor of The Limping Chicken, a hugely popular deaf news and blog site. He wrote a fantastic piece on the lesser discussed advantages of learning sign language and, to be honest, you can pretty much skip this whole post and go to his for an amusing insight into the world of signing. However, if you do fancy hearing our thoughts on What’s In It For You, read on…

Bilingual Superheroes

You’ve probably read a lot recently about the benefits of bilingualism, and how it not only boosts the brain, but diminishes the effects of ageing on the memory. Speaking multiple languages, whether signed or spoken, enriches and enhances your cognitive processes: higher abstract and creative thinking, better problem-solving, greater cognitive flexibility, better listening skills, and greater academic achievement, to name but a few. It also promotes cultural awareness, literacy, and other intellectual benefits.

Now, when you throw bimodalism into the mix, that is, using visual-spatial medium, it also expands your visual-perceptual skills: spatial awareness, mental rotation skill, visual sensitivity, and more! That’s right. Learning sign language can actually give you super-powers. Kind of.

It’s a beautiful language

People find sign language fascinating – it is beautiful, unique, graceful and expressive. Unlike spoken languages such as English, there is no written form of BSL. Language is expressed using the hands, face and body. In spoken languages, the voice can convey a range of emotions – however, deaf BSL users convey emotion and intonation through facial expression, which forms approximately 80% of British Sign Language.

BSL has its own grammar and sentence structure, which is quite different from English. A full and rich language, BSL is both fascinating and beautiful to see.

Appreciating literary arts

Do you think Deaf people miss out on music? Not really. What hearing people miss out is literary arts in sign language, for its linguistically creative language play, poetry, and storytelling. Visual-spatial language, with its rich capabilities of cinematic devices, rhymes, rhythms, calligraphic movements, and many others, adds a dynamic spice to language arts.

Fancy giving it a go yourself? We are running a four-week course aimed at families who are interested in learning the basics of British Sign Language together, starting Wednesday 21st September. Suitable for those with little or no previous knowledge of the language, it will help you to understand and use familiar, everyday expressions and phrases. This basic training will give you the confidence to go on to take the Level 1 Award, if you decide to go further, which is also running at the shop from the end of the month.

Booking is essential, as spaces are limited and we cannot guarantee a space for anyone who turns up on the day. Email nowthen@rogansbooks.co.uk for more information – for more insights into the world of signing check out these blogs.

*With thanks to Handspeak, the online sign language resource.

Andy Palmer: Ten reasons why you should learn sign language (BSL)

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