….. I don’t know why she swallowed a fly, perhaps she’ll die”. I never thought I’d be sitting in a community centre with six other grown women singing children’s songs on Friday afternoons, but this is a new and rather enjoyable habit of which I’m becoming rather fond. No, we’re not singing children’s songs just for the fun of it but because it’s an extremely effective way to learn BSL (British Sign Language).
I’ve been attending a weekly course for about 12 weeks now and it’s been a revelation. I’ve always enjoyed learning languages – I learned Pitman Shorthand at secretarial college and thoroughly enjoyed being able to write in lines and squiggles which nobody else could understand yet which made perfect sense to me – so learning yet another ‘different’ language is a wonderful experience. So far we’ve learned letters, numbers, days of the week, the weather, colours, food, seasons, animals, different greetings …. and I’m fascinated by the rich context between signs and language. I seem to learn better if I understand how each sign links to the word – for example, wafting your hands gently from side to side like leaves falling from trees seems an extraordinarily imaginative invention for the word “Autumn”, yet it makes total sense at the same time. I’m lapping it up!
We spend 90 minutes learning our new signs for the week then the tutor helps embed that learning by incorporating them into songs we all know such as “the Lion Sleeps Tonight” (from the Lion King), or “Old McDonald had a Farm”. Honestly, it’s not often that I sit in a room giggling like a child but to do it in such good company, knowing that I’m learning something so useful as well as interesting, is a real joy.
Sign language isn’t something I specifically need to use right now but it’s always at the back of mind that, one day, this is the language I will need to know in order to communicate with other people. Nobody can predict how far my hearing loss will deteriorate but it’s better to be a good Girl Scout and “be prepared” so I’m starting early!
There are very useful apps out there which can help too. “Sign It Lite” has short video clips of more than 700 common BSL signs so there’s no excuses for forgetting or not completing my homework! “There was an old lady who swallowed a fly ……..”