So I’ve reached out to different people to guest blog about their experiences in the deaf world. Wether it’s someone D/deaf with certain views, or someone hearing learning BSL, and I’ve had some great responses, which I will be posting over the next few weeks. This first one is from a lovely girl called Jess, and she is talking about her experiences learning BSL. Enjoy!
Hello, I’m Jess and I’m 25
So my journey started back when I was in college 6/7 years ago, we were simply given a sheet of paper one day which had the BSL alphabet on it, I learnt it off by heart as quick as I could and then I wondered what more I could learn so I started looking into BSL courses around my area… I found some, but I was so scared, so so nervous, I’ve always had a massive self confidence crisis but eventually my mum talked me round and I enrolled onto a BSL level 1 course and that was where my love began, like a spark just clicked!
I powered through my level 1 and 2 and built a really strong relationship with my tutor, who was Deaf, I went to her house for extra practise and she took me to the local Deaf Club in the area so I could get even more practise, it was nerve wracking massively and I ALWAYS doubted my ability but the more I learnt about BSL, Deaf culture and the more I watched people sign the more and more interested and passionate I got.
Before I could start my level 3 I relocated due to work and put BSL on the back burner for a bit, but I missed it so I looked for any level 3 groups near my new home, I found one but it was over an hours drive away but it was worth it, so worth it. I again had a Deaf tutor and she was amazing, so understanding of my lack of confidence, she was always rooting for me!
I then applied for a job working in a Deaf children’s home and amazingly I got it, I was absolutely over the moon… I already worked in care, I worked with young adults with autism and then this came along which bought my love of care and passion for BSL and the Deaf together, I LOVED the job and the wonderful girls I had the pleasure of supporting.
I then decided, just one night to look up Deaf schools around the world and I read about one in South Africa, without even really thinking I just knew I couldn’t let that opportunity pass so I booked with the volunteer agency to go over and volunteer at the school and a month or so later I was on my way, little shy me flying to the other side of the world by myself and I can tell you it is the best thing I’ve EVER done!!
The school was small, primary aged and I worked in the classes that would be years 2 and 3 here, absolutely amazing little children, taught me so much! Learning about their backgrounds and family dynamics, Deafness isn’t very much of a focus in SA and these children were just so brave! South African Sign Language is more similar to ASL but I picked it up and the kids loved helping me, we shared signs, I’d show them the BSL version and they’d teach me the SASL version. A handful of the teachers at the school were Deaf as well and they’re who I clicked with the most, they were just so warm and welcoming, even inviting me to meet their families which was a real honour, I went to a SA Deaf club while I was over there as well, again massively nerve wracking but I was with one of the teachers and he put me at ease! Honestly I could go on and on forever about how amazing it was… I am planning to go back there as soon as I can, and there is also a Deaf school in Nepal that I want to go out too!
When I got home, I took a job in a cafe in the interim of what I wanted to do next and one day we had a Deaf lady come in, the team told me she was a regular so they knew her order without having to communicate with her at all really, I just found that so sad so I made sure I took her drink over to her and actually have a conversation with her, her eyes lit up, she was amazed that someone could finally have a conversation with her and that right there is why I began learning in the first place, so no one ever has to feel isolated… the funny thing being each week after that she came back with more and more friends, knowing they had someone who they’d be able to communicate with really made a difference to them.
I am so proud that I’ve learnt BSL and can be just a little part of integrating the Deaf and hearing worlds, and just learning about Deaf culture and the language in general has been amazing for me and I can’t wait to go on and explore the world on Deaf school at a time, and complete more of my BSL levels!