The 5 A Day Rule to Learning Sign Language
Whether you have hearing loss yourself, want to communicate with someone who uses sign language or improve access to your business, the basics are really easy to learn. Not only that but it’s also very rewarding to learn and can open up lots of opportunities for you.
Sign language is a visual language that uses gestures, body language and facial expressions to communicate. Just like spoken English, it has common elements that have regional variations, so signs such as numbers can vary slightly between different regions, this is one way someone using sign language can tell which part of the country you live.
There are many forms of sign language training, such as books, DVDs, classes and online courses. Attending a sign language class is a great chance to interact with others at a similar level to you and gives you the chance to practice what you’re learning. Most people find this the most effective way to learn sign language. The Deaf community, organisations and charities recommend that sign language is taught by a deaf person whose first language is BSL. This is the best way to learn about structure, appropriate hand shapes, etiquette, lip patterns and facial expressions. Whatever method you decide to use, it is important you set aside time to practice some signs every day, even as little as 15 minutes a day will improve your vocabulary by at least 5 signs a day. The best way to get your “5 a day” is to practice with a friend or colleague and ask each other questions about hobbies, work and family.
A good sign language dictionary may also be useful to look up any words that you’re unsure about. Learning sign language will also improve your general communication skills and attending a class with people at the same level as you will help increase your confidence in a constructive environment. Sign language is all about two-way communication and practicing with others is the best way to learn both productive and receptive skills. A class will also boost your confidence and allow you to share learning techniques, such as facial expressions, hand shape, signing space, gestures and etiquette. You will also learn coping strategies, such as how to rephrase something if who you’re signing to doesn’t understand. You will also learn tips on how to interact with people in the real world for example, that you should look at people’s faces rather than just their hands. As well as the resources available to you in your local area, online and in shops – there are other ways that you can help yourself to remember different signs. One way is to sketch a sign in a way that you understand, label it and stick it on your fridge. Other ways are to use BSL alphabet charts, cards or bookmarks. If you have access to the internet look for videos on sites such as You Tube for sign singing, this is great fun to watch and will help you pick up new signs quickly.
Although the basics are easy to learn, learning BSL properly can take many years to master and will at times be challenging but the rewards are really worth the effort. BSL is rich and vivid language that will help improve your communication skills and open up new, exciting opportunities – so stick with it and remember the 5 a day rule!
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