terptree: Why should our children learn Fingerspelling and British Sign Language at school?

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Monday, 2 September 2013

Why should our children learn Fingerspelling and British Sign Language at school?

I find the British Sign Language (BSL) fingerspelling system a great asset when spelling words in my everyday life.  My husband often asks me 'How do you spell.....?' and my answer is....

Hand moved up to a signing position and fingerspelling starts!  It happens without my brain even engaging and is now the best way for me to spell out the word that is needed.  Prior to learning BSL, I would go to write the word - but now it is much clearer in my visual space.

I am sure that many other BSL/English Interpreters and BSL learners have the same experience.

There is an interesting article from Gallaudet University on Deaf children learning to fingerspell early and how this can more them more proficient readers.

So, for me there is a direct benefit of using my second language in my everyday learning and education....this leads on to thinking about what the benefits to children may be if they had the opportunity to learn BSL at school.

I completely agree with Signature in their recent push to get BSL on the school curriculum and classed alongside other foreign languages.

BSL should most definitely be taught in schools, for many reasons:

  • Offering an excellent opportunity for children to become aware of deaf people
  • Children having the ability to learn a language that is used by the around 70,000 deaf people using BSL as their first or preferred language
  • Now that deaf children are often placed in mainstream learning environments, it is simply not enough for staff to be deaf aware - that deaf child is entitled to a peer group who they can communicate with
  • It has been proven to excel language acquisition and development and to further learning
  • As a visual language it offers a whole other conceptual way of learning
As a mother to a young boy - I have used the opportunity to teach him as many BSL signs as I possibly could and he now asks 'Mummy, what's the sign for .....?' etc which is amazing.

Watch Henry signing 'More orange Jessie' and 'More orange Henry' in this short video - where he is even using sign names too.


Let's push to give our children the opportunity to learn this amazing language in school!

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