‘Sign language should be added to the national curriculum’

Our columnist argues that sign language should be added to the national curriculum.

Our columnist argues that sign language should be added to the national curriculum.

How this quote is true: 'Deaf people can do anything apart from hear.' We all come across some quotes and we pause for thought and then we forget about it.

Sign language classes.

Sign language classes. - Credit: Archant

However, this sums every individual deaf person, young and old, up. People perceive us to be naive, stupid and fragile, like a box full of precious china simply waiting to be rattled around and then dropped. Yet we are in the 21st century, where anything is possible.

Technology has developed, language has been opened and minds have been exposed. Voices have been given to those who choose to have one and acceptance has tided over to those who choose not to have a voice.

Since last month's article, I received an email from one of my readers speaking about the association with deaf identity and raised an excellent question: 'Why not introduce deaf identity as a part of the national curriculum in primary or secondary education?'

We have seen a little surge in the past 20 years of hearing people wanting to learn British Sign Language, either to head down in the professional career track of deaf relations such as interpreting or communication support workers or just for casual use to communicate with a deaf friend.

Should more people learn how to sign?

Should more people learn how to sign? - Credit: Archant

Statistics show that we come across a lot of deaf people in our services from hospitals to even administration, yet most people are left feeling embarrassed that they couldn't communicate with those deaf people after the encounter.

In the Welsh and Scottish national curriculum, Welsh and Gaelic is a major part of the education system and is used as a spoken language in their schools. Yet they are a language minority like British Sign Language and are recognised as an official language.

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Welsh, Gaelic and British Sign Language are almost identical to one other, yet British Sign Language is not included in England's school system. Deaf awareness, at least, is not even taught or from personal experience, encouraged by the educational institutions in England.

Unlike Welsh and Gaelic, which are taught for free in Wales and Scotland, to learn British Sign Language, you have to dish out hundreds of pounds to simply learn simple signs, and to continue into Level 2, 3 and 6, you have to shell out literally thousands.

This is exactly why people are so hesitant to embrace British Sign Language. Many say that the best way to learn sign is to try and communicate with a deaf person but after a while, they become accustomed to communicating in a different way – not fully BSL but not fully spoken.

A mixture of both, like flour and milk; it simply quite doesn't bake the cake that is BSL.

If we introduced BSL into the national curriculum, it would not just benefit the deaf people across the UK, but it would also greatly benefit you all.

BSL and deaf awareness would be used more and would introduce people to a new form of language rather than verbal – visual.

I remember reading something in a newspaper in relation to languages learned in classes across the UK – the language people most wanted to learn was British Sign Language, which ranked first above German, French, Spanish, Greek, Arabic and Italian. Quite right, of course, but then I am biased.

BSL is not a luxury like mature cheese and wine – you cannot simply put a price on it! It is a language, culture and identity like any other. People strive to learn the language but the hefty prices of learning it makes it pointless in the end.

However, if we include it in our national curriculum, along with French and German, then we are all given a chance to develop knowledge of it and if we want to take it further then the chance is right there to grab with both hands...literally!

So again, I raise the question sent to me by a reader, 'Why not introduce deaf identity as a part of the national curriculum in primary or secondary education?'

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