As someone who is considered to be fairly multi-lingual (with English, Arabic and Spanish at various levels), I’d like to think that I understand the process and the benefits that comes with learning languages.
And that amazing feeling when you can converse in those languages too and connect with that person.
But as someone who is currently going through the process of learning British Sign Language via ‘My BSL Journey’, it requires a slightly different learning process but still comes with a rich learning experience and a fantastic skill to have.
And this is regardless of which one you want to focus on (BSL, ASL, Auslan, etc.).
So with the help of my experiences, plus from learning through other people, below are the benefits of learning sign languages for hearing people.
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- Gives Your Brain a Good Workout
- It’s Around Us All the Time
- Introduces You to a New Culture & Community
- Meet New People & Make New Friends
- Improves Your Peripheral Vision & Reaction Time
- Communicate with Babies
- Communicate with Animals
- Boosts Your Communication Skills
- Become Better at Spelling
- Helps You To Become a Better Listener
- You Become More Diverse
- Boosts Your Busiess & Creates More Opportunities
- Becomes Easier to Learn Another New Language
- Improves Your Body Language Skills
- Introduces You to the Issue of Deaf Awareness
- It Can Be Used All the Time
- Be Able to Help When Required
- It’s a Beautiful Language
1. Gives your brain a good workout
Learning any languages will help to stimulate your brain and give it a good workout. Sign languages are no different.
By that, I mean it can enhances its cognition, your creative thinking, brain functionality, memory, spatial awareness, mental rotation skills and more.
And just like when you ride a bicycle, you will never forget it.
2. It’s around us all the time
It is very difficult, perhaps impossible, to get an understanding of how many people communicates in their regional sign language.
But just because you don’t see it, it doesn’t mean that it’s not happening. Conversations conducted in sign languages are happening around us all the time.
According to Modern Language Association, American Sign Language is the 3rd most studied modern/foreign language at colleges and universities in the U.S. It is also the 3rd or 4th most popular language in the U.S. after English and Spanish.
I bet you’ve never thought about that sign language as being a “competition” to spoken languages.
The Deaf community sometimes goes about their business unnoticed, but it’s present throughtout the world and around you.
3. Introduces you to the deaf Culture and community
When you learn a new oral language, you get to learn a lot about the country, the culture and the people of the country of that particular language.
It’s like a by-product of learning a language.
It’s the same thing when it comes to learning sign language, as there is such a thing as a Deaf culture and Deaf community with its own rich history too.
4. Meet people and make new friends
And as part of being involved with different individual within the Deaf community, you can also build relationships with new people.
Failing that, if you are learning sign language with other people, you can learn together and get to know each other, online and offline.
Many online and offline courses and workshops tend to have a community within a dedicated Facebook Page so that you can share your experiences and journey together.
5. Improves your peripheral vision and reaction time
According to a study by University of Sheffield, sign language users have better peripheral vision and reaction time.
Because it’s so visual-focused, you are more alert and your “visual field response” will benefit from this, something which is is highly beneficial in many sports and even driving.
These same scientists have found that “deaf people have exceptional visual abilities that hearing adults do not”.
When speaking in sign language, it’s not just about looking at the hand gestures but it’s also about the facial expressions, lip reading and also observing the body language.
But you can’t watch that all at the same time, hence why your peripheral vision is important and is exercised frequently.
6. Communicate with babies
You can’t expect babies to talk to you, but it is easy to have some basic communications with the help of sign language.
And I’m not talking about having conversations about politics and whose turn is it to take out the trash. Rather, it’s about grasping some of the basic signs for everyday objects and concepts like “milk”, “hungry”, “sleepy”, “teddy bear”, “more”, “play”, etc.
Infants from the age of 6 months of age can begin to grasp the basic signs and research have shown that demonstrating basic signs to hearing babies can enhance their cognitive development, may lead to a richer, more positive interaction and bond between parent and child.
And many scientists believe that learning multiple languages at a young age will allow your brain to make room for more languages too.
7. Communicate with animals
Yes, you read that right. Animals!
Now let me clarify; I don’t meant that you can have conversation nor am I expecting you to teach your dog to sign to you (though, if you can do that, you’ll be rich).
Not many people realise that animals can also be deaf too. They’re not exactly going to tell you that either.
But many people have had success of teaching their dogs some basic sign languages and also build a bond with them at the same time.
This deaf dog and his owner, who is also deaf, have an indescribable bond 🐾 pic.twitter.com/VtSrZ8nLyG— NowThis (@nowthisnews) June 11, 2019
8. Boosts your communication skills
Naturally, if you are able to converse fluently in sign language, you have overcome the communication barrier.
But if you are still in the learning phase, you can still overcome the communication barrier, provided that you are patient.
One time I was communicating with a Deaf individual, I didn’t know what was the sign for “business” as I wanted to say that I run my own business when he asked me what do I do.
But since I didn’t know the sign, I asked by making sure he can lipread me and he then showed me the sign for “business”.
Even if that wasn’t possible, I would have either finger-spelled the word using the alphabets in BSL, or I would have written it down by phone or paper.
9. Become better at spelling
Did you know that you will become better at spelling if you know sign language?
Even though there is a sign for almost every single words, for those that doesn’t have a word, or perhaps you don’t know the words for it ( like my own personal example above), you will need to fingerspell it.
The same applies when introduced to a new name; be it of a person, location, product, brand, etc.
If there isn’t a sign for them or you don’t know, knowing the spelling is useful as you will need to fingerspell those words or at the very least, write them down.
10. Helps you to become a better listener
Speaking in sign language requires you to fully focus and concentrate on the person speaking to you. Not only eye contacts is very important but you can’t possibly sign words without physically looking at that word.
And it’s not just about the hand gestures, but it’s also to focus on their facial expressions and body movements that are as important in sign language as your hands are.
By constantly focusing on the person speaking to you in sign language, it will make you a better listener.
Because when speaking orally, it is easy to look elsewhere, use the phone while speaking, have your back towards them, etc.
And that’s just not nice, is it?
11. You become more diverse
Many businesses say that they are inclusive and diverse. But are they really?
If you have knowledge of sign language, you will reach and connection will extend to the Deaf community and it prepares you for handling the language and communication barriers.
It’s cliché, but sign language can help you and your workplace to become more diverse.
12. Boosts your business and creates more opportunities
The most obvious profession that allows you to use sign language regularly is to be an interpreter. However, even basic sign language can go a long way to serve your customers.
“I learned sign language because of passengers. Talking to someone in their language, you’re just able to make that connection.” – Courtney, United Flight Attendant.— United Airlines (@united) May 10, 2019
Little did she know the “epic” impact that’d have on @JohnMaucere, a Deaf comedian. https://t.co/c1IHvZ0rS6 pic.twitter.com/kdQHLcq9kj
And from learning sign languages, you will also learn basic etiquettes and some of them are mentioned above, like making good eye contacts, connecting with the Deaf culture and meeting new people.
Which is why businesses that focuses on the issue of deaf awareness are more likely to be able to connect with their d/Deaf customers and clients better.
13. Becomes easier to learn another sign language
I have always been told that I pick up languages very quickly.
I’m not sure if I buy the logic of “having the knack for it”, being talented or being a natural polyglot.
What I can definitely say from experience is that if you learn one new language, it is easier to learn another.
And if you already know know an extra language on top of your native language, then you may also have a headstart in adding more languages to your portfolio.
So why not sign language?
14. Improves your body language skills
As mentioned earlier, speaking in sign language is not just about using your hands and that’s it.
There are other factors, like making eye contacts, facial expressions, gestures and other aspects of body languages that are important in communicating.
By possessing these positive body languages, it will allow you to better connect with another person, regardless of whether it’s with a d/Deaf person or a hearing person.
Because the alternative is a negative body language, like looking at your phone or looking around you whilst talking to someone.
15. Introduces you to the issue of deaf awareness
Learning sign language will naturally connect you to d/Deaf people and will give you a better understanding of the challenges that we face.
And that naturally means you will learn more about deaf awareness and perhaps be interested in raising deaf awareness too.
16. It can be used all the time
Think about it. If you are in somewhere noisy, like a bar or a nightclub, you can communicate in sign language.
If you are far away from one another but still able to see each other, like if you are at a pub sitting down and wants to order for a friend on the other side of the room, you can sign away.
Or maybe you are scuba-diving underwater with a friend, you can just sign to each other.
Those days of needing to shout in your ear above a noisy environment is potentially over.
17. Be able to help when required
Due to various barriers in modern society, d/Deaf people faces daily challenges in the hearing world that we all live in.
So if you happen to be at a restaurant or a shop, and you spot a possible communication barrier between two people, you could assist.
If you are volunteering at an organisation and you spot someone who is alone because they are the only deaf person, you can make them feel comfortable.
Even in your own job, you can overcome any communication barriers with your d/Deaf customers by speaking in sign language.
18. It’s a beautiful language
It’s expressive. It’s fascinating. It’s unique. It’s graceful.
I have my own personal reasons on why it’s important to learn sign language. But looking at the points above, it is easy to see that there are many benefits from learning it anyway.
Too many have I seen comments online or heard from people who says that “I would love to learn sign language” or “I wish I can communicate in sign language”.
My advice? First, think about why you want to do it.
Second, if it’s for the right reasons and you are genuinely interested in it, then just do it. Find local classes or online courses from accredited and credible places, practice a lot and connect with d/Deaf people.
Like anything new, the first time you do anything, it will not be very good. But don’t worry, it happens to all of us, even for me.
If you have been thinking about learning sign languages, what is stopping you?
Let me know in the comment below.
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