Instead of talking about the benefits of learning sign languages and why you should learn it, I want to talk about my own personal reasons on why I want to learn sign language.
And in this case, it is British Sign Language, or BSL.
Because as much as everyone has their own reasons and there are many benefits to learning any languages in general let alone sign language, I have my reasons which I explain in this podcast.
You can listen to the podcast below or scroll down to read the transcript:
- My BSL Journey: a personal journey in learning British Sign Language
- The Benefits of Learning Sign Language
This is the Hear Me Out! [CC] podcast, a place to hear stories from the d/Deaf and hard of hearing people, and from your host, Ahmed Khalifa.
In case you haven’t noticed from my blog post and my videos, I’m currently learning British sign language or BSL and in this podcast instead of talking to you about the benefits of doing so and why you should learn sign language, whatever country that would be from.
I want to just explain briefly, just five points on why I want to learn sign language and why it’s important for me to learn sign language.
So let’s just get straight into it.
1. I’ve always loved languages
And number one is that I love languages in general and I think it’s a very important thing for anyone to do, but for me, I love it.
Every single language I think is beautiful in its own way. And I have a lot of history with languages too, because my first language was actually Arabic.
But my main language is English, but I had to learn it as well. I had to learn that one about eight, nine years old. I had to learn English and now it’s my main language.
And even after that I was going through a phase where I was obsessed with the Spanish culture and the language and the history and the people and I have lots of Spanish friends, so I devoted a lot of time to learn Spanish as well.
Then when I was learning German, because I was living in Berlin for a year, I wanted to just focus a lot of my time learning German as well.
But then it was during that point when I was learning German where I really, really struggled because it’s one thing to learn it, to read it, and to speak it, but for me to listen to another person speaking a different language that you are learning.
A different language that you are naturally fluent in, there is a struggle. Because not only, you’re going to have to work extra hard to listen to that person, but also you’re using extra brain power to translate whatever that person said in that language to whatever language that you are natural at as well.
So for example, if someone was speaking to me in Spanish, then I have to kind of quickly translate that in my head.
Then I have to listen to it extra carefully, extra hard, and then I will say out loud the reply, in this case Spanish, which means that I have to translate again.
It’s a lot of brain power and I struggled with that majorly.
And it’s one of the reasons why, when I was doing French oral exam in high school, instead of listening via the cassette tape, which was were used back then, I was exempt from that and I was allowed to have a one on one kind of exam with my French teacher.
She can say it to me, I can lip read her, and I can do the exam that way instead like everyone else, because I couldn’t hear the cassette very well at all.
So I love languages, but then I realised I don’t think I’ll ever be able to listen and speak the way I want to in terms of the older languages I speak, Spanish and French and German orderly. I can’t do that anymore.
And I struggled with that, especially when later on I want to tell her in German. So in that case I thought, why not have sign language and since I’m in the UK, British sign language makes a lot of sense to me.
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2. To future-proof myself
The second reason is because I want to future proof myself and what I mean by that is that I have no idea what’s going to happen to me in the long-term
There have been a few times in my life where my hearing have dipped and it might dip again in the future.
It might not. I just don’t know.
But then I thought, why wait until it happens? Why wait until, if it does happen, it’ll be too late for me to, not too late necessarily to do anything about it, but it’d be too late to be ready instantly, because you have to start from scratch about how can you overcome that? How can you learn sign language?
But I just thought, if I’m going to be able to learn that now, if it does happen to me in the future, then at least I have something to communicate to people with. I have that ready working for me, but at the same time, even if I don’t lose my hearing any further, so what?
I still have this language that I can still use to my benefit, to other people’s benefit, to maybe do something in my job in my career, maybe for social reasons. It’s there for me anyway.
So it doesn’t matter if it’s not going to be used, because I haven’t lost my hearing. Even if I haven’t lost my hearing further, at least I can still use it and there’s no harm in that at all.
3. Connect with the deaf community
The third reason is to better connect with the deaf community and I want to befriend them. I want to meet them more, I want to connect with them more.
I want to even help them maybe to overcome the communication barriers, if they require that help. I want to be able to do that.
And at the moment I’m not in a position where I’d be able to have a proper conversation with a person who is profoundly deaf or a person whose first language is, in this case, British Sign Language.
So I want to be able to do that. I want to be able to connect with as many people as I can if I go to certain events for example. But at the moment I just get by with the basic communication.
Then we get by with using maybe technology to help us communicate. For example, you write out on paper or on your phone and that works.
That works absolutely fine, but obviously there’s nothing that will beat the actual language itself when you’re talking to a d/Deaf person. So I would love to be able to do that in the long-term to better connect with the Deaf community as well.
4. Raise the topic of deaf awareness
It’s part of everything I’m doing with in terms of my content, the videos, the podcast, and the blog posts.
Part of all that is to raise the issue of deaf awareness and for me to be able to learn to speak in sign language and to use that, that is another way for me to raise the topic of deaf awareness to hearing people and this could be anything from making them aware that this is how it’s going to work.
For example, if you have an interpreter, then this is how they work and you have to focus on the d/Deaf person, and then how the culture works.
Or for example, maybe a few of them want to learn specific signs that is applicable for them in their job, in their business, in their area, in their lifestyle, whatever it is.
I would love to be able to provide them with at least some tips and advice, some signs to help them, some ways to make sure that they get the correct information as well.
Because the worst thing to do is to listen to anyone who just kind of learned it on a whim and just didn’t really look into it deeply and making sure that’s correct and all these kinds of things.
We always have to be careful about imposters online and that applies to whatever industry that you are in. The same kind of issue when it comes to making sure that you learn sign language from the correct people, the reputable people, the people who have credibility as well.
Of course, from those who are natural at it, will have the best way to do it, but sometimes it’s not possible.
So I’d love to be able to raise the topic of deaf awareness by learning sign language as well.
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5. To appreciate my deaf identity more
And then the final reason, which is a slightly more personal one is to appreciate my deaf identity more.
What I mean by that is, I have been stuck in this limbo. In the middle between the hearing world and the deaf world. And I’m kind of connected with both in a way, because I’m not profoundly deaf, but I’m not part of a hearing world, because I can’t hear like that.
However, I would never say that I am part of the deaf community, because it’s not my first language.
Sign language is not something that I connect with culturally. It’s not something that I have connection with certain people. I’m not profoundly deaf.
Whatever is, I’m not, in any of these categories all.
So it’s in the middle bit as well. But at the same time, part of the reason why I’m doing all this, not just for deaf awareness and sharing knowledge and experience, but also from a personal perspective is to kind of appreciate and perhaps cement my deaf identity a bit more as well.
I have always been stuck and confused and anxious and just don’t know what to do about who I am and where I stand.
To this day I still don’t know where I stand, but perhaps by learning sign language I can use that to my advantage and to my benefit by connecting with more people, but also by being also able to hear certain things, I’m able to also connect the bridge.
To kind of making sure that whatever barriers exist between the hearing world and d/Deaf world, maybe I can build a bridge between the two and just make it a smooth, easy process. Make it easy to connect, make it easy to overcome any barriers.
So maybe I can use that to my advantage. I’m just making sure that by learning style language, I can make that a part of that connection between the hearing world and a deaf world.
And also with my deaf identity as well.
So I hope that makes sense. And I guess from a personal perspective, everyone will have their own reason why they want to learn sign language and any languages in general, because it’s a benefit for anyone to learn languages full stop.
You should always consider learning languages.
And I think there is a thing that people say, that if your first language was English and because it’s the most popular language in the world, you can get by.
But there’s something special when you learn another language and you have a connection with another culture and you able to get deeper into that culture as well, like you were never able to do before.
And I’m speaking from experience when it come to learning Spanish or trying to learn German and the Arabic as well. I’m speaking from experience that with languages you have something special. It is really, really special.
So I commend a lot of people who are multilingual and fluent in many, many languages. It’s very, very admirable for you all.
So you should consider it anyway, but if you want to know the benefits of learning languages, well there is a blog post on the site and I’ll put the link in the show notes where you can learn about the benefits of learning sign language overall, not just why you should learn it or why I want to learn it.
So maybe that will also help you to think about learning sign language instead of the oral languages as well, because it’s special. It really is special. It really is beautiful.
And I’ve heard too many times people say, “I wish I know sign language.”
Well you don’t have to wish. Just go for it. There is nothing that is stopping you with technology out there, with courses and people and YouTube.
Obviously there are so many sign languages around the word, nothing is stopping you. You can do it if you really, really want to and I encourage you to do it as well.
I’ve learned something special from doing that and I’m so glad that I have this connection.
A little bit of connection with the d/Deaf world and Deaf community with sign language and part of me wish that I have started earlier, but don’t we all think like that?
“I wish I’d have started earlier”.
But it’s never too late. Just start now. What’s stopping you? If you really, really cared about it, then you would do something about it.
So if you ever think about learning sign language, then that is amazing thing to do, whichever country that you want to focus on.
It could be American Sign Language or Australian Sign Language, anywhere in Europe, anywhere in Asia and South America, whatever it is, it would be very, very beneficial.
Thank you for listening. I hope you enjoyed this episode and if you have, make sure you subscribe to the podcast and also share it with someone as well who would benefit from listening to this podcast as well.
That would be amazing for me to hear you do that because it really helps to again, raise the topic of deaf awareness.
In the meantime, I hope to speak to you again soon.
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