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Why am I learning BSL? so this never happens again...


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I've had a couple of personal experiences that have brought me here.  After leaving school I worked as a teller in the local branch of a building society and one of the first customers I served was deaf.  They had some issue they needed resolving but the communication barrier meant neither I or anyone else in the branch could help him.  He got upset and very very angry.  He shouted incomprehensibly in my face and was signing frantically.  I actually thought he was going to get violent but things eventually calmed down and he left, his issue still unresolved.  Some of the staff were visibly upset by the incident.  I was too - but not upset for myself.  I was upset for him. I could only imagine the frustration he must have felt and how isolating the world must have been for him.  I took it upon myself at the time to learn at least something in BSL, no official courses, just a few things I picked up of the internet.  I learned how to fingerspell, some numbers, and and some basic greetings (hello/goodbye/please/thankyou) and practiced them in a mirror for weeks and weeks in the hope that if such an event ever happened again there would be someway I could help, even if I had to spell out every letter of the conversation.
A few years later I was doing a carboot sale and I saw the same man approaching my stall.  I don't think he recognised me and I continued to chat away to my wife as he browsed the items on my table.  When he picked up an item I was so nervous that our interaction would end the same way it had previously.  He asked my wife 'How much?' but she did not understand his speech just like I hadn't in our previous encounter.  Thankfully I had grasped what he had asked and was able to sign 'hello'. and '15' as I pointed to the item he was holding. (i can't recall what the item was now). He looked somewhat taken aback - he was expecting that.  His face lit up.
'8?' he signed back.  I was picking up on his facial expressions.
'12' I signed back.  I couldn't believe this.  I was now haggling in a language I'd never even used before.
'10' he signed back (I think - I wasn't sure on that one) but at this point I was so elated that I'd been able to make that connection with him that he could've taken that item for nothing and I wouldn't have cared.  I shook his hand on 10 and then as he handed over the cash and tucked the item under his arm I signed 'B-A-G'.  he gave me a thumbs up and I passed him a carrier bag for his purchase.  We exchanged a final sign of 'Thank you' followed by goodbye and I never saw him again.
Despite having to spend the rest of the day explaining to my wfie how and why I was able to have a conversation in sign language I was so immensely pleased with myself for what I had done.
So reason I'm now on here is because with the global pandemic and everyone wearing masks I imagine the world has become far more isolating for the Deaf.  It makes me think and feel how I did when that man left my branch all those years ago.  If I can do something to help that then I'll try me best to do it becuase when he slammed that door after our first encounter I never thought 'that went badly because he was deaf'  I thought 'that went badly because I can't sign'.  and I'm going to change that.

 

 

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Well done you!  I agree, the wearing of masks is increasingly isolating - Partially deaf myself, I rely heavily on lip reading and have tended to shy away from communicating with people as a result of masks.  If everyone had a modicum of sign language, think how daily interaction would be massively improved during social distancing and face masking!

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