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New to the forum, new to learning BSL, have processing issues with spelling a bit like dyslexia, and wondered if anyone else shares my problem


Rei Kawa
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I feel a little disheartened today. I've always wanted to learn BSL and just started this week finally. I'm really struggling at the first hurdle. I had memorised the whole alphabet pretty seamlessly within an hour, and I just confuse the vowels which I've heard is pretty normal. After a few days of practising the alphabet I had moved on to a test portion of my course which spells out names you have to try to understand. 

I have an issue processing numbers, I cant remember them or relate them together well at all. And I also have an issue visualising the spelling of words in my head. I cannot spell out loud from memory (even with practice) I can feel the shape of the words leave my fingers as I type or write, I dont see them in my mind at all. I am not able to hear someone say P-E-N-C-I and know that L comes next unless I'm used to hearing that word being spelled out and its said in the exact same way (like in a cheer or a rap lyric for example. If I heard it spelled out every single day it might start to stick but it was have to have the same intonation). I will have forgotten how the word started by the time I got to the C in pencil, as I've not visualised the PEN as a thing yet, it was a jumble of a few letters that didnt form an image. 

If I lip read the name I feel like I'm cheating, but I'm so used to half lip reading all the time that its hard for me to turn that off and concentrate on how to put those nonsense letters you just spelled out in a coherent order and then voice it in my mind to create the right word. 

In my course I got completely stumped at one of the first examples on the test. The name he was spelling out was NOAH. I saw N, I saw O, then A and I just kept thinking the only name I can think of that starts NO is Norah, and there was no R next. A came next. I was wracking my brain trying to see a word that worked but all I could hear in my mind was Norah - nope doesnt work, Norah - nope I said already it doesnt work. When he ended with H I was like what on earth are you spelling dude?? what the hell name ends with AH -ohh its Noah. damn it.

Every single name he spelled just threw me unless I could get it from how he mouthed the name. I'm a bit disheartened that I will be properly set back by this. 

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Well, first of all, if it's only been a week for you, then it's only been a week. Language takes time to learn, and it's much easier to pick up as a young child than it is later on in life, however old you are, and whatever learning difficulties you may or may not have. The first thing you should probably do is forget the length of time it takes you to learn, remove that from the equation. Don't pressure yourself based on time. Take as much time as you need, even if it's weeks or months, no one's going to instantly have it down. It takes years to fully learn a language, and someone who has learning difficulties should never compare the rate they learn to the expected rate of people without, because all it does is stigmatise you.

 

I have a sight impairment, so if someone's signing too fast, I miss things, so that's a setback for me. I also have dyslexia and dyscalculia, and I have a sensory processing disorder (due to the sight impairment, no doubt, plus other health conditions) that makes me slightly delayed in processing what I'm seeing. However, I've been sticking with it, and bit by bit I'm picking it up. It gets easier the longer you do it, and as long as you don't pressure yourself by other people's learning standards, then there's no pressure. Remind yourself why it is you wanted to learn BSL in the first place, and if all the struggles you're having with it are going to be worth it in the long-run before giving it up as a bad job. If you don't practice, then you'll never learn.


Like with any learning difficulty, there are always work-arounds - you probably use many of them yourself without even realising it. One thing you can do is write the vowels on your fingers (a, e, i, o, u) and practice those to begin with. Once you've got into the habit of touching the right finger for the right vowel, then focus on trying to read them, so either do it in a mirror or have someone else do them so you can practice. Then slowly add in the rest. Maybe do A-E to begin with, and once you start to get it, add another five letters of the alphabet. Also, if you write the alphabet down in clear writing so you can remember the order as you go, it'll help, until you won't need it anymore - it'll help you with letters in general, as well as learning BSL, and hopefully having a positive impact on you with reading/writing the longer you stick to it and the more you practice. I as good as taught myself to read and writer because no one else had the patience to, I even had a teacher in primary school that used to hit me around the head when I got it wrong, which was all the time, so I gave up doing it their way and learnt my own. If I can do it, and I'm not the brightest, then anyone can, you just have to want it enough to keep motivated.

 

Others might have ways of learning letters and signs that could help, too, but the best way of learning anything is to figure out what works for you and what doesn't, and go from there, use whatever it takes to help you get going. It's not cheating. You can't cheat at learning something, you either learn or you don't, and using things like written alphabet or being decent at lip-reading to help isn't cheating.

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