My name is Esmé O’Mahony and I studied English Language and Linguistics. I took on British Sign Language Stage 1 in my second year of university and progressed to Stage 2 whilst in my final year. I’d always had a keen interest in languages and BSL was something I had always wanted to learn, especially as I felt taking a language module would complement my main degree.
I enjoyed every aspect of the BSL course – learning the vocabulary and signing with my peers was fun, but the most interesting thing for me was learning about Deaf culture. I found the content itself fascinating, especially having the lectures signed and interpreted. In my final year, I chose to write my dissertation on how deaf children are taught to read and from there, I pursued a career as an audiologist – something I would not have considered for a moment before taking the BSL module.
Something I was nervous of prior to starting class was the practical elements; I am an academic person and knowing that I would have to utilise my practical skills was daunting at first. Fortunately, there was a good balance between practical lessons and interpreted lectures so I was able to develop new skills and enjoy a format I was familiar with.
BSL classes were a refreshing change from my main degree because of the different methods of teaching and how the content was delivered. Several aspects of the course overlapped with my degree (for example, the study of linguistics within BSL), so it felt like I was aiding my learning rather than juggling extra work.
I learned so much more than the language in the BSL course; it has had a substantial impact on my life and introduced me to a rewarding career in audiology. I could not recommend the module highly enough for anyone who is thinking about taking it, the skills and knowledge I have gained and the passion the lecturers have for the module is invaluable.
In this post, we hear from Annie, who took IWLP British Sign Language (BSL) for two years.
I took BSL in the second and third year of my course. At the time, I was doing a three-year course of BA Archaeology.
Prior to my enrolment to the University of Reading, one of my friends was a Deaf colleague who was also volunteering in a café. Our communication was a bit haphazard to say the least, and for the good of all Deaf people I was to meet in the future he suggested that I go and learn sign language. I can only assume he got tired of me trying to mimic his hand gestures! As soon as I saw that British Sign Language was an option at UoR, I jumped at the chance to take part and learn the language.
I loved the interactive classes, as well as having the opportunity to learn more about Deaf culture. The lessons didn’t just teach me a language, but a new outlook on the community. I also thoroughly enjoyed learning how to sign. It was nice to have such a hands-on class (no pun intended) which was so friendly and accepting.
If you’re nervous about learning a language because you don’t have enough time alongside your main degree, I would strongly argue that you should go for it anyway. Aside from the numerous benefits of knowing another language, it’s also a welcome reprieve from your usual lectures. You may regret passing up the opportunity after you graduate!
All in all, learning BSL with the IWLP was one of the best decisions I made. It elevated my university experience and led to me meeting incredible people from all over the university. My lecturer, Ilan Dwek, was fantastic in engaging the class and all of us improved quickly as a result. I look forward to continuing my BSL language learning journey.
Hi! My name is Beth and I’m studying BA Film and Television. During my first year, I decided to take British Sign Language, as I wanted to learn a language alongside my main course. I was interested in taking sign language since I think it’s an important language that often gets neglected by most curriculums. Taking an IWLP module helped me gain confidence in socialising outside of my comfort zone, as I was communicating with staff and new peers through a different language I had no prior knowledge of. I thought it was also useful how we were taught about the culture as well as the language itself, meaning that we gained valuable insights into how Deaf people had come together to form a community.
At first I was nervous to start learning, as most of the tutors relied on BSL to communicate and I didn’t want to solely use English out of politeness; however, I gradually gained confidence signing due to the way it was taught. As I had to keep using BSL during class, it ensured I was practising constantly.
I truly believe I will be able to use the vocabulary and sign alphabet that I have learned in my module to help other Deaf people who may wish to communicate with another signer. Additionally, I plan to continue learning BSL in the future to meet new people and keep developing my knowledge of this unique language!