Think Pieces

WHAT TAKING SIGN LANGUAGE CLASSES HAS TAUGHT ME SO FAR

A few months ago I enrolled in a community AUSLAN (Australian Sign Language) course through my local deaf services. For those who don’t know sign language is “a visual form of communication that uses hand, arm and body movements to convey meaning” – NDP.org

I have always wanted to learn sign language so I figured what better time than the present. It was an 8 week course taught by the sweetest teacher ever who herself was deaf and non verbal. Fun Fact: Not everyone who is deaf is non verbal, those who became deaf later on in their life are often able to still communicate through speaking with daily practice and sometimes speech therapy. They rely on lip reading to communicate and understand others without sign language. It was pretty special getting to learn from someone who relies on it day to day, as it showed me even more how important it is to learn sign language.

Unfortunately with my health declining I missed the last 3 weeks but I will be re-enrolling next year to finish the course so i can continue to the next course up. I absolutely love learning sign language and have learnt so many things through the course about AUSLAN (Australian Sign Language) but also about life/myself. So I thought I’d share a few with you…

~ If you like this post you may also enjoy “How To Be A Good & Inclusive Role Model Online” It is jammed pack with tips on how to make your social media and content you create more accessible to those with disabilities.

SIGN LANGUAGE & DEAF CULTURE

Up until I started my AUSLAN (Australian Sign Language) Classes I thought that sign language was just one language that was used all over the world. I had no idea that each countries sign language like each verbal language is its own. There is BSL (British Sign Language), ASL (American Sign Language), LSF (French Sign Language), NZSL ( New Zealand Sign Language) and so much more, it’s actually estimated that there are 130 sign languages around the world. Some signs are similar in different languages, where as others are completely different. For example in American Sign Language they finger spell the alphabet using only one hand, verses Australian Sign Language uses both. AUSLAN (Australian Sign Language) first evolved from BSL (British Sign Language) and has been influenced by other signed languages overtime. In Australia there is also Indigenous Deaf Sign, these signs are less obvious as unlike AUSLAN they aren’t based on what something looks like. Instead their signs are more culturally bound as they are some of the oldest languages in the world.

Deaf Culture is also different to those with hearing, they have behaviours of communication that would be considered rude and vice versa with hearing peoples behaviours. Things like eye contact, distance in physical proximity and directness are incredibly important for communication. Also light touch on the shoulder or thumping on tables or floors are except able to get others attention. As calling or yelling someone’s name (if there is distance of course) to get their attention is acceptable for those with hearing.

HOW CALMING SILENCE CAN BE

One of the biggest things I learnt in the first class was how calming silence is and that I actually don’t always have to fill the space. I’ve always been a massive chatter box, you know if I’m not feeling well or if somethings up because thats the only time I’m quite haha. I hate awkward moments of silence and with my family situation I quickly learnt that if I was always talking no one could get in any arguments. So I always felt the need to fill any silence with talking and I am always on edge because of that. After my first class I felt the calmest I had in so long, the 2 hours of silence was amazing! It also showed me I don’t actually need background noise, to listen to music, videos or podcasts to be productive. 90% of the time I actually do my best work in silence and I only now use background noise when i feel myself getting easily distracted

THE IMPORTANCE OF INCLUSIVITY & ACCESSIBILITY

Attending the classes opened my eyes to my privilege as a person with hearing. I can easily communicate my thoughts and needs with others within a few seconds and they will be able to understand me. But those who are deaf or hard of hearing don’t have that luxury and can often feel isolated from society. As most people don’t even know basic AUSLAN or are even taught how to communicate with those who are deaf or hard of hearing without sign language, as not all in the deaf community use AUSLAN. Sign Language should be a mandatory class at school along with English, Maths and Science but it isn’t just yet. So its up to us to educate ourselves, even if its just learning the basics of finger spelling and introducing ourselves. Or why not get creative and take it even futhur by learning to sign sing your favourite song? There are plently of tutorials on YouTube for all different sign langauges. By doing this we can make the world just that bit more inclusive and accessible for the deaf community.

I NEED TO BE KINDER TO MYSELF

I’m definitely guilty of being my own worst critic and I know I’m not alone in this. I struggled to keep up sometimes with the rest of the class because of my injury (from the horse accident). What my eyes see and my brain receives are two different things. So I get my left and rights confused very easily, I have an extremely hard time remembering things and it takes me a bit longer to pick up on things. I felt embarrassed because I’d get confused easily or I was constantly having to get my classmates to repeat what they were signing, because it was too quick for my brain to register. I felt like I complete failure until I got my Mum to test me using my book and I realised how much I did actually know. I was comparing myself to other people who were in a completely different situation to me. It helped even more when I went to my local climate strike and saw that they had an AUSLAN (Australian Sign Language) Interpreter there. The Interpreter she was going only a tiny bit faster than I sign and I was actually able to recognise some of the signs she was using. The moral of the story with this is to take your time with things and celebrate your own success don’t compare your success to others.

Are you interested in learning AUSLAN? Check out the links below for all the Aussie state deaf services:

  • ~ Deaf Services – Queensland
  • ~ Deaf NT – Northern Territory
  • ~ WA Deaf Society – Western Australia
  • ~ Deaf Can:Do – South Australia
  • ~ The Deaf Society – New South Wales
  • ~ Vicdeaf – Victoria
  • ~ Tasdeaf – Tasmania
  • – Have you ever taken sign language classes? Or are you interested in taking them? Comment down below, I’d love to know! Xx

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