BBC Radio Humberside Interview about BSL

I made some notes for my interview. It is essentially a transcript – Dan

1. How easy would it be for everyone to learn some BSL?

Learning British Sign Language is as easy and difficult as it would be with any other language. It depends on how often you converse using Sign Language with someone who uses it regularly. Similarly to when you learn French, German or Spanish.

2. How beneficial would that be for people with hearing issues?

I am not someone who has lost hearing through my life. However, I am someone who advocates for british sign language and have supported a number of people who have lost their hearing. One of the things they struggle with is a loss of confidence in their ability to communicate in social situations whether 1 to 1 or a group situation. They are often socially isolated which can lead to mental health issues such as depression and can be grieving for what was lost.

Learning BSL and showing friends some phrases allows the person to build up their confidence.

3. Why hasn’t this happened before!?

Nistorically the records of British Sign Language are spotty as it is not a written language but it has been said to have used as early as the 16th Century. The earliest recorded instance is the 18th century.

However, since the Milan Conference of 1880, it was declared that oral education was the best form of education opposed to signed education. So as a result of that, sign language was banned in many places worldwide and this remained the case until the 1980s even the 1990s…and even now in some countries.

During the early to mid 1900s, there was a eugenics movement in many parts of the world which saw disabled/deaf/blind/neurodivergent people being institutionalised on the basis of their perceived differences and this was a massive set back to their human rights.

As a result of that, it has meant that education for those who are deaf or use sign language has been held back worldwide.

In 2003, BSL was recognised as an official language but does not have any legal backing in the same way as the Cornish or Welsh languages which have less speakers.

Many of the protections we perceive to have these days are flimsy and are being stripped back. I just hope that the BSL Act which is being argued in Parliament succeeds and that we see improved protection of the language.