Sign of the Times
This week is Learn to Sign Week so BBC Leicester's Rupal Rajani thought getting to grips with sign language was a highly appropriate challenge to take on. Listen as she speaks to to Graig Crowley from Action Deafness.
"It's a great opportunity and a great challenge," enthused Craig. "It's like learning a new language."
Rupal sounded less sure. How much of a language can you learn in a week?
But Craig was determined to convince her: "Sign language is a way of life. It's about two way communication. It has its own sentence structure. It has its own grammar."
British Sign Language
Each country has its own language and in the UK deaf people use British Sign Language (BSL).
An estimated 50,000 deaf people in the UK use BSL to communicate and over the last twenty years it has gained so much popularity that even many hearing people are now learning it too.
Listen: Rupal Learns About Signing
People who use BSL also use finger-spelling. Some words, such as names of people and places, are spelt out with the fingers. However this alone is not a language.
Rupal wondered whether signing has its own regional variations like the spoken language. Craig said this was the case.
Although there are many signs that are recognised throughout the British Isles you can tell if someone learnt signing in Wales, Ireland, Scotland. There are, indeed, signing "accents".
Different countries have different structures and signs. However, there is something called Universal Sign Variation. "This is not a true language but it gives people the gist of what you are talking about," says Craig.
BSL was recognised as a true language in 2003 and although this gave signing a great boost Craig says there are still issues connected with the language.
Craig says: "The equality issue is an ongoing issue. Deaf people still face a battle to get access to communication... We are trying to raise awareness," says Craig
We, in this context, means the organisation Action Deafness.
Learn to Sign Week
Action Deafness is supporting Learn to Sign Week which runs from 06 to 12 October along with a number of other organisations.
The campaign which is being promoted throughout the United Kingdom, aims to encourage the public to join in, enjoy themselves and learn British Sign Language.
30, 000 hearing people of all ages are already learning BSL and Rupal is joining the throng.
We will follow her progress with great interest!
last updated: 07/10/2008 at 16:47