What might happen to the UK, if children were encouraged to learn BSL at school – lessons from the US.

This was originally posted by John Walker on Facebook, and is reproduced here by permission. John’s responding to a question about how introducing a GSCE in British Sign Language might affect the lives of Deaf people in the UK, comparing the UK to the US, where students can take ASL as a ‘foreign’ language option.

Over the last two weeks, I spent some time in the States and I have experienced, first hand, how this resource [the GSCE in BSL] will change the lives of Deaf and hard of hearing people. In America, children can learn ASL. In two weeks, here is what I encountered:

  1. Problems to buy a train ticket, station security explained how in ASL.
  2. Restaurant manager took us to our table, I asked, in ASL, to put the ice hockey match on the TV screen and she understood.
  3. I made an order at a noodle bar in ASL, she understood.
  4. I asked an attendant about a pair of boots, she tried to persuade me to look at their on-line collection in ASL. I said no as I was only there for 24 hours.
  5. I tried to order an espresso in ASL and someone repeated my order in English (after asking first).
  6. I was in a queue to rearrange my flight, the guy next to me repeated, in ASL, the flights that were just about to depart and whether I should jump the queue.
  7. A woman asked, in ASL, if I could swap my seat with her newly-wed husband as they wanted to be together for the flight – I said no problem.
  8. I nervously approached the USA immigration official for a passport check and ’50 questions’; when I introduce myself, he said his sign name was “EJ” and asked if I was bringing apples into the country.

In these situations, one would never find an ASL/English interpreter, and in these situations, I am treated as a human being.

The BSL GCSE project is being proposed by Signature, and here’s where you can find more information and a link to vote for it.

(Note – voting for this closed on the 5th May. News of whether the campaign reached the semi finals of the competition on the 19th May – you can follow the link and register for news.)