Language & Communication14th February 2015

Integrating BSL into our Social Care Course

Young students get far more from their BSL course than they ever imagined

by Sally Coggan, Coleg Y Cymoedd, Student

Students of Health and Social Care Level 3 Extended Diploma (Year 2 at Coleg y Cymoedd) have been learning British Sign Language (BSL) as part of their course. Given as an option for an additional module by the course tutor, the 16 female students jumped at the chance to learn.

Learning BSL in college has not only been very interesting and enjoyable, but it has been a very eye opening experience for us all. We have been taking part in BSL classes in college over a ten-week period. We have had amazing guidance by our Deaf BSL tutor Sarah who has made the course both fun and practical. Within the first week of learning BSL we were able to sign our names to each other in class. We also picked up on other basic BSL signing in this time too, learing quickly from Sarah the importance of facial expression and use of the eyes. Looking back, it iss crazy on how much we learnt in such a small space of time.

During the next few weeks, we progressed on to harder BSL signing and started to have small conversations within the group, we signed things such as ‘Good morning, how are you?’ and asking how people were. We also progressed to other conversations such as, ‘What career would you like to go into?’ For the last couple of weeks we have been learning days of the week, months of the year, signing numbers in different contexts, foods, careers, family, and having short practise sessions on conversations we may need to have in our day-to-day life.

On one occasion, Sarah involved two of our group in some role play, where the girls were asked to enter a restaurant to enjoy an evening meal. Straight forward enough – except that the restaurant was owned and run by Deaf people who only used sign language when serving the customers. All of the staff were deaf and the customers, our two students, had to sign to make an order and so forth. This scenario proved quickly and effectively how it is hard for both deaf and hearing people to communicate if no-one makes adaptations and gives proper consideration to the other.

In this scenario, it was the hearing customers who were on the outside, isolated and it felt really awkward. However, it was obvious that it must be even harder and frustrating when the deaf person cannot talk or hear what others are saying and how excluded they may feel not just in going out for a meal, but in all aspects of life. A penny dropped for me and others in our class.

Taking part in the BSL course has given the whole class a practical social skill to put on their CV’s and something different to offer the employment market. We know 10 weeks wont make us experts, but it has been so fun and useful that the majority of the group want to continue with their learning, in order to gain more knowledge of BSL and to better themselves.

Asking one of the girls why she thought leaning BSL was important, she told me, “I think it is very important to learn BSL when studying health and social care as we will be working with a very diverse group of people. Once we have learnt BSL we can then communicate better with service users who have problems with their hearing. I am glad that we have learnt BSL and I will certainly use it in the future.”

The one thing the course has done is to give us confidence to try and communicate with a Deaf BSL user. Without the course, I think many of us would have avoided that situation. We area already doing that as all of the students do some part time work, and it has been amazing to listen to some of the girls coming back to college on a Monday talking about a conversation they have already had with a deaf person on the weekend. Whether that has been in a pub, a coffee shop or a supermarket, it’s amazing to think we have already learned enough to be able to do that.

We will all be able to now say that we know basic BSL and will be able to at least have some communication with any deaf BSL users we meet in our later careers.

As a group we have been very lucky to have such a patient, talented teacher who has been able to show us so much about BSL and the benefits our learning might have to the deaf community and others. We have learnt how hard it is for a deaf person to be able to have their opinion and be able to communicate with others. Many of us in this class are looking to go on to be professionals in the health and social care sector, and without a doubt, one day we will come across deaf people who we have to try and communicate with. Without us doing this 10-week course we wouldn’t know where to start. Sarah has given us a great opportunity to be able to gain understanding and learn basic BSL in order to be able to communicate, (even if it’s just a little bit) to the deaf community.  

Learning BSL has been a fun and enjoyable experience and we would recommend that anybody who gets the chance to take part to learn BSL should take full advantage of the opportunity.

Article by Sally Coggan, Coleg Y Cymoedd, Student

posted in Community / Language & Communication

14th February 2015