Home>Community>The truth about Sign Language

The truth about Sign Language

Wednesday 22 December in Community

Every winter our TV screens are graced with the hit BBC entertainment show Strictly Come Dancing – busting with its glamour, glitz and impressive lineup of celebrities. One of this year’s popular contestants is EastEnders actress Rose Ayling-Ellis who brings an important tone to the competition, as the first deaf competitor to appear on the show since it began in 2004.

We spoke to Chief Executive Officer of the Manx Deaf Society, Lucy Buxton, to take a closer look at this inclusive language.

Why is sign language so important in our community?

If you think of a time when you’ve visited a foreign country and didn’t know or understand the local language, you can begin to understand what life can be like for many Deaf people. Communication is what connects people, it’s how we express ourselves. Without access to communication people become isolated and withdrawn impacting mental health.

British Sign Language (BSL) is used by people who do not use spoken English in order to be able to communicate. It’s a language in its own right and has its own grammar and syntax.

Following the Strictly Come Dancing journey of Rose – have there been more people wanting to learn sign language?

In the UK there has been a significant increase in people wanting to learn BSL, which is being echoed here. Rose has shone a light and raised huge awareness into the world of Deaf people through her appearances on Strictly Come Dancing. Rose is giving many young Deaf people the confidence to believe in themselves. She herself has said that being Deaf isn’t a problem, the problem is how society treats her.

Are there many forms of sign language?

There are over 138 different sign languages being used around the world. Within BSL there are also regional variations . For example a bread roll (barm cake, cob, bap, batch etc.) Like English, BSL is also evolving, new signs come into existence regularly like the necessity to add a sign for coronavirus.

Is sign language something you believe should be taught in schools more?

I would love to see BSL being taught in all schools. Signalong is taught in some schools, it’s another sign-based form of communication which was developed for people with learning difficulties.

When was sign language used on the Island?

BSL has been used by people in the Island for more than 100 years. There are films of Deaf people visiting the Island to watch the TT in the 1920s and having conversations using signing and fingerspelling.

We still work with members of the Island’s Deaf community to develop signs for some of the corners on the TT course so that on Senior Race Day our members can sit in the Grandstand and our interpreter interpret the radio commentary. It’s great to see them get equal access to the racing in real time, rather than having to rely on information from friends and family after the event.

How can people get involved?

We hold regular classes for people to come to hosted by myself and Katie Johnson. We meet most Saturday evenings, and once a month we host ‘Deaf Club On The Road’ – where we go out and have a meal together and do something fun.

What’s the best thing about using sign language?

Many people speak about how expressive the language is and how beautiful it looks and that is true, but for me, it gives a voice to people who might otherwise not be heard.

Anyone interested in learning sign language or more about the Manx Deaf Society can email Lucy at [email protected] and ask to be added to the mailing list for future courses

Islandlife.im Services

With Us!
Follow Us!