Sign language is the most common medium used by deaf individuals to communicate on a daily basis. Source: Sign Solutions
The beauty of silence is far more admirable than being portrayed in today’s world. Sign language is a beautiful language that incorporates non-verbal communication at its best. Well, it does not receive the same amount of attention as other languages as it is not widely used in the community.
Arguably, sign language should be included as an extra curriculum subject in schools! Ignorance is never bliss when it comes to this context! People face difficulties communicating with individuals with hearing and speech impairments daily.
Situations as such can be avoided if we have access to their world of communication through sign language. The deaf and mute communities often face discrimination over their incapabilities to converse with the abled ones. But this is solely due to a lack of mindfulness. Thus, we highly recommend learning sign language and here is why.
Become Better At Spelling
Yes, it is true! You can improve your spelling skills if you learn sign language. The basics of learning a new language are alphabets and numbers. The same applies to sign language too. Fingerspelling comes in handy when you can’t sign a word properly. Hence, mastering how to sign alphabets effortlessly is the key to bettering your spelling.
Naturally, the more you fingerspell, the better you get at general spelling. In addition to that, fingerspelling also correlates to more vital reading skills. In short, a good fingerspeller is a good reader.
Alphabets in sign language. Source: Newsweek
Improves Peripheral Vision And Reaction Time
Sign language is super focused on visuals, whether hand gestures, lip-reading, fingerspelling or even body language; visuals are essential to successful sign language-based communication.
Individuals tend to pay more attention to their peripheral vision while speaking in sign language. This directly gives them the access to have a broader vision field which helps in quick responses. Of course, this takes a good course of time to expertise in.
Apart from that, according to a study carried by University of Sheffield, it is proven that deaf people possess exceptional visual abilities compared to the ones who can hear. Sign language also helps in birthing good listeners.
We tend to get easily distracted in conversation. But this can’t happen in a sign language conversation because it needs your 100% concentration on the opponent to decode the message correctly. This will eventually make you a better listener at the end of the day. So, if exercised frequently, sign language might be a portal for you to get the closest you can to being Superman.
Sign Exposes A New Culture
Learning new languages of different countries often introduces one to the culture itself. The same applies to sign language. Learning it gives you a knowledgeable exposure to the Deaf Culture and the Deaf Community. Needless to say, learning sign language will automatically create an understanding bond between you and deaf people.
Learning new cultures also aids in making new friends. Especially in this scenario, you would be able to expand your friend circle into a differently-abled community. In a way, kill off the stereotypes and discriminations weighed on them.
A Story To Be Shared
Santa Bahadur and his mother, Dhan Maya.
Santa Bahadur is an arts graduate from Limkokwing University, and he is currently working as an interior designer. He held onto the light of his life, mother, and he pulled it through the hardest of the days and sweetest of the moments!
As a person who aspires to be a proud example for the Deaf community, Santa Bahadur has always wanted to be a living statement for those who share the same struggles with him. He is extremely passionate about proving to his peers that adapting to different environments in the hearing world is always possible!
Growing up, Santa Bahadur had an amazing relationship with his mother. “It was heartbreaking at first that I did not find out about it earlier, but I accepted the situation eventually,” said his mother. For Santa Bahadur himself, he was only aware of his hearing impairment until he attended Special School at Kelana Jaya.
Since then, he has invested in learning sign language to capture his communication abilities. “My real language is Sign Language,” he emphasizes proudly. Adaptation was the key to the growth of Santa Bahadur. He learned that the accessibilities provided to a differently-abled person could only do so much.
Hence, he adapted to the world of hearing and started focussing on his strengths rather than his disability. Acceptance was also the pushing factor that constantly kept Santa Bahadur from achieving more incredible things in life. “Thanks to God, it didn’t take long to accept my truth when I had the support of family and friends,” he explained.
Love is a language of its own.
Life was not always easy for Santa Bahadur and his mother, Dhan Maya. They both equally faced many challenges to even stay on the same page as communication was challenging to cultivate.
“One of the struggles was that he was a playful child and was always hyper, so it was hard to have him focus on us,” said Dhan Maya. The bridge that connects the love of a mother and son is the power of Sign Language. “I had to learn sign language at an advanced level as I signed up as a teacher in a deaf school,” she said.
Sign language became the most important medium in their mother and son relationship as it was the only way they were able to understand each other. On top of that, learning Sign language eventually opened a portal for Dhan Maya to be informed of his needs and wants.
As swiftly as the communication between the mother and the son was, things were different for Santa Bahadur when he had to leave the house to start his own journey. “Remembering that when I was placed at a photography service company to complete my internship during my degree studies, I wasn’t able to get involved well with a team that doesn’t know sign language,” he mentioned weight heartedly.
“It was difficult to express myself, I could not show my knowledge and express myself fully as my colleagues didn’t understand sign language. Due to the communication barrier, I ended up being titled as a ‘cheap staff’ and was forced only to obey my senior’s orders blindly.” he shared disappointedly.
This was one of the incidents that pushed Santa Bahadur to work his fingers to the bone, resulting in him working happily in the place that sees him for who he is and not being discriminated against for his disabilities. Determination, hope, optimism, and of course, his mother’s love made him achieve the silver lining that unlocked his full potential as a person.
“My parents have always been there to support all my journeys and accepted my identity with love. Without them, I wouldn’t have made it to where I am standing now. It’s uncountable how thankful I am for this!” Santa Bahadur expressed gratefully.
A Piece Of Mind
“I think more people should learn sign language as it gives you a different perspective of life and you can make more friends and also you can meet new people,” said Dhan Maya.
Santa Bahadur also strongly supports parents with differently-abled children to do enough research and get the right information for their deaf kids’ futures. He also encourages the parents to learn sign language to avoid language deprivation.
He added, “It’s important that parents should be able to communicate with deaf kids and be able to develop efficient information sharing. It helps to develop their mind, the way they respond to the environment.”
“Sign language is a language for everyone, not for Deaf people only. It’s fun to learn even if you are not Deaf.”
‘The Language More Beautiful Than Words’
Extracted from BBC News.
While exploring the story of Santa Bahadur, we also came across another interesting individual story that also revolved around the art of sign language. It was published on the online platform for BBC.
William Wager and his son, Barnaby. Source: BBC News
William Wager, a deaf individual, shared his experiences learning sign language and how it helped him build a happy family. William Wager was sent to a mainstream school where his peers are hearing-abled individuals. He managed to get by his days in school by depending on speaking and lip-reading.
Things changed in his early 20s as he started getting more exposure to the deaf world. He faced difficulties communicating in sign language as he was not well taught in that aspect. He struggles to get his point across in a conversation with other deaf individuals as lip-reading wasn’t the dominant way of communication, but sign language was.
As days passed by, on one fine Friday evening, he came across a beautiful blonde girl, Kathy, in a pub in Vitoria, and a conversation sparked between them. They started spending days together as Kathy also taught him how to sign the basics of words. Eventually, their relationship grew stronger.
A specific incident was highlighted in the BBC News article, which we believe was almost a turning point in William Wager’s life. William Wager was offered a job opportunity making deaf information videos for the British Deaf Association. “The deaf interviewer would sign his questions to me and make eye contact. I replied in speech. The interpreter would start to translate my answers into sign language, and the deaf man looked away from me to the interpreter,” he mentioned.
The interview was described as a painful experience as every time they broke eye contact, the conversation stopped. But he finally got the job. “On my first day, he took me upstairs to my desk and pointed to my computer, then to my phone. I shook my head in bewilderment. He had assumed that because I didn’t sign, I had enough hearing to use the phone”, he said. William Wager was then sent to sign up for level one sign language classes.
At first, his deaf teacher was so confused by his inability to sign. “As we painstakingly finger-spelled our names to one another, I felt like an idiot. But I learned about storytelling, grammar, signs for the weather, how to hold a basic conversation and, finally, things clicked”, he added.
“There is no downside to learning sign language, whether you’re deaf or hearing. It enriches your life and makes you a better communicator. It has a beauty and grace that cannot be put into words”, he said.
He then happily married Kathy and has a hearing son, Barnaby. He wishes that his son will be able to learn sign language at school. He saddens him that it was too late for him when he started indulging himself in the beauty of the language, but he hopes that other deaf children will be given the opportunity that he wasn’t given when he was young.
“Sign language will never be my first language, but I’m so glad I have access to it.”