Yesterday I finally finished the British Sign Language (BSL) course I’ve been working on for the past year – if other things didn’t keep distracting me I would have finished it sooner. The course consists of just seven unit but manages to fit quite a lot in them, including numbers, colours, time, money, describing people, tenses, hobbies and interests, and food and drink. It also shows you how to construct sentences, and provides background information about sign language and the deaf community. I’ve found it fascinating and would like to learn more. Unfortunately there aren’t any sign language courses available in this area, but I do have a few books on BSL and a CD-ROM.
BSL is a bit simliar to Chinese languages in terms of structure – eg it’s an isolating language which uses time expressions to indicate when things happen rather than conjugating verbs. So you sign things like “Yesterday I eat cake” or “This morning I go to work”. Unlike Chinese or other spoken languages, sign languages can modify signs (words) to add nuances to their meanings. The amount of movement in a sign might be increased and/or its direction changed: for example instead of signing the equivalent of “she’s jumping high” you could sign “she’s jumping” with the sign for jump going higher than usual. Or if you’re describing someone’s hair you can modify the sign for hair to indicate whether it’s straight, curly, long or short hair.
One thing I plan to do with BSL is to link signs to words in the languages I’m learning. This will give me something extra to help me remember the words, and will help me to link words in different languages without using English. I think the physical nature of signs helps me remember them better than spoken words – my auditory memory is good, but my physical memory seems even better.
Have you studied or are you studying a sign language?