Purpose of Study
Levesque et al. (2023) explains that language is a fundamental component of communication and the construction of meaning. It manifests through various codes and modalities, acting as a bridge that connects us to diverse communities and environments, thereby enriching our understanding of different languages and cultures. Language, as the authors emphasise, holds a central position in our lives. It serves as a conduit for engaging in social interactions, honing thinking skills, and facilitating the exchange of attitudes and ideas among individuals. In essence, language is a vital tool that not only enables communication but also plays a pivotal role in shaping our experiences and connections with the world around us.
Engaging in the learning of British Sign Language provides pupils with a unique opportunity to gain insights into BSL and the Deaf community, recognised as a linguistic and cultural minority. Through the delivery of the BSL Curriculum, pupils can develop the skills to convey a broad spectrum of emotions and ideas using a visual language. This educational experience not only introduces them to a new language but also equips them to engage fluently with sign language users, fostering a profound appreciation for cultural diversity and equality.
The Declaration on the Rights of Deaf Children (WFD, 2023) underscores the significance of inclusive education for all Deaf children. Article 5 highlights that every Deaf child has the right to receive quality, inclusive, and multilingual education, encompassing both their national sign language(s) and the national written language(s). Furthermore, Article 6 emphasises the right of all Deaf children to learn the linguistic identity and culture of the Deaf community. By aligning educational practices with these principles, we, as educators can contribute to the empowerment and cultural enrichment of all children, promoting inclusivity and respect for the Deaf community’s unique linguistic and cultural heritage.
Furthermore, the acquisition of BSL offers a range of benefits, including:
- Building blocks of language acquisition: Providing a solid foundation for understanding language structures.
- Knowing more than 1 language: Enhancing overall linguistic proficiency.
- Learn other languages: Facilitating the acquisition of additional languages.
- Communicate with each other: Promoting effective communication within the Deaf community.
- Learn Deaf culture and mannerisms: Gaining insights into the cultural aspects and communication styles of the Deaf community.
- Build friendships and relationships: Fostering connections and social bonds.
- Media, social media and the internet: Opening avenues for engagement with various forms of media and online content.
- Community: Contributing to a sense of belonging within the Deaf community.
- Education: Supporting educational pursuits and inclusive learning environments.
- Travel: Facilitating communication and cultural understanding while traveling.
- Career Prospects: Enhancing employment opportunities and cultural competence in professional settings.
These advantages collectively highlight the holistic benefits of learning BSL, extending beyond language proficiency to encompass cultural awareness, social connections, and expanded opportunities in various aspects of life.
Finally, with the global prevalence of multilingualism, with approximately two-thirds of all children now growing up in environments where they acquire two or more languages (Levesque et al., 2023). Through the inclusion of BSL in Deaf children, they can actively participate in the world of multilingualism.