From 2012, undergraduate students at Heriot-Watt will be presented with an opportunity never before available in the UK: to study British Sign Language (BSL) in a Department specialising in translation and interpreting. (Click here for details.)
Why might you find this exciting? Here are six good reasons.
1. It’s cool to sign. Don’t believe me? Checkout the official video of Ed Sheeran’s recent track ‘You need me, I don’t need you’ . Nuff style for you?
2. BSL will expand your mind. You think you know something about how languages work? Until you can sign, your knowledge is sadly limited. Dozens of fine studies now underpin this claim: if you want to read more, you could start with Oliver Sacks’ illuminating and readable Seeing Voices.
3. The world creates enough barriers for Deaf people: you can be part of the solution. No-one even thought BSL was a language until the 1970s. Eminent linguist Tove Skutnabb-Kangas actually describes the oppression of sign languages as “genocide”. Imagine having your language dismissed every day as empty nonsense by 99% of the population; your signing hands tied to your school chair; your children denied the chance to be educated in a language they could understand. Join the 1%: it’s a matter of social justice.
4. BSL is one of this country’s indigenous natural languages. No, it’s not ‘English-on-the-hands’ – it is oh so very different. Yes, it has a history across the centuries. No, it’s not artificial. Yes, there are different sign languages in different countries. No, you can’t write it down for everyday purposes – but it has its own heritage of signed literature. And yes, it’s alive and kicking: there are thousands and thousands of Deaf (and hearing) people who use it every day of their lives.
5. Imagine a language that you get right inside. Until you learn it, it’s hard to describe the feeling: but when you use BSL, you don’t just speak the words – you embody them, you become them, you are them. Sign languages can say anything a spoken language can – from translations of Shakespeare to the speeches of Aung San Suu Kyi – and then some. After all, in which spoken language can you say two words at once? But signers can use their two hands to do just this…
6. Signing travels better than speech. When FIFA wanted to give Deaf people around the world access to match reports, it was able to produce them in a way that reached out to fans of all nations. What’s going on there? Well, further research is needed – but it’s undeniable that Deaf people enjoy a clear advantage in international encounters.
So, take a good look at our range of courses here and see what sign language could do for you.