Why I started learning British Sign Language at fifty
When Accord Regional Officer Russell Waterhouse was dealing with a union member who used British Sign Language (BSL), he wished he was able to communicate with them directly rather than having to write things down. That sparked an interest in the language and motivated Russell to pursue it further.
“It’s like when you hear a song once and then start hearing it all the time,” he explains. “I just had my eyes opened and I suddenly noticed sign being used in my gym, in the town, in a pub. And I wanted to do something with it.”
Now, with support from Accord, Russell has completed a Level One qualification in BSL at Bristol College and is starting his Level Two course in the autumn.
As well as learning the essentials of BSL, which has a different grammatical structure to spoken English, the course has also given Russell a new perspective on how people who are Deaf or have hearing impairments move through the world. He also highlights that since many of us find our hearing deteriorating as we get older, it’s an advantage to already have some knowledge of BSL.
Russell hopes that what he’s learned will be useful in the course of his work. He’d like to be available to directly support members and to help Accord understand the challenges that members who are Deaf or have hearing impairments might face. But he was also eager to learn something new in the year he turned fifty.
“I got so much more from it than I ever imagined,’ he says. “And that’s because of the really rich and diverse people that were doing the course. They had their different reasons, different ages, different identities, languages and experiences. And spending time in that environment with people that were all very keen to do something was very uplifting.”
Accord's lifelong learning fund
Has Russell’s story inspired you to try something new? Accord’s Lifelong Learning Fund provides support to members who want to learn new skills, from flower arranging to master’s degrees.