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Learner gains skills for life studying British Sign Language

Xander, 25, is one of our learners on our British Sign Language course.  

Xander had always wanted to study BSL, however they did not offer it at his school, college, or university. Xander studied Motion Design at Cardiff University. Since graduating, he discovered the Skills & Learning course at the new Poole Adult Learning Centre. Since signing up, Xander has learnt lots about sign language including the alphabet and basic words and is now moving on to conversation. 

His passion for BSL started when he was volunteering at Montacute school, where he spoke with many students using Makaton. One of his goals is to raise awareness of the deaf community and be able to communicate with others, even if it’s just a short introduction. Xander also wants to have a new way to communicate himself, as when struggling with anxiety and depression it can sometimes be difficult to communicate verbally. BSL is an amazing tool for non-verbal communication. 

“If you ever meet a deaf person, to just be able to say their name or spell to them will make a huge difference in how they feel.” 

When Xander started the course, the class started by learning the alphabet, a key pillar in BSL. They then moved on to names and introductions with eachother including basic greetings. Now, they are doing practice scenarios in pairs and groups to gain more confidence and understanding of how context impacts the way we communicate.  

Xander said being able to communicate even just on a basic level in BSL is “like a barrier lifted”.  

Inspiring others 

Xander’s dad, Steve also signed up to the course. He did so not just to support his son, but also to gain communication skills to be able to speak more with the deaf community.  

Steve explained that many years ago, he worked with a colleague who was deaf. He said he always wanted to speak with him, but just didn’t know how. One of his other colleagues learnt the alphabet in sign language in order to communicate with their team member. This was very kind of his coworker, and meant they could communicate as a team more. TSince seeing this, Steve has always felt he wanted to learn BSL. To enrol with his son and learn together was a great opportunity.  

In April 2022, British Sign Language became recognised as a language in it’s own right. This new legislation means that people across the world can now access BSL much easier. Not only does it help BSL speakers feel more recognised, it also opens up new opportunities. This increased access will help not just deaf people, but also people with physical disabilities, additional needs, and anyone who may prefer non-verbal communication.  

Watch Xander and Nikos converse in the classroom here!

Teaching in class 

Xander explained that at school, languages were taught with repetition. He explained how at Skills & Learning it has been different – a much more collaborative learning approach has helped him greatly. He thanked Nikos for adapting this other teaching style as it more engaging. 

BSL tutor, Nikos, explained he adapts this learning approach in order to create more independent learning and collaboration in the class. When Nikos was at school it was also taught with repetition, and he also found this difficult. Nikos has used his collaborative teaching in secondary schools and adult education since 2012. Nikos also teaches BSL to children and adults with additional needs such as Autism, who prefer non-verbal communication such as Makaton, BSL or SSE as it’s less overstimulating. 

Nikos said – “Along with many of my tutees- in our shared classroom, Xander has formed a respected role with his peers, by continually sharing his (newly found) absorbed knowledge and skills of British Sign Language: to support and stretch others in a healthy and safe manner – well done.  I particularly like how Xander associates his pragmatic knowledge of certain hand shapes of BSL, which other learners find useful to help retain their own visual vocabulary, working memory. 

Like with all my other learners, I hope that Xander decides to continue his BSL learning journey at S&L, as it has been wonderful to “see” him grow in -the last eight weeks – his ability to sign and the warmth he brings to the class. I trust Xander chooses to keep in touch!”

Next steps 

Xander plans to study with us further on BSL courses step 2 & 3. He also wants to look into gaining a level 1 qualification. We are very proud of Xander and wish him all the best for his next steps!

Discover language courses, including British Sign Language, French, German, Spanish, Latin and much more here at Skills & Learning.