Lesson 1

English Notes
BSL Video


On the Curriculum Framework for Lesson 1, you will see that the first column contains the lesson content, which is about exchanging personal information.


The linguistics information that backs this up talks about holidays and travel, with a range of features. An important feature when talking about travel and holidays is real-life location. We take Britain as a starting-point, and then indicate the relative position of, say, Spain, France and Germany, locating them side by side, as though in real life. It wouldn’t be appropriate to locate, say, Germany behind you, France up in the air, and Spain down on the floor. No, that would be confusing. If we start from the UK, then refer across to Italy, over through France and across to Spain, they must all be located as they are in real life, as though you are referring to a map: you can hold it up vertically in front of you, or lay it flat as though on a table. The subject of holidays provides opportunities to use many different features, such as the spatial referencing we’ve just discussed, or Non-Manual Features (NMF) where the facial expression shows, for example, how hot it is. NMFs can also help to describe a plane journey: puffed cheeks with a wavering AEROPLANE sign shows a long-haul flight, and through a range of facial expressions you can show how hard, arduous or pleasant travel can be, with emotions ranging from FED-UP through to HAPPY/ENJOYING. You may teach your students about this; next, you can discuss with them their own holiday experiences, asking for their views. Alternatively, you could send them off to a Deaf Conference, where they will find out for themselves how Deaf cultural discussions about travel are conducted, and where they will be involved in ‘yes/no’ questioning for themselves. Next, we talk about money. Here in Britain we use pounds, so we sign ONE POUND, TWO POUNDS, up to TEN POUNDS from the chin; from ELEVEN POUNDS we sign the [number]+P. Don’t sign ELEVEN POUNDS, etc., from the chin, as with one to ten; this is a very strong convention. Obviously, you need to check for regional variations, because there are differences, and in some areas POUND is signed as L on the palm. You can find these local variations for yourselves. For example, in Glasgow POUNDS is signed with a downward grabbing motion and the number is signed up near the ear: FIVE POUNDS and so on. In Europe we have the EURO, and in the United States there’s the DOLLAR, with the sign pulling one hand away from the other. Australia also uses the word dollar, but the sign isn’t the same; although it has a similar movement, Australian DOLLAR uses two clawed hands pulling away from each other. You need to look round for different currency signs, and teach them to your students. When you’re discussing holidays, you will of course sign about different countries. Our Deaf tradition has a very definite way of doing this, which I shall talk about, and if students visit the Deaf club they will see this for themselves. The next column along contains cultural information linked to the lesson’s theme, and supporting the linguistic content. In Deaf clubs, discussion of travel and holidays is a powerful cultural issue, and Deaf people love to tell where they’ve been, here, there and everywhere. Organising, planning and talking about trips is a big thing amongst Deaf people, and this is something that hearing people may find a little strange. Whilst hearing people may be fairly discreet and modest about their travels, Deaf people sign with great enthusiasm and in enormous detail about their trips to Europe and the whole world: this is part of Deaf culture. Another connected cultural issue which may need thinking about is the choice of sign-names for different countries. For example, the sign INDIA can be made by pointing the forefinger against the centre forehead and making a ‘screwing’ movement; other Deaf people may use the thumb to point, while making a ‘frowning’ face. This is purely visual motivation, and is an essential part of Deaf culture: Deaf people see an Asian person with the forehead-mark, and visually copy that to make a sign-name. This is part of the culture, and is not derogatory in intent. Look at the British sign JAPAN, where two pointing hands sweep outwards and upwards to indicate slanting eyes; then compare that with the Japanese Deaf people’s own sign for ENGLISH: big hooked nose! You might say that was dreadful, a negative label, and feel insulted that you’re being called a big-nose; but just think about the visual motivation: Japanese people were shocked to see that Westerners did have quite large noses in comparison with their own, and you can see where this sign came from. This is fine; it is like our British signs for AUSTRALIA, CHINA and AFRICA, and the aforementioned JAPAN, INDIA and so on: they are all derived from visual copying. You need to consider how you discuss this with and teach this to your students. The next column along contains the lesson’s Learning Outcomes. Students should be able to discuss travel, location, holidays, finger-spelling the names of countries, money, and so on, so that when they go out into the Deaf club they will know about these things.


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