Sunday, 18 December 2011

The Importance of Being Accurate!

This article describes how a toddler group in York has decided to stop using the commonly used symbol for diamond as it is similar to the sign for female genitalia and could potenitally be offensive to deaf children or parents. This has caused a controversy similar to that caused when Justin Fletcher was accused of using a rude sign (the sign for happy in makaton is similar to the sign for f***ing in BSL).

Some people think this political correctness gone mad while others understand and support the decision of the toddler group. From experience I know how easy it is to change the meaning of a sign by altering the handshape, movement or orientation of the sign. Most people who have studied sign language will tell you a funny or embarrassing story about making a slight error that completely changed the meaning they were trying to convey.

People often find it hard to understand why I insist that our teachers have a qualification in sign language. The accuracy of the signs we use is very important to me and while we all make mistakes I want to do what I can to ensure signs are shown accurately in all our classes. Knowing our teachers are all trained in sign language not only helps our service users have confidence in the accuracy of the signs they are learning but gives them the flexibility to ask for additional signs.

Anyone who has been coming to Sign2Music classes for a number of years will tell you how many signs I have substituted since I first started to ensure accuracy and that I am using the most commonly used N Ireland regional versions of signs! No doubt we will continue to make mistakes and correct them, but we are trying our very best!

I would love to know your thoughts on the subject so feel free to share your comments.


  1. This is an interesting blog Deirdre. There are a number of signs in BSL that regionally vary but I think that if the lip patterns are clear and the context is obvious then we really ought not worry too much. Communication is our aim. I know what a professional organisation Sign2Music is so I know you take care to consider accuracy.

    I love that Sign2Music encourages it's teachers to qualify in BSL too. This I think is admirable and essential.

  2. Thanks for your comments Vivien. Our signs in NI are very regionally different, so much so that some deaf people believe it should be NISL. As you say though there is much more to conveying the meaning than the actual sign. Interesting debate though :)

  3. Hello.... Alison (Sign2Muic teacher)... I have an experience of an inaccuracy! The sign for young and s*** is very similar. I was trying to ask my Level 2 BSL tutor if his children were 'young' which I managed to substitute with the sign for 's***'.... whoops!.....

  4. Brilliant Alison! I'm just glad that 'young' isn't a sign we demonstrate in our classes. Phew!