British Sign Language (BSL) to be precise, which differs from American Sign Language (ASL).
I passed my Level 1 in BSL about five years ago. God knows how it happened, but I consider myself lucky the examiner chose to talk (sign) to me about a walk by a river, into which conversation I quickly included dogs, a sign I remember easily to this day, and I managed to get through it somehow.
Strangely other signs I have had zero problem remembering are remember and forget, which was just as well because a month or so back I was asked to sign for a new member of staff who is deaf. I said I would be happy to help but really, as with any language, I had forgotten most of it through lack of use. They said, there’s no-one else, the usual lady isn’t available. And so it was I found myself inadequately blundering through a two hour SMART board training session and a two hour language tutor meeting. This is not false modesty, I was pretty crap and the new tutor I was signing for must have taught me more new signs than I remembered. I spent a lot of time signing variations on a theme: I have forgotten the sign for that…
It doesn’t sound too much of a big deal does it, but there was a moment when we were caught in the maelstrom of the Latin American Tutors’ heated and vigorous debate and I was trying to sign and my colleague was trying to make some sense of what I was saying that it all became a bit overwhelming, for us both. Nonetheless, I felt that I had been some small use.
Now I have been asked to do this again. This time it is a meeting and not with a group so I imagine it will be more like the meeting I went to last week where the Polish Roma community spoke, the Polish translator translated and then we replied in English and so on. Much more measured and somewhat less pressure. I am however glad that I serendipitously bought a Signing Book in the 3 for a pound library sale the other week. Here’s hoping I remember some more of it on Thursday morning.