We’ve always firmly believed that one of the best ways to support your BSL education is to attend deaf club and interact with native signers. But it can be challenging to know how to actually get involved.
Firstly, do your research. Look at the deaf clubs in your area and be prepared to travel. You can research them via their websites or through Facebook.
Get in touch BEFORE you attend. It is a good idea to make contact with a member of the deaf club to check it’s okay for you to attend. Some deaf clubs welcome all – BSL students, Deaf BSL users, deaf oral members – and some are more exclusively for Deaf BSL users and higher level BSL students. This is not necessarily because they don’t want to meet you, but to a deaf person this is their time to interact and socialise in their first language, and they don’t necessarily want to spend the time struggling to communicate with someone who is level 1.
This sounds harsh, but there are Deaf people who feel this way and they are perfectly entitled to do so. But with a bit of perseverance you WILL find a deaf club that will welcome you.
When you get to Deaf club, the most important thing you can do it interact with others. It is easy to find other students and stick with them, as they are on your level and therefore provide a safety blanket. But get involved with the people that are there – that’s the point of going!
Not only will you meet some fantastic people, gain BSL skills, and have a group of people you can meet regularly – you might just learn a new card game, and win £4.50 in prize money – it happens!