It’s a bit scary, isn’t it? I mean, it’s a club for deaf people. Deaf…club. But I hear…what to do?
It took me ages to pluck up the courage, but it’s now a super place to hang out! Here are a few bits for newbies that may come in handy…
Bear in mind there may be a few deafies who feel they have sole ownership of the club. They have a point, but it is a free country, and your presence will only likely benefit the club’s members in the long run. Most clubs run off of donations, drink sales and membership fees, so everyone’s a winner! Also, if you’re going to be a communication professional in the future, it is useful to get to know your local deaf community a bit before you’re at the point of registering. Reputation is a big part of the deaf world, so get out there, get smiling and chatting, and have some laughs!
You will get the odd deaf person who feels you have no right to be there. These people are few and far between and often best taken with a pinch of salt. Don’t take offence. Best to thicken that skin up in a non-professional domain because you will need it out in the terping world.
What if I don’t understand?
Don’t panic, relax, ask ‘again please’…don’t nod along pretending as though you’re following as the deaf person is likely to know that you’re doing this, and it’s so embarrassing to try to backtrack. Just politely sign that you’re a newbie and you’re still learning, but avoid saying that you’re ONLY there to practice. Bust into that circle of trust with both hands!
Deaf or hearing?
It’s not always apparent who exactly is hearing and who’s deaf at the deaf club! So don’t be afraid to ask ‘hearing or deaf’ if you want to. And don’t be afraid to speak in English to people. You may feel comfortable using SSE to include others, but it is your first language, and all attendees must respect each other’s right to use voice if they so choose. However, it’s such a rich opportunity to really improve and perfect your ‘native’ BSL when at the deaf club, so have a go at continuing to voice off if you feel up to it.
Many local deaf clubs have regular social events such as coffee mornings or bingo. A nice way to get to know your local club and its members is to offer your time. Make some sarnies or offer to wash up. This will break you in nicely, allow you to test the water, and show them your lovely smiley face! Many of the attendees will really appreciate this, and you are likely to make a few pals along the way!
It sounds a bit sinister but does be careful of getting too close to people you meet at the deaf club. Remember that you are very likely to come across these people in a professional situation in future, and the last thing you need is to have some uncomfortable history with anybody. So just use your head, be confident, don’t worry about upsetting people by turning them down for dates etc., if you’re really not interested, and just consider how any relationships other than platonic may affect your career or the aforementioned reputation.
Even if your first few goes are a bit scary and don’t really feel too comfy, don’t give up hope and have another go. As with any club, it can take some time for you to make your mark, and often the friendship circles at this sort if club are pretty tight. Just be yourself, relax, join in and have fun (and a few drinks!) Check out Facebook and Twitter for local clubs and events that take your fancy.
There is often more than one club in your local area, so it’s always worth checking out a couple of venues to see if you feel more comfortable in one than another. It can sometimes be a good idea to primarily attend the club one or two towns away as opposed to your local club; as aforementioned, you will come across your local deaf pals on a professional level, and sometimes it may be more beneficial to distance yourself a tiny bit. Play it by ear, my terpy pal.
Have fun! And don’t get too drunk during your first visit… 😉