Deaf Club is like learning to drive

If you’ve learnt to drive before, you’ll know that, in your test, you have to show off your skills very obviously. It’s no good to glance at your mirrors; you have to actively move your head and look into each individual one – meaningfully and purposefully.

But when you pass, you don’t necessarily carry these skills on. I’ve had my driving test for four years now, and I certainly don’t actively move my head to look in the mirrors. I look in them, but they’re much more subtle.

The deaf club is the same.

I’ll give you an example of a role shift. When learning BSL, you are told that you should physically shift your body to the side and embody a different style of signing in order to become a different signer within the story clearly. This is the same as learning to drive – obviously, showing off your skills.

But, like driving, these skills become much more subtle when applied in a more realistic setting. I saw deaf people tell intricate stories with conversations, without so much as the slightest shift in the body or any trace of a change of signing style. It was incredibly difficult to grasp, so you must be properly engaged in the story to understand.

It may be that the signer makes a fleeting point to spot where they’ve placed another person, or they use a sign name to reference them – but it is SUBTLE. But, like driving, you’ll learn to pick it up with enough practice.