The Silent Child won the Best Live Action Short Film Oscar last night, and the most poignant moment of the night, was when Rachel Shenton did her entire acceptance speech in British Sign Language.
The Silent Child follows the life of a deaf girl who lives in a world of absolute silence, where her parents speak to her through sign because she’d promised the little girl who starred in the film, that if they won, she would sign so she could see.
This was a nice gesture, something a lot of people would shy away from, I can speak a small amount of sign language, but I’ll admit, it is tough to learn.
But then I went back to when I was in school, I kicked off at having to do French, Spanish and German. Why do we have to learn 3 languages that we’ll never fully utilize when we can’t even communicate with those who speak our mother tongue? Would it not be a more inclusive, simpler world if we were teaching BSL/ASL as a second language?
At the end of the day, it’s a language, it’s just a non-verbal language that heavily relies on facial expression and gestures. 2 Very difficult things to master.
If we started teaching our youngsters about deafness, the world wouldn’t be such an isolated place for those who are hard of hearing. It would also have financial benefits, for example, a translator wouldn’t be required for the simplest of tasks, like asking for a menu in a restaurant, or buying a bottle of liquor.
Also, just because someone is deaf, doesn’t mean that they are mentally handicapped, in fact, quite the opposite is the case. Although the language is quite basic, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t amazing things going on in the users head.
Just sit and think about it. If you worked in a supermarket, and you were able to communicate with a deaf person, even if they’re only asking where the soup is, you’ll have made that persons day so much more pleasant and made them feel acknowledged.
When I was in college training to be a hairdresser, I ended up with a weekly regular who was deaf, because I was the only person in a class of 30 people that could converse and understand what she needed. It was only the basic type stuff, and sometimes I’d have to write things down and she’d teach me the signs, but she relished the fact that she wasn’t alone.
She came in the day of her husband’s funeral after he’d suffered a heart attack, and was so lonely, because she’d never known anything but her husband for 50 years (who was also deaf), and cruelly, that one constant she had was taken away.
Being able to look after her, and get some pretty good gossip too (she could lip read), was the highlight of her week, and over time we developed more than a professional bond, but a kind of friendship.