I’ve been teaching BSL levels 1 and 2 for eight years. In that time, I have had several deafened and HOH students. Some have had CIs (cochlear implants) but the majority have had hearing aids and varying degrees of deafness. What is really striking is that people with hearing loss seem to find it harder to adjust to using their eyes to receive communication through signing or lipreading. I always use a range of visual aids to support my teaching – pictures, powerpoints and handouts. It does help, but the deafened and HOH students always need more input, and I always feel that it is important to check they’ve understood the lesson topic before attempting to move on. The deafened and HOH forums on email and Facebook often have people saying they tried BSL classes but they couldn’t get on with it, or that they could not understand the teacher.
Do you think that perhaps deafened and HOH students are so focused on trying to utilise whatever residual hearing they have that they can’t switch off from listening? Or could it be that hearing people in a BSL class support each other and explain things to each other, which means deafened/HOH students may be missing out on a vital part of BSL learning? Or a bit of both? I’d be really interested to get your views on this as it’s something I have been wondering about a lot for a few years.
I too have seen this for myself and this would make a great piece of research for someone! (DCAL, perhaps?) I would agree with all the above suggestions and it is probably a mixture of all of them.
People with an acquired hearing loss attending a BSL class have several layers of learning and anxiety to cope with. Their motivation for attending must in part be due to the desire to acquire a new language so that they can make a sideways move into another culture.
When they realise they are not keeping up, they panic thinking the journey is not going to be as easy as they had hoped and see yet another door closing. Those who are learning because their own family or friends have encouraged then to perhaps realise the family and friends need to attend the course too, and then worry how they are going to teach them the signs they are learning.
Hearing students of BSL come with quite different motivations and are usually keen and ready to go (remember some of them don’t make it either). Hearing people and people with acquired hearing loss learn at different speeds (I have no way of proving this, but agree with you that this is so) and so perhaps need separate classes? This is something the City Lit (London Adult Education) provided at one time in recognition of this and their classes were successful. HoH and deafened people coming to a class are also dealing with what has happened to them and a BSL class just reminds them of this over and over again. And of course BSL tutors are trained to teach hearing students and the teaching itself is geared to hearing people.
It could also be that people with hearing loss are being given advice which does not actually address their needs. Maybe they should not be learning BSL at all – or at least not in the early days? Maybe they need classes which focus on clear communication strategies that feel real and congruent with their own experiences?
I’d love to hear what ex students have to say about this vexing but important question.