One of the many ideas much touted by the experts for surviving the Lockdown with all one’s mental faculties intact (or at least as intact as they were before Lockdown) is to learn another language.
Despite all the evidence to the contrary gleaned from my O Level studies of French and German in my youth, I decide that this is A Good Idea and one which could even have uses on
the other side of today’s madness. What those uses might be, I choose not to explore. Never let harsh reality get in the way of a vain aspiration, I say.
language to choose, I wonder? I hover over Mandarin - but only because it sounds so, well, fruity. Two of my granddaughters studied Spanish on the grounds that it would be useful to know the lingo on their frequent family holidays to the land of Sun and Sangria.
It’s also (though not, I’m sure, the reason they chose to study it) supposed to be one of the easier languages to master. I’ll be the judge of that, I mutter, as I search in-line for a suitable course. I am looking for something like “Spanish
Steps Made Easy” but keep getting details of tours of Rome...
Then granddaughter Hazel Bagel messages me with an enticing proposition. How would I like to
join her in learning British Sign Language? She sends me the link to the course she is studying and suggests that by learning together we would be able to test each other as our ability increases. We would speak to each other more, she believes, though presumably
she means we will make signs at each other and hopefully interpret accurately. Obviously I sign up (if you will excuse the pun) immediately.
B is flummoxed by the signers who always accompany Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, whenever she addresses the nation via TV. “What are they supposed to be saying?” he wants to know. I should have thought that was obvious, I say,
bearing in mind that presumably they are accurately translating the First Minister’s message. Mr B retorts, with justified irritation to be fair, that he knows that - he just can’t work out the meaning of each sign. It’s an ideal opening
to a conversation about whether he would like to join Hazel and me in our latest Learning Quest. Mr B, unlike me, isn’t the type to jump into things without weighing up the pros and cons. He will think about it, he concedes - before turning back to the
I did once take lunchtime classes in sign language way back when I was a Working Gal. I seem to remember that at my most proficient I could sign the Christmas
Carol “Away in a Manger.” I’m not sure I ever made any use of this but I was quite proud of myself. Sadly I have forgotten virtually everything I learnt so I will be more or less starting from scratch again.
I did have a reason for taking up signing all those years ago. I had organised a day-long event aimed at bringing together people with disabilities with organisations that could help them. We took
over a local day Centre one Saturday and advertised the event as widely as we could. We called the event “Together We Can” and had tee-shirts printed for all the helpers with “Together We Can” printed on the front in sign language.
The number of visitors dipped a bit after lunch so a couple of us ventured out into the town centre to try to drum up some custom. Which is when I met up with a little lass
in a wheelchair, outside the post office. She looked first at my tee-shirt, then up at me with an enchanting smile - and signed something. To my eternal shame, I didn’t understand her. I was wearing a tee-shirt which suggested I could but the fact of
the matter was signing was a foreign language to me. I was, in fact, a fake...
So I did start learning and I am only sorry that my busy life got in the way and
I didn’t keep it up. That little girl will be a grown woman now - it’s my chance to make it up to her and this time I must not give up. It will be so much easier if I have my Hazel Bagel to keep me at it -
Together we can...