British Sign Language, like any other language, is something that once picked up, is infinitely useful for a whole range of different situations. However it is often overlooked as a useful skill because it is often thought of as ‘just like English’ in that you’re not really translating speech into a different language, you are transferring English into hand signals. That doesn’t stop it from being both fascinating and useful in the social and working world.

Whether you learned BSL as a child, you needed to learn it to communicate effectively with a friend or relative, or you’ve not considered picking it up yet, have you thought about teaching it to your child? Teaching children a new language from a young age is extremely beneficial as children pick up new languages incredibly quickly. They absorb information all the time, from learning to read and write to learning how to use a knife and fork properly; what harm could learning a new language alongside those do?

We’ve listed five reasons why you should be teaching your children British Sign Language if you haven’t already started.

  1. 1.     It Makes an Excellent Start to Life

Getting children on the ball quickly with BSL will help them to improve their concentration when reading and writing. By teaching the language alongside plainspoken English, they learn to distinguish situations and can also relate them to the various signals. It helps children develop their cognitive muscles and it can be a great means of communication for very young children and even babies who have not yet developed the ability to speak.

  1. 2.     Encouraging an Inclusive Society

Every year society becomes more diverse and more integrated. While we still suffer some prejudices, there is no longer a massive stigma associated with sticking out from the crowd slightly. We recognise that as a species, we are all unique and individual. By teaching your child BSL, you are helping them perpetuate that inclusive, progressive society. They will be able to better communicate with others and will be able to help those that have lost their way. A new language, no matter what it may be, is extremely useful and will also help in the future when applying for jobs as it shows you have the ability to listen and learn.

  1. 3.     Increases Awareness Skills

BSL is a visual language. It is about reading the signs you are given and acting accordingly. As children focus more on the signs given, it increases their awareness and also strengthens their ability to perceive body language, signs of discomfort and even keeps them in tune with the world around them. In today’s society full of hazards and dangers, having a good awareness of your surroundings is essential.

  1. 4.     Useful in Emergency Situations

We pray that it will never happen to our children. However in some instances, it is always better to prepare for the worse. Does your child know how to act in the event of an emergency? There may be occasions where your child is unable to speak out loud and will have to use a different form of communication. BSL helps immensely here, as a quick and effective means of communicating the situation without speaking. While it doesn’t bear thinking about, it could just save lives in a dire situation.

  1. 5.     Appreciation for those with Different Communicative Needs

“Be grateful for what you have” while this phrase has soured a little in recent years, its statement does still ring true. In teaching your child BSL, you can also explain to them that not everybody in the world is born with the same functions and advantages as they have and that while this should not disadvantage those individuals in any way, sometimes it does. It is a good way of reminding your child that they are lucky and to remember to be kind and caring of those less fortunate.

As with learning any sort of new skill, British Sign Language is a skill that infinitely proves its use once you fully get to grips with it. Yes, you might not have noticed any significant differences if you’d never learnt it in the first place, but think of all the new ways in which you can communicate. Like every spoken language in the world, learning a different means of communication will help you to build bridges and make networking decisions that give you a wealth of new opportunities. And BSL could even save your life in some extreme situations if you’re ever in a position to need to use it.

However, for the time being and for a fun and interactive way to grow and learn with your child, teaching your son or daughter British Sign Language is a great way to engage with your child. It also helps you to learn about them as an individual, to see how they learn and how they process information, and much more. It might seem like a strange thing to teach a child, but when you see how many potential uses you can find for BSL, you’ll wonder why you ever stopped to think twice about it!

Article provided by Mike James, an independent content writer working in the education sector alongside a selection of companies – including Axcis Education, who were consulted over this post.