The fun of communication!

Anyone who knows me well will appreciate that one of my ‘special’ skills is communication. They may also tell you ‘she could talk under water’, ‘talks with her hands’ (knocking the odd glass of wine over) and thinks and speaks ahead too quickly. The assumption of a talker is that they are not always a good listener. This of course is not always true but understandably, talkers can sometimes be misunderstood. We do listen but what we hear often immediately sparks the next question and thought, launching us into the next conversation without taking a breath. I personally find people’s experiences and lives so interesting that there is always another question to ask. However, as I have got older, I do try to slow it all down a bit!

Digital people communicating through tin cans

Communication comes in many forms and for the most part, it is intuitive for all of us. Right from day one we develop our skills to convey to others what we need by using body language, giggles, gurgles and crying. As babies, we rely heavily on sound and visual cues. If a baby happens to be deaf, then the visual senses will be heavily relied upon and, if blind, then what they hear is a large part of understanding and engaging with their world.

If we have sight, this sense often dominates other senses. Even when we are hearing, our eyes watch people talking, helping our brain to process the audio more efficiently. Remember when you were young, you probably heard things like ‘look at the me when you are speaking’ or ‘don’t talk through walls’. The reason being, is that not only is it considered rude, it actually hampers our ability to hear and understand the person speaking to us if we can’t see them.

Baby boy lying on the blanket with many toys around

Colour is the first visual element that our brain engages with. It helps us understand our environment, the dangers and to formulate our ideas. Shapes are enhanced with tonal and colour contrasts. Through my study of colour, I strongly believe in the impact colour can have on our understanding and ability to convey our messages. Following our visual & hearing cues, we then rely on our other senses, such as touch & smell.

As we grow and develop, we will learn the spoken language that surrounds us. Nowadays, many families will have more than one language spoken in the household. Babies who grow up hearing and learning more than one language will naturally become multi-lingual. They may favour one language over the other, but the neural pathways are established at a very early age, giving them the ability to take on additional languages more readily. By the time our children commence their schooling, they are grappling with the complexities of the spoken language and are beginning to read and write. As we all know, it takes years for us to fully form our language ability. For those who experience learning disabilities with speech or reading, it can take a little more effort and a little longer to accomplish fluency. Parents, teachers, friends and colleagues just have to be patient and generous with their help.

The ability to communicate is so important to our mental health, our engagement, our learning, our inclusion and our socialisation. Whatever method or language used to communicate throughout society, it is our individual obligation to do our best to be all-inclusive. We especially appreciate this even more so now that many of us live in multi-cultural communities throughout the world. With the latest of technology, communication is becoming more and more accessible.

Being a talker, a traveller and a person interested in other cultures and countries, I have always wanted to learn other languages and an ambition of mine was to gain a second language, at least at the talking level. Whenever I travel, I always try to learn the basic greetings so I can engage initially with the locals. I personally find formulating the sounds and words tricky and I very rarely get past hello, please and thank you but I do try. Being an Aussie provides lots of entertainment when it comes to accents.

I speak about deafness in this particular article because my cousin (from a baby) has grown up with initial loss of hearing, then deterioration to now complete deafness and has since married someone who is also deaf since birth. When I catch up with the family, my cousin is kept busy being the interpreter and translator for all of us. She is one incredible woman – deaf but so communicative. She speaks English, lip-reads and signs AUSLAN. She acts and works using her skills and manoeuvres between the hearing world and the deaf world with ease. However, this is not the same for everyone. Communication for deaf people (I imagine) can be incredibly difficult and isolating. I understand that learning, socialising, studying and then becoming part of the workforce throws up many challenges. Not everyone, including those who are deaf, has strong and varied communication skills. If you can’t be understood and/or understand what others are saying, then life can be very restrictive for you.

Hands spelling out BSL in British sign language

With exposure and a desire to be able to talk to anyone and everyone, I am about to realise a life long ambition of learning a second language. This year I will be commencing the BSL (British Sign Language) Degree at Heriot-Watt University. It is a degree specialising in interpreting and translating, so all being well, in four years I will be ready to participate in the very exciting times of linking the hearing world to the deaf world by way of language. I understand from one of the professors that it generally takes 7 years to become fluent in BSL. That said, I am well up for the challenges that lay ahead. With many people very aware of the difficulties faced by those with BSL as their first language, much progress is being made to help with accessibility and learning throughout our communities. With the British Sign Language (Scotland) Act 2015, work is being done to further promote the language and accessibility for those who use it. I am so excited to become a part of this on-going development and I hope in the coming years to be able to contribute greatly.

On the other hand, my family and friends are quietly smiling in the thought that some of my future communication will be done in silence. However, with facial expressions and the use of my hands to communicate using BSL, in time I expect to be as chatty as ever.

Long term, I hope to bring my newly learnt communication skills into my colour consultancy business, opening up my services to our very colourful Deaf community in the UK and beyond. Watch this space!

 

#Communication #Language #BSL #Colour

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