Students chatting in Parkside building

A beginner’s guide to sign language for starting university

Looking to learn a new skill over the Summer? Why not try your hand - literally! - at sign language. You never know when it could come in handy to help a fellow student out if they're lost or in need of help, and it's a great way to find out a little about how British Sign Language (BSL) works and whether it's a skill you'd like to pick up fully.

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[00:00:12] Jacob Hello. Hi, how are you?

[00:00:17] Emily I'm good, how are you?

[00:00:20] Jacob I'm excited. Birmingham City University is massive. I'm a little nervous.

[00:00:32] Emily Same, I'm nervous too. I'm deaf. I use sign language, and I also lip read a little

[00:00:44] Jacob I know some sign and I've done some deaf awareness. I'll try to sign.

[00:00:56] Emily Great. Where are you from?

[00:01:01] Jacob I'm from l o n d o n. London. And the sign is this [signs for London]

[00:01:10] Emily Ah London, yep.

[00:01:13] Jacob Where are you from?

[00:01:15] Emily I'm from Liverpool.

[00:01:18] Jacob Sorry. What's that sign?

[00:01:21] Emily Are this sign: l i v e r p o o l, Liverpool.

[00:01:32] Jacob Liverpool. Wow. OK, I'm thirsty. Do you want to go and get a drink?

[00:01:41] Emily Oh yes. I need a strong coffee.

[00:01:46] Jacob Yeah me too. Ready. Let's go.

[00:02:00] Emily [Speaker 2 repeats signs for the phrases used]. Hello. Are you new? Same. Nice to meet you. What's your name? I'm excited to be here at Birmingham City University. I'm a little bit nervous. I'm deaf, I use sign language and I read lips a little. I know a little bit of sign language and I've done a bit of deaf awareness. I will try and sign. Where are you from? I'm from London, you? I'm from Liverpool. Shall we go for coffee? Yeah, I need a strong coffee. Ready, let's go.

[00:00:13] Emily My favourite drink is coffee. What's yours?

[00:00:18] Jacob Oh, I love hot chocolate with whipped cream and chocolate powder. It's nice here at this pub. I like it.

[00:00:34] Emily Yes, it's nice here.

[00:00:39] Jacob How are you?

[00:00:40] Emily I'm good, thank you.

[00:00:45] Jacob I feel relaxed.

[00:01:02] Jacob [Useful signs for emotions] Happy. Excited. Nervous. Stressed. Relaxed. Tired. Looking forward to it.

[00:01:41] Jacob What's your name?

[00:01:44] Emily My name is e m i l y Emily. What's your name?

[00:01:53] Jacob Mine's j a c o b Jacob.

[00:02:08] Emily {Fingerspelling sign language] Finger spelling. Don't move every letter. Try this. Or. Emily. You're writing hand use your index finger, the other hand is like paper. Don't swap hands.

[00:03:03] Jacob [Learn the fingerspelling alphabet] A, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, i, j, k, l, m, n, o, p, q, r, s, t, u, v, w, x, y, z.

[00:04:37] Jacob Can you help me, how do I remember all the signs I keep forgetting?

[00:04:46] Emily Yeah, on your phone you can download an app, you can see the signs and it'll help you remember.

[00:04:55] Jacob Oh, thank you.

[00:05:00] Emily Are you ready to go and have a look at the computer room?

[00:05:04] Jacob Oh, yeah, I'd like that. Ready? Yeah.

[00:00:14] Emily WiFi. Where is it? I found it. I'm a new student. I need to check m o o d l e: Moodle. I need to log in. More information about my course. What books I need for my modules. I can check my timetable and when my classes start. Course confirmation and details.

[00:01:26] Emily Birmingham City University, you can research the area societies - what are on offer, how to settle in.

[00:01:45] Emily There's a map of Birmingham City University and how to get around. Research transport such as bicycle, bus, train, tram. Apply for student bus pass. Take a selfie. Post it on social media, the hashtag #IAMBCU.

[00:02:47] Emily [Learn your numbers] Zero, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20. If you want to number over 20, use numbers zero to nine and combine them, for example, bus number 51, always left to right as it's written, 51, 51.

[00:04:13] Emily Bus number 71. 65. My date of birth, 28/08/2012.

[00:04:38] Emily Oh, the time, my lecture starts now, I've got to go.

[00:00:14] Jacob It's a nice classroom with clear viewing sightlines. I'm looking forward to my online learning. I've got my bag and I have everything I need to be ready. I have a paper, a pen, a laptop, glasses and a drink.

[00:00:59] Jacob The lecture is starting now. The lecturer or teacher will introduce the course programme. They will explain the timetable for semester one, semester two, and it's a three year plan. It's now 2021, and finishes in 2024.

[00:02:02] Jacob I can see a BSL interpreter next to the lecturer - they're opposite a deaf student. I must meet them later and maybe say hello.

[00:02:38] Jacob So now I can take notes on my laptop. There are useful resources, information, and you can have a look on websites by clicking the link and accessing information, meaning I can work and learn from home. There will be group work or pair work or lone working.

[00:03:35] Jacob Breaktime or lunchtime? Today, start and finish time. It's a three hour class.

[00:00:16] Emily Hi, have you have a good morning so far?

[00:00:22] Jacob Yeah, today's been really good, thank you - you?

[00:00:28] Emily Yes, yes. Good. I like it here in the library. It's new, it's modern, it's big and spacious.

[00:00:46] Jacob Um, what did you learn this morning?

[00:00:54] Emily I learnt computer science, you?

[00:01:00] Jacob Similar, I learnt digital media, which I liked. I hoped to find a work placement. I want to learn more, you? What are you looking for?

[00:01:24] Emily Yeah, I'm looking for a part time job somewhere local, maybe a pub or a shop.

[00:01:37] Jacob OK, hopefully. I was just wondering, can you help me learn some more signs here in the library?

[00:01:52] Emily Yeah, Google.

[00:01:56] Jacob Google.

[00:01:59] Emily Online learning

[00:02:05] Jacob Online learning, OK.

[00:02:09] Emily Books.

[00:02:09] Jacob That's an easy one: book.

[00:02:15] Emily Website.

[00:02:17] Jacob Website.

[00:02:21] Emily Access.

[00:02:23] Jacob Access.

[00:02:27] Emily Download.

[00:02:34] Jacob Download.

[00:02:34] Emily Upload.

[00:02:34] Jacob Upload.

[00:02:41] Emily Social media.

[00:02:42] Jacob Social media.

[00:02:50] Emily Application form.

[00:02:51] Jacob Application form.

[00:02:59] Emily Payment.

[00:03:01] Jacob Payment.

[00:03:05] Emily Relax.

[00:03:07] Jacob Yeah, that's me, relax.

[00:03:11] Emily Quiet.

[00:03:12] Jacob Quiet.

[00:03:20] Emily Meet friends.

[00:03:24] Jacob Meet friends.

[00:03:29] Emily Home study.

[00:03:31] Jacob Mhm, yeah, home study

[00:03:40] Emily Research

[00:03:43] Jacob Research

[00:03:46] Emily Email

[00:03:49] Jacob Email. Thank you. I hope I remember all those signs.

[00:03:58] Emily Ah, it's two o'clock. My timetable, I'm free, everyone is talking about the Birmingham Bullring and Grand Central: must go. Would you like to come with me?

[00:04:24] Jacob Oh, yeah, I've heard it's awesome. Yeah, I want to come with you.

[00:04:31] Emily Great.

[00:00:14] Emily So this is Birmingham Bullring. Over there, Grand Central.

[00:00:21] Jacob Oh, wow, it's massive. We might get lost. So do you want to give me your mobile number? You know, we can maybe WhatsApp or text.

[00:00:37] Emily Yeah, I can text you. You can text me yeah.

[00:00:41] Jacob Hmm. What's your favourite shop?

[00:00:47] Emily Mmm clothing shop.

[00:00:51] Jacob I love shoe shops.

[00:01:08] Emily [Useful signs] Shop. Cafe. Jewellery. Card. Restaurant. Take away. Bank. Information centre. Bags.

[00:02:13] Jacob Let me just check my mobile banking app. Hang on. Oh, wow. I've got 30 pounds to spend.

[00:02:27] Emily Great, maybe they have NUS 10 percent discount.

[00:02:36] Jacob Oh, I hope so.

[00:02:41] Emily So I'm hungry, shall we have a look around?

[00:02:47] Jacob Yeah, I'm thirsty and hungry like you.

[00:03:03] [Useful signs] Food, drink. Sausage roll. Cake. Sandwich. Baguette. Crisps. Hot and cold. Salad. Pay by card or contactless. Apple Pay. Smartphone payment. Cash.

[00:04:23] Emily So do you fancy going outside to sit? The weather's lovely, sunny, it's warm.

[00:04:33] Jacob Yeah, it looks lovely. Thank you for today. It's been lovely, I have to go and catch the train, I've got to go back to London, I need to pack some more clothes and shoes. I am back tomorrow.

[00:04:56] Emily Great. Bye bye.