Learning Sign Language

I’ve retaken up an interest in learning (British) Sign Language, I first started learning in middle school and then dropped the interest entirely in Secondary school, partially because there were no obvious ‘clubs’ let alone a ‘Sign’ one. At University I received a bit of a culture shock at the first Freshers Fair; so many clubs and Soc’s to choose from! In the end I whittled it down to 2, first choice was the University of Bristol Guide and Scout (UBGAS) Club, after 15 years of Scouting I was hardly going to give it up now! The second choice was the Kayaking club with the intention of completing the Physical part of my Queen Scout Award (which I now have 😉 ).

At the beginning of my second year I joined the Sign Society (which was Monday nights) but one day in the Student Offices I was asked to sit at a computer and rig up a picture in Photoshop (v7.0). The closest I’d ever come to doing anything like that was in 1996 using Paint Shop Pro (v3.14) which was probably around at v8.0 then. Anyway, PS made things so easy compared to PSP and I enjoyed it so much I started helping out with the Student Publications and in doing so found what I wanted to do as a career, but they also met on Monday night. 🙁

So with Scouting and Design taking up the remainder of my time in academia I didn’t get to continue my Signing. Now with no Schooling, and no F/T Job to fill my days I started scouring the web for some services to encourage my learning. The search has been fruitful, and I’ve gotten some positive feedback on the forums I’ve posted queries on. I’ve had 2 emails asking how my search went, one of which was from Sarah she’s a PhD student focusing on “the ways in which the internet-based technologies of ‘Web 2.0′ are changing and perpetuating disability” which is right up my street, also in a recent post she mentions Douglas Adams so we know she also has good taste!

So at the bequest of Sarah and knowing that some Facebook friends also Sign I’ve listed some of the resources I’ve found and my thoughts about them below.

Learning Sign Language

Signed Language

Description: Has all the basic signs for everyday life, topics and questions as well as other forms of communication for and with deaf people.

Thoughts: I really like the content of this site, it talks about learning BSL and the culture surrounding its use. A lot to read with advertising that isn’t intrusive or obstructive, so its a good karma site.

British Sign Language

Description: A site using moving pictures to show the basic signs for British Sign Language.

Thoughts: A great dictionary, mostly containing nouns and pronouns although there are some Adjectives and Adverbs there too.

British Sign

Description: Learn British Sign Language.

Thoughts: If you really want to further your Sign Skills this seems like a well developed place to start. Its got some free resources but there are more comprehensive video dictionaries out there. Some of the advanced resources are for sale.

Sign Language Lookups

Mobile Sign

Description: Sign Language Help to your mobile.

Thoughts: What an excellent online resource, if only you could get the information directly to your brain… Sarah pointed me at this one.

Qia Resources 4 ICT

Description: Deaf professionals and BSL specialists have now come together to translate terminology used in ICT, and you can see these signs at this website.

Thoughts: I can easily image as new words are created for new mediums (the word blog for example) which is a portmanteau of web and log how would you sign it? Spell it every time? I think not. This site aims to facilitate standardisation of these terms.

Spread the Sign (GB)

Description: The sign language dictionary for the world – 100% Free

Thoughts: Free, free you say? Great! This is an international sign directory. I’ve pointed you at the Great Britain / United Kingdom bit.

Learning Sign on a theme

Science Signs

Description: the online BSL/English glossary for science education

Art Signs

Description: An online British Sign Language (BSL)/English glossary for art, design and communication.

Engineering Signs

Description: The online BSL/English glossary for engineering and the built environment

Sign Language Fun

Beautiful BSL

Description: Deaf Comedian – John Smith is a profoundly Deaf BSL user. Following on from his hugely successful, first stand up appearance…

Thoughts: I think this would be a good goal to set myself, learn to read and say Sign with enough confidence to want to go see a show. (There are many ways to have fun with Signing, this is just one I thought to mention.) Article about him being in the Guardian.

Signed Stories

Description: Lots of great books to see in sign language and subtitles.

Thoughts: After you’ve learnt to say a vocabulary you’ll need practice reading one and I think kids stories would be a rather good start, the short and direct sentences mean that you can pick out what you don’t know easier and learn it whilst you watch. I’m going to start with Not Now Bernard and the King Rollo stories which I watched as a Child.

Link Directories

Deaf 247

Description: Directory of British Sign Language and deaf related resources.

Thoughts: Its got a fold-under and 3 large and intrusive link banners, 1 of which overlaps content if your monitor isn’t wide enough which to me drops a its ‘spam karma’ to about zero, however looking beyond its spam connotations there are many links to deaf sites, and a few sparkling to useful Sign sites.


If you happen to know of any websites that are worth a look but are unfortunately hard to find I’ve love if you’d post a link here so I can have a look.

Film Review: The Man from Earth

Before Star Wars made the dominant setting of pop culture Science Fiction in-space there were other stories that proposed the big “What if?” to a scientific reality and explored the repercussions of changing it. Older films didn’t have the ability to make billions of polygons dance on screen so they had to use plot and intrigue to grip an audiences attention, the ones that did survive in general knowledge to this day.

The film starts with a tenure professor’s going away party, the intention being to make final farewells to his friends of the last ten years. The last remnants of his packing that are on show and spark questions that lead to the idea that he proposes to the group: “What if a man, from the Upper Palaeolithic survived until the present day?” The academics and guests proceed to follow the hypothesis through conversation and enquiry.

Despite only the briefest of movements on the porch the stage is the hosts lounge with the story progressing purely through the parties discussions. The dialogue grips your attention so much that you easily imagine entire realms of possibilities about when and what the ‘caveman’ experienced.

One idea presented is of the “all knowing immortal”; a 14,000 year old would only be able to learn upto the edge of published knowledge on a particular subject, the noosphere grows too fast for anyone able to keep up. As such his current preoccupation’s information would be current but the Literature Doctorate from a century ago would be mostly redundant.

Same goes for experiences, a singular viewpoint of his nearest 100 metres doesn’t allow for a great perspective of what the world was doing at any one moment. You might be able to relay key events if you’re part of them but anything important enough to be of note indirectly puts attention on you, something that could result in your secrets discovery. Such a lapse could have dire consequences since as an ageless prisoner you would be trapped in your own body with escape as your only hope whereas a mortals death or escape could be their release.

This is one of those rare films (and by proxy the book ) that deserves to be remembered for its examination of long life, something that although has been done before it is done in a way and to a greater extent that the Highlander cinema never did. A rarity with great plot writing has becoming so scarce in the mainstream.

If you enjoyed what they could squeeze into this 108 minute film then I suggest checking out the book by Jerome Bixby of the same name.

Rating: 92%

Why try something dangerous?

Around 20th September the (Large) Hadron Collider started its first circles, there was speculation in the media, particularly Radio One with Scott Mills (Chris Moyles is off) were they would say that the first signs would be television and radio signals stopping and then cutting all sound! Why? The hype was that a black hole would be formed, suck in the Earth and destroy everything.

I’ve heard a few ask why try something that might cause a disaster? I can only think that you never know what you might discover exploring the unknown, whether its the deepest ocean, the highest peak of the mysteries of the Universe.

Infra-red, Ultraviolet, and X-rays were all discovered by witnessing something unknown and trying to find out why it happened. Infra-red has Communications and Military applications, Ultraviolet protects and entertains and X-rays have medical applications. They are very usual to us and exploring the reason for something unknown eventually allows us to utilise it some way.

So why try something dangerous that you might learn something from; because exploration is fun

Weight on the Mind

Learning to think differently is quite hard. Teaching others’ to think differently is harder still because you can only check their comprehension and not their understanding of what you are trying to teach. A favourite riddle of mine for such things is below.

  • You have eight weights equal in appearance.
  • One of them is heavier (denser) than the rest.
  • Minimum number of weightings until you can always find the odd one?

How many more weightings would it take for 12 weights?

How many more weightings would it take for 57 weights?

My thought for the day is how you’ve worked it out. A very cleaver thought in my humble opinion.