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The Smith Family - Family Learning Award Winner
Nominated by: Dysgu Bro Ceredigion

Alex said, “We wanted to start learning BSL as a family so that Krsna would have a full language in which to communicate. We take it for granted, but without a full language it’s much more difficult for us to express emotions and develop relationships.”

Krsna’s parents, Karuna and her husband Prana Smith, wanted Krsna to be immersed in Deaf culture from an early age. They started learning BSL when he was a baby and quickly arranged for him to spend time with other Deaf people. “No child can become fluent in a language unless they can experience it being used fluently around them. It was really important to us to be able to communicate with him fully, include him in family conversations and help to support him in his BSL.”

They started by teaching themselves BSL at home using books and online resources. When subsidised entry-level classes were set up locally as part of the Dysgu Bro programme, they signed up right away. Grandmother, Alex, continued: “Learning BSL can be very expensive so we feel incredibly grateful for this opportunity. If there was more funding available, more families would be able to support Deaf family members by learning BSL.

Since completing the course, Krsna’s uncle Josey, has used his BSL skills to volunteer, he said: “I was initially nervous to start the course, but my confidence has improved massively and now I’m determined to keep going and complete my Level 3 qualification.”

Krsna’s aunties, Naomi and Laura, have worked to involve Deaf people in festivals they organise. They said: “Deaf people are hugely disadvantaged within the hearing community. We think everyone should learn BSL; learning a language as an adult is challenging but I would recommend it to anyone.

Alex, who worked as a tutor, said, “Any kind of learning expands you and helps to make you a more rounded person. I now understand the pressures of fitting learning and assessments around family life much better than I did before. We’ve made some great friendships with the other people we learned with, but most importantly we’re able to communicate with Krsna.”