Second year Edi student goes viral teaching British Sign Language online

One of the many amazing things happening during this global crisis

Holly McConnel, an 18-year-old second year PE student at the University of Edinburgh, has gone viral making videos teaching people sign language during the coronavirus lockdown.

Since posting her first video on Facebook last Thursday morning, she has gathered thousands of likes and shares.

Though Holly is not deaf herself, growing up with two deaf parents meant she learnt British Sign Language (BSL) as her first language. She began posting her videos online to ensure people can communicate in BSL so that people such as her parents aren’t excluded from daily life. She explains how seeing this happen to her parents in the past had been really hard, for example “at the hospital or at the doctors, when there isn’t an interpreter there for them or at supermarkets and out clothes shopping”.

BSL is significantly different from English. Holly explains: “Instead of saying, ‘my name is Holly’ in BSL you sign ‘name me Holly’. You also miss out little words such as ‘is’ and ‘the'”.

She further explained learning BSL can be very expensive. The material she is teaching belongs to Level 1 classes, in which the alphabet, numbers, and greetings are taught. These classes could cost up to £200.

She said: “I don’t take classes myself, but if I were to start I’d be at level three or four and that would cost around £700”.

Holly has been blown away by the responses to her videos and received huge amounts of support. She said: “It’s really overwhelming, I didn’t expect as many people to be interested – I’m so happy that people are engaging with it”.

Her third video is specifically geared towards medical or health signs which would be useful for the NHS.

Holly’s actions are a fantastic example of how productive our time in social isolation can be, and the change you can facilitate even from your bedroom.

Looking for something useful to do with your time in lockdown such as learning BSL? You can check out Holly’s channel here.