Learning English without Sound
Imagine you are profoundly deaf, in a strange country where your family does not speak the language. You have had virtually no schooling, and have learned neither to sign nor to lip-read.
One of the five Asian women Tania Scott meets every Thursday morning in London's east end is in exactly that position. She is a young woman from Bangladesh, probably in her mid-20s, although it is hard to glean exact details due to her lack of language. The young woman's family is keen for her to learn as much as she can, but there are not many places where an adult can start learning from such a low base. Tania is teaching the young woman to distinguish H-O-T from C-0-L-D by showing her pictures of people sweating and shivering. "I have been teaching her for four weeks and now she can recognise a few different words."
But "these are probably the first focused conversations she has had outside her own family. Within the family she can recognise signs - when you live with someone, you get to know them well. We have to get her to the point where she can function outside her family."
It's not at all unusual, says Tania. "Most of my students find it hard to get any training because their level of English is so low.
"I teach basic sign language and basic English. First I meet each person individually to assess her needs, then I draw up a programme for her."
The ten-week courses are taught in small groups or one-to-one. And the women come back for further courses as they need.