The Adore You Sign Challenge has been organised by a group of Peruvian fans who are encouraging people to learn how to sign Harry Styles’ song “Adore You” in British Sign Language using a tutorial which you can watch below. Fans can upload clips of them signing, and then the best ones are going to be spliced together to create the full song on TikTok.
TikTok is a great platform for encouraging viral video and helping music gain in popularity, as people create then recreate new challenges for popular songs. But if you’ve been inspired to take part in the challenge, don’t just leave your sign language knowledge at learning the lyrics to “Adore You”! There are lots of resources out there to help educate you, and it’s important that you do so.
British Sign Language is the native language of around 100,000 people in the UK. It is a vital method of communication for many people with its own storytelling structures, idioms, and jokes. Many sign languages are also endangered, even those with official status and legal protections, so this challenge is a great opportunity to highlight how important it is that more people consider learning BSL and stick with it.
Over recent years, Makaton and Signed Supported English (SSE) have grown in popularity. These are mostly to support children and adults with learning disabilities and communication difficulties, and both are used to support Spoken English. Neither Makaton nor SSE can be classed as a sign language because a sign language has its own grammar structure and nuances any other spoken language would have. It’s also really important to realise that Makaton is standardised so there are no regional differences, but there are many differences in a sign language like BSL even between cities a couple of hours apart.
For example, I started learning BSL in the East of England around 10 years ago. When I moved to Northern Ireland, I started working in a Deaf Church and picked up a new accent. Even though I still speak with an English accent, I sign with Northern Ireland regional variations so I have a Northern Irish sign accent.
If you check out my version of Adore You, you might notice a couple of differences, like our sign for ‘HAVE TO’ that’ll highlight this. I’ll be starting Level 4 in September, and still need a couple of years after that to qualify as an interpreter, which I’ll probably have to do with a tutor in London — which means even more ways to say the same word! Even though we both use British Sign Language, it’s basic things like numbers or days of the week that are different.
— Bebe Ashley (@bebeashley95) April 21, 2020
In “Adore You,” I know at least three different signs for SUMMER, so this lyric could be signed in multiple ways. If you can see how many differences there might be within a sign language, you won’t be surprised to know there are major differences between British Sign Language and American Sign Language, or between Langue des signes française and Libras used in Brazil.
I’d run out of words to discuss it here, but the alphabet is probably one of the biggest differences. In BSL, we use a two-handed alphabet whereas ASL, LSF, and Libras all use a one-handed alphabet. You don’t have to know all the differences between these languages, but if you don’t know whether you are signing in ASL or BSL, it is the same as not knowing whether you are learning Spanish or Portuguese and it can come across as being a little ignorant, something none of us want.
As Isabella indicates in her tutorial description, it is mostly in SSE. It’s possible to figure this out because BSL would have a very different structure to the English lyrics with places and time coming before actions. BSL also uses a lot of directional verbs, so you don’t actually have to sign the ‘you’ or ‘me’ in a lot of verbs because you are showing the direction of the action to include the people involved. So you wouldn’t necessarily have to sign ‘YOU’ or ‘ME’ as different signs in ‘you don’t have to say you love me’ because you can use a directional verb to say things like TELL-ME, TELL-YOU, or TELL-THEM. Most people start signing a version of SSE and progress into BSL grammar.
If you want to learn sign language, there are lots of beginner resources online, and lots of dictionaries you can find vocabulary in. The best place to start is with the alphabet. You’ll have to get good at spelling and recognising words being spelt to you, because if you don’t understand what a sign means, you’ll likely be asking your tutor to spell it again and again, and then again slowly, but that’s okay because you’ll also learn to be more patient.
It’s also very helpful to practice sitting in front of a mirror, where you can watch yourself signing. This will improve your receptive skills, and it’s also great for improving things like your signing space and to check how clear your signing is. If you feel like you’ve mastered the alphabet, why not look for a class with a Deaf teacher so that you can really master the basics? The Doncaster Deaf Trust are offering a free online Level 1 Course to get you started on developing your vocabulary and your conversation skills.
When harry styles tried to get a deaf fans attention to thank her in the middle of the song,
he kept saying thank you to her in sign language and sang to her pic.twitter.com/2A0ipiOZK4
— best Harry vocals (@bestHvocals) January 26, 2020
Harry himself has said in a recent interview with Radio1Xtra that he was learning Italian and had taken a couple of sign language classes while in isolation. We’ve also seen him use sign language on stage a couple of times to thank members of the audience who he’d seen signing along to his songs. It’s always super lovely that he reaches out to fans to communicate in their language. At Fine Line Live London, he also had a BSL performance interpreter there which is quickly becoming best practice in the field of concert interpreting.
Now that you know a bit more about the importance of learning BSL, watch the tutorial a couple of times, put “Adore You” on blast and give signing the lyrics a go. You won’t be perfect, but this challenge shouldn’t be about signing perfectly, which everyone should know is pretty impossible to do after only a couple of hours of practice! It’s about inspiring people to give sign language a go, then it’s about encouraging those people interested to commit to learning more, as you never know when you might be able to communicate with someone by using sign language. Maybe you’ll find a new career path along the way and qualify as a Communication Support Worker or Interpreter.
Finally, don’t forget to have fun with it. The best performance interpreters are those with a bit of personality and those that genuinely enjoy the music they are interpreting, so as a Harry fan you are already on your way. Learning a new language can be a great hobby and is a super rewarding skill to work on, but it’s important to give each language the respect it deserves.