Wave 1 – Report 2020

Language use in the cohort

The age of this cohort means that the majority will have been born after the implementation of universal newborn hearing screening, early identification and intervention. They are also born in the era following the official recognition of BSL by the UK government as an indigenous language (which has raised its public visibility in everyday life) and great advances in cochlear implant and digital hearing aid technologies.



More broadly, they have grown up in an increasingly multi-lingual, multi-cultural British society. The cohort’s language profiles and preferences reflect this and it is an area of focus we will be following closely as the young people grow up and enter new social and learning environments.

Of the 86 who answered questions about their language use, all but one reported using some spoken language and 60 that they knew and used some BSL. Around 80% rated their spoken language as very good or excellent and of those who said they knew BSL around 30% rated their proficiency as good or excellent.

In addition to rating their own proficiency, we asked the young people to rate how well they understood others and how well they thought they were understood, both in spoken language and BSL (for those who said they knew some). With respect to BSL, it was interesting to note that young people’s ratings were very similar in all three conditions. However, with respect to spoken language, self-ratings were not so uniform.

Perhaps the visual component of BSL made it easier for individuals to rate their expressive/receptive communication more equally? Perhaps amongst spoken language conversational partners there was less awareness and ability to be flexible about register, articulation or environment than is more commonly the case amongst signers, who are more used to having to make adaptations in order to be understood? We will be following this up in the interviews we will be doing with a sub-sample of the cohort.

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