I first learnt British Sign Language in 1999 when my son Harry was diagnosed as deaf. As technology wasn’t as advanced as it is today I learnt from an A4 book of pictures. It took me seven years to fully learn it (like any new language) you have to be continually learning. It was about 4-5 years until I could have a full conversation.
It was hard when I first learnt as I was introducing my young son to a language that I didn’t fully speak and I wanted to get it right for him. My daughter was diagnosed as deaf a few years later so it was handy that I already had learnt the skill. I started signing with her when she was ten months old.
When I had my brain injury I was in hospital and I had a tracheotomy so I was left unable to speak for a while. Therefore I used my sign language skills during my stay in hospital (as much as my right hand would allow).
I have also used sign language whilst I have been out and about, for example I have conversed with a couple who spoke only German in sign language as we shared the language of signing. I have found that it is a skill that is so universal and that there’s always someone near who needs it.