mark cross

What/Who is this? This is Mark Cross.

Date: 2019

Item: Film

© deafscotland


Mark Cross, British Sign Language (BSL)/English Interpreter, talks about growing up with deaf parents and stories from his childhood.


This is a written version of the film. This film has no audio or subtiles.


Hello, my name is Mark Cross.


My parents are Deaf and use BSL. I am hearing but my first learnt language was BSL. As I got older, my main language became English.


I did not think that my family was any different to anyone else’s and had a happy childhood. My father passed away when I was five and for my early years I spoke like a Deaf person until the social worker suggested I attend nursery a year earlier than usual to encourage to speak “properly”.


My mum was advised not to use sign language with me and my sister as this was thought to be a bad influence on my ability to speak. It was tricky trying to understand what my mum was saying sometimes as her voice wasn’t always very clear, so she ended up using sign language anyway. I feel that my ability to use spoken language was slightly delayed, but I definitely caught up pretty quickly when it was clear that my school pals didn’t use BSL, so I don’t think it had a negative effect on me.


My mum always seemed to be a bit reluctant to draw attention to being a Deaf person so when we were out and about she always encouraged me to sign “low” or “small”. I always thought this to be a bit strange and would love to watch my mum signing freely at home with her Deaf friends or at the Deaf Club. It was like I was seeing the real person and feel I learnt more about her by watching her with other Deaf people. She seemed so relaxed and comfortable using her “real” language rather than having to conform to other hearing professionals’ views, you know like social workers, teachers and so on.


Back when I was little, we only saw interpreters on the TV on a Sunday evening news programme, so I just assumed that interpreters lived in an oval screen on the corner of the TV screen. There were no interpreters around, so often my mum asked me to help her out with communication.


I remember being dragged to a Slimming World meeting at the church hall and having to explain to my mum what the talk was about. The word carbohydrates and calories came up and these were the “enemy”, the amount of bread we ate should be reduced as these were high in calories. My mum thought about this and then told me to ask if bread was bad then would it be better to eat toast as this might have less calories. I remember thinking this was an odd question and said to my mum, I don’t think I should say this, she insisted so I put my hand up and asked the question. Everyone fell about laughing thinking my mum had just made a funny joke. My mum didn’t see it that way and said to me: “Look how silly you made me look!” No amount of explaining seemed to help, but the good thing was I was never invited to a Slimming World meeting again.


I would say every family has their own story and growing up is something we all do, I didn’t feel much different from anyone else and looking back I feel grateful having a Deaf family as it has led to where I am now, working as a BSL interpreter.



Photo caption Mark Cross

DISCLAIMER: At this moment (January 2020), there is no British Sign Language (BSL) translation of the story or this webpage available.