What is BSL?

What is BSL and who uses it?

BSL stands for British Sign Language.

BSL is a language used by Deaf  and hearing people to communicate with other BSL users. BSL uses hand signs, body and facial gestures and lip patterns.

BSL is a completely different language to English. There are approximately nine million deaf people in the UK, and BSL is used by an estimated 125,000 people of which an estimated 70,000 using BSL as their first language.

The use of BSL is not confined to the Deaf community. Families, friends and colleagues of Deaf individuals and also, professionals such as British Sign Language interpreters and teachers also use it.

How does British Sign Language differ from spoken language?

As mentioned above, British Sign Language is a very visual language. The differences do not stop there however. Speed is also a key differentiating factor and as such, words in the spoken mode can be produced twice as quickly as signs. Even though this is the case, this does not make the communicating of British Sign Language any slower than spoken language; the reason being that the eyes can perceive multiple signals therefore, the signs may be combined with other movements of the face, head and body.

Is British Sign Language officially recognised?

Surprisingly, British Sign Language has only been recognised as a formal British language since 18th March 2003 by the British Government.

In 2009, the UK signed the UN Convention for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which viewed sign language on par with spoken languages.

Is British Sign Language a global language?

Whilst sign language is used across the globe BSL is not.

Sign language, like spoken language, differs from region to region  and country to country.

There is however, an International Sign Language, which is used at global events to assist in international communication. This particular language differs from country specific languages in that it is not as complex and can be likened to ‘pidgin sign language’. This particular form of sign language is also known as International Sign Pidgin, International Gesture and, more commonly, Gestuno.