British Sign Language

British Sign Language

Infobox Language
name=British Sign Language
states=United Kingdom
signers=Over 50,000 first-language signers

British Sign Language (BSL) is the sign language used in the United Kingdom (UK), and is the first or preferred language of deaf people in the UK; the number of signers has been put at 30,000 to 70,000. The language makes use of space and involves movement of the hands, body, face and head. Many thousands of people who are not Deaf also use BSL, as hearing relatives of Deaf people, sign language interpreters or as a result of other contact with the British Deaf community.

Relationships with other sign languages

Although the United Kingdom and the United States share English as the predominant spoken language, British Sign Language is quite distinct from American Sign Language (ASL). BSL fingerspelling is also different from ASL, as it uses two hands whereas ASL uses one. BSL is also distinct from Irish Sign Language (ISL) (ISG in the ISO system) which is more closely related to French Sign Language (LSF) and ASL.

It is also distinct from Signed English, a manually coded method expressed to represent the English language.

The sign languages used in Australia and New Zealand, Auslan and New Zealand Sign Language, respectively, evolved largely from 19th century BSL, and all retain the same manual alphabet, grammar, and similar lexicon. BSL, Auslan and NZSL together may be called BANZSL. Makaton, a communication system for people with cognitive impairments or other communication difficulties, was originally developed with signs borrowed from British Sign Language. The sign language used in Sri Lanka is also closely related to BSL despite the spoken language not being English, demonstrating the distance between sign languages and spoken ones.

BSL users campaigned to have BSL recognised on a similar level to Welsh, Scottish Gaelic, and Irish. BSL was recognised as a language in its own right by the UK government on 18 March 2003, but it has no legal protection, so therefore is not an official language of the United Kingdom.


BSL has many regional dialects. Signs used in Scotland, for example, may not always be understood in southern England, and vice versa. Some signs are even more local, occurring only in certain towns or cities (such as the Manchester system of number signs). Likewise, some may go in or out of fashion, or evolve over time, just as terms in spoken languages do.

Many British television channels broadcast programmes with in-vision signing, using BSL, as well as specially made programmes aimed mainly at Deaf people such as the BBC's "See Hear" and Channel 4's "VEE-TV".

BBC News broadcasts in-vision signing at 07:00-07:45, 08:00-08:20 and 13.00-13.45 GMT each weekday. BBC One also broadcasts in-vision signed repeats of the channel's primetime programmes between 00.30 to 04.00 each weekday.

Learning British Sign Language

British Sign Language can be learnt throughout the UK and three examination systems exist. Courses are provided by community colleges, local centres for Deaf people and private organisations. Most tutors are native users of sign language and hold a relevant teaching qualification.

The Council for the Advancement of Communication with Deaf People (CACDP or CAP) is accredited by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) and provides awards at the following levels:

*Level I – Elementary
*Level II – Intermediate
*Level III/ NVQ 3 – Advanced
*NVQ 4 – Required as part of the NVQ 4 BSL/English Interpreting

The Sign Community British Deaf Association has formed the BSL Academy to provide an official British Sign Language curriculum and tutor training.

In Scotland, there is a Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) system for students learning British Sign Language. Currently there are 3 levels in the SQA system (continuing assessments):

*SQA: Introduction to British Sign Language
*SQA: British Sign Language Level 1
*SQA: British Sign Language Level 2

Becoming a BSL / English Interpreter

Applications for Junior, Trainee or MRSLI (Member of the Register of Sign Language Interpreters) status are considered and vetted by the Independent Registration Panel. To be eligible candidates must have the relevant qualifications and must pass a CRB (Criminal Records Bureau) check. Interpreters must have an advanced knowledge of English and BSL and must be able to process information quickly and accurately.

Interpreters may apply for the status of "Junior Trainee Interpreter" after completing the Level III/ NVQ 3 BSL assessment (they must also be enrolled on a recognised interpreter training programme and have professional indemnity insurance to register). They may then undertake work in restricted settings. Deaf Studies courses exist at several British universities. You can begin some of these courses with NVQ 3 in BSL, although other courses require no previous knowledge of BSL. Courses are often mapped against the CACDP NVQ 3 or 4 in BSL and/or NVQ 4 BSL/English Interpreting. Once registered with an approved course and having demonstrated their BSL is NVQ 4 standard interpreters are then eligible for the "Trainee Interpreter" title and can work in a wider variety of settings.

After completing an approved course and once the interpreter has been assessed for the NVQ 4 in BSL Interpreting (or equivalent), Trainees can apply to become a "Member of the Register of Sign Language Interpreters" (MRSLI). This status allows an interpreter to work in all settings. Even once MRSLI status is achieved, however, an interpreter is required to undertake Continuous Professional Development.

The Association of Sign Language Interpreters (ASLI) provides seminars, a network of regional groups and a mentoring scheme. When available, specialist training is required to work in specific domains. Membership is available at Affiliate, Corporate, Associate and Licensed levels. The latter two categories provide the interpreter with professional indemnity insurance.

ee also

*Languages in the United Kingdom


External links

* [ CACDP] – CACDP Advancing Communication Between Deaf and Hearing People.
* [ List of every BSL online dictionary] fr - en
* [ Christian Signs] – a collection of British Sign Language (BSL) signs and sign phrases that we are currently seeing used in the Deaf Christian Community.
* [] – For British Sign Language educational materials - free downloads and free games for children
* [] – For information on BSL/deafness
* [ ScienceSigns] – free online BSL dictionary for science subjects
* [ EngineeringSigns] – free online BSL dictionary for engineering and built environment subjects
* [ ArtSigns] – free online BSL dictionary for art and design subjects
* [ Association of Sign Language Interpreters] – Information and resources for BSL / English Interpreters and their Consumers
* [] - News from Deaf Community and Churches, events, forum, Contains BSL Learners Pages.
* [ RuDeafAware] – Deliver Deaf Awareness, Sign Language & Private Tutorials to the public services.
* [ Deaf 24/7] – Internet resource on deafness and British Sign Language related information especially in the United Kingdom
* [ Learn British Sign Language - Info & Resources] – A website containing British Sign Language Resources, including free resources for learning sign language and fingerspelling.
* [ Barrier Breaker] Delivers BSL services, including interpreters, BSL language support and CACDP approved training in BSL.
* [ A British Sign Language website]
* [ Learning BSL]
* [ Signs of God] - BSL Training for Interpreters working in Churches and other religious contexts
* [ art of vision.CO.NR] A non-profit website made my two teenagers from London that contains useful signs in BSL
* [ A large library of BSL Signs in the form of videos]
* [ Sign Language / Interpreting Resources] - Delivering services in the deaf community
* [ Learn British Sign Online] Online 7 week course in British Sign Language
* [ Facts about British Sign Language]
* [ British Sign Language Game] - Learn the fingerspelling alphabet by playing this fun game

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • British Sign Language — Gesprochen in England, Schottland, Nordirland Sprecher ca. 40.000 Muttersprachler ca. 900.000 Zweitsprachler Linguistische Klassifikation Gebärdensprache Britische Geb …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • British Sign Language — BSL; see sign language …   The new mediacal dictionary

  • British Sign Language — noun a language that uses hands, facial expressions, and other bodily behavior to communicate both concrete and abstract ideas; some signs are based on English words, but BSL syntax and grammar are not based on English. Syn: BSL …   Wiktionary

  • British Sign Language — ISO 639 3 Code : bfi ISO 639 2/B Code : ISO 639 2/T Code : ISO 639 1 Code : Scope : Individual Language Type : Living …   Names of Languages ISO 639-3

  • Sign language — Two men and a woman signing. A sign language (also signed language) is a language which, instead of acoustically conveyed sound patterns, uses visually transmitted sign patterns (manual communication, body language) to convey meaning… …   Wikipedia

  • sign language — noun a) One of several natural languages, typically used by the deaf, where the words and phrases consist of hand shapes, motions, positions, and facial expressions. It is safe to say that the academic world is now convinced that sign languages… …   Wiktionary

  • sign language — signed language a form of communication that uses movements of the hands and other parts of the body together with facial expressions instead of sound. There are many different forms of sign language throughout the world. British Sign Language… …   The new mediacal dictionary

  • Sign language glove — A sign language glove is an electronic device which converts the complex motions of a sign language into written or spoken words. A young inventor on a Fulbright scholarship announced a working model in 2003 Fact|date=May 2008, and the US Army is …   Wikipedia

  • Sign language on television — is the use of a signer for a television programme. The signer usually appears in the bottom corner of the screen, with the programme being broadcast full size or slightly shrunk away from that corner.Paddy Ladd initiated deaf programming on… …   Wikipedia

  • Sign language in infants and toddlers — This article is about the usage of sign language to communicate with infants and toddlers.DevelopmentIn the United States, teaching sign language to non signing families to communicate with their hearing infants and toddlers was developed by… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”