Have you ever been watching TV and seen someone in the corner of your screen signing along with the speech? This is British Sign Language (BSL).
BSL is key to helping deaf or hearing-impaired people communicate with the world. In this article, we’ll explain the importance of BSL and give you a free resource to help you learn the BSL alphabet.
To learn more about BSL and other education CPD topics, head to our dedicated CPD YouTube channel My-Progression and subscribe.
What is British Sign Language?
BSL is a visual means of communicating using gestures, facial expressions and body language. It is primarily used by members of the deaf or hard-of-hearing community. 87,000 thousand people in the UK use BSL as their first language with over 150,000 people in the UK relying on it every day.
There can be regional dialects to BSL, as well as country specific. ASL stands for American Sign Language and Australian sign language is called Auslan.
Sign language has been used in the UK as early as the 16th Century, coming to fruition as a communication tool as communities began to emerge. It was only in 2003 that BSL was recognised as a minority language.
For someone who can hear, why is learning BSL important?
Hearing loss is the second most common disability in the UK ranging from partial hearing loss to complete deafness. By learning BSL, you’re able to contribute to a society where the Deaf community are included and supported, rather than leaving this community of people to adapt, or be isolated from, the world around them.
As an educator, learning BSL will open your lines of communication for your students. By being able to communicate through BSL you’re helping to create an inclusive and accessible environment free from judgement or discrimination, by breaking down the barriers between the Deaf and hearing community.
If a parent of the students you support is part of the Deaf community, it will help you freely communicate with them, which will support improvements in your students' overall learning. You could also open yourself up to new opportunities to teach in a wider variety of settings.
For children, there are huge benefits to learning BSL. Firstly, they’re learning a new language which will open doors for them in the future. Statistics also suggest that when children learn BSL it improves their spatial awareness, peripheral vision and their long-term cognitive development.
How do you communicate using BSL?
British Sign Language uses both its own alphabet and signs which stand for words. There are over 1,800 signs in British Sign Language, including the 26-letter alphabet.
To help you get started, My-Progression’s BSL specialist Alex shows you some common school signs. Check out the video below to begin learning, and feel free to download and keep our BSL alphabet revision sheet below.
Our BSL Alphabet revision sheet
Similar to BSL is Makaton, which is used to aid those who can hear, but have difficulty with communicating verbally. If you want to learn some Makaton signs, head to My-Progression’s YouTube channel to watch their video. Don’t forget to like, subscribe and click on the bell to be notified of their latest video.