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What is BSL?

What is BSL (British Sign Language) and why would I want to learn?

British Sign Language (BSL) is a language that deaf people use to communicate with other deaf people, using hand signs, gestures, facial expressions and lip patterns. It is a totally different language to English.There are nine million deaf people in the UK, and BSL is used by an estimated 125,000 people. There are many people who are not deaf who use it too.

You might want to learn BSL because:

  • it is a different way to communicate with people and very easy once you know how
  • sometimes speaking and listening can be tiring –sign language can help out!
  • it is another language you can learn, like French or German
  • you may have a family member or a friend who is deaf
  • if you’re not deaf, you may want to have a job working with deaf people who use BSL in the future

Learning BSL can be a lot of fun!

Do people only use one sign language all over the world?

No, there are lots of different sign languages around the world. Remember that BSL is British Sign Language! Other countries will have their own sign language, like ISL (Irish Sign Language), ASL (American Sign Language) or AUSLAN (Australian Sign Language).

When deaf people meet each other at international conferences or sporting events there are some signs they can use to communicate with each other. This is a special system of sign language called International Sign. If you learn International Sign you can communicate with a lot of deaf people around the world. You can find examples of International Sign on the European Union of the Deaf Youth and the European Union of the Deaf websites.

Will deaf young people from different countries understand me if I learn BSL?

BSL is the sign language used in the UK. But there are some signs that look the same in different languages. You can try and use signs and gestures that you think they will understand. It is very easy to communicate with each other once you give it a go.

What can I use BSL for?

You can use BSL to communicate with other users of BSL and make friends. There are a number of jobs you can do using BSL, such as being a sign language interpreter, a Teacher of the Deaf, a communication support worker (CSW) or special educational needs teacher. You could also support deaf adults with disabilities.

It is a fun language to learn and is very visual. You may find that you will think about language in a different way once you learn sign language!

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National Deaf Children's Society

Registered Charity: England and Wales (1016532) and Scotland (SC040779)

Helpline: 0808 800 8880

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