frequently asked questions about bsl

20 Frequently Asked Questions about BSL

Table of Contents

How many words are there in British sign language vocabulary?

The BSL vocabulary has been estimated to have anywhere from 20,000 – 100,000 key signs, not words. These key signs (like the alphabet) are used as foundation to create many different signs. Signs can show complex meaning through their movements, speed and directionality.

Who created British sign language?

BSL was not ‘created’ by one person, rather it developed through use in Britain. Signing has been around for centuries. Some of the first evidence for BSL is during the eighteenth century with monks using sign language to communicate between monasteries; it then spread into the general public (Cokely, 1980). It was not until the twentieth century where BSL began to be institutionalised.

It was used in deaf education for a long time, but it wasn’t until 1981 British Sign Language became recognised by the government as an official language of the UK with its own unique grammar and syntax.

The British government now recognises BSL as a legitimate language of the UK. This means all government departments such as the NHS, Social Services and so on must also recognise BSL. All deaf-related charities such as the BDA and RNID support BSL.

Where did british sign language come from?

British Sign Language (BSL) is a visual-spatial language. It is primarily communicated through the use of placing signs in space, facial expressions and gestures rather than by voice or in writing. The earliest records of sign language being used date back to the 15th century. There are also references to sign language in Samuel Pepys work.

Who was british sign language developed by?

BSL developed naturally through the deaf community sharing signs with each other which were influenced by their experiences and where they worked, for example; farming communities used agricultural signs whereas harbour workers used nautical signs.

Historians generally agree that BSL was created through a process of evolution from pre-existing signing traditions around Britain, rather than being founded by any one individual or group.

The term ‘British Sign Language’ is a fairly modern concept. Our understanding of modern BSL stems from schools such as the Braidwood Academy set up by Thomas Braidwood in 1760. Children educated in such schools acquired and developed sign language. However, it was still not a unified language – different regions developed different signs.

Who are the users of british sign language?

BSL was originally used by Deaf people who were born into signing families or communities, and is now also used by anyone who needs to communicate with someone who knows BSL – such as Deaf people who have lost their hearing later in life, or non-signing parents of British deaf children.

How many People use sign language in UK?

Over 300,000 people in the UK use British Sign Language (BSL) at some stage in their lives.

What percentage of BSL users have hearing loss?

80% of native BSL signers have some kind of hearing loss. The other 20% consist of hearing relatives, language professionals or professionals working with the Deaf community.

What percentage of BSL users are bilaterally deaf?

20% BSL users are bilaterally deaf

How many people in the UK have bSL as their first language?

In 2010 it was reported as 150,000 BSL users throughout the United Kingdom. It is estimated that there 50,000 native signers who have BSL as their first language.

What percentage of Sign Language users are not deaf?

Some BSL users are not deaf, but BSL is their first language. For example, children of deaf parents (CODAs) might use BSL. There are also professionals working with the Deaf community who are not deaf themselves. For example, interpreters and CSWs use BSL regularly but are likely to be hearing, rather than deaf.

How many BSL teachers are there in the UK?

There are around 1,000 BSL course providers in the UK. Most of them are registered on Signature, the awarding body for BSL qualifications.

How many BSL interpreters are there in the UK?

There are over 1,000 BSL interpreters in the United Kingdom. The NRCPD website holds the up to date figures for language professionals working with Deaf and Deaf-Blind people

Does sign language count as words?

Signs are not always translatable into words. In fact, there are some elements of BSL e.g. multi-channel signs, where one sign can be translated into several words.

Why do BSL users use facial expressions, body language and head movement when signing BSL?

Facial expressions, body language and head movement form part of the language. Facial expressions can show how heavy something is or how much effort is used as well as someone’s emotions . Body language can show an action or someone’s attitude to an event e.g. shrugging your shoulders normally means you don’t know (or you’re not bothered). Head movements can show actions e.g. heading a football. All languages use facial expressions, body language and head movement – BSL is no different.

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