Deaf people are the primary user of British Sign Language or BSL in the United Kingdom. It is estimated that there are around 150,000 deaf signers in the UK. BSL has its grammar and syntax, which differs from English. In this blog post will discuss the basics of BSL, including how to say hello and goodbye, numbers, and colours!
What is British Sign Language (BSL)?
BSL is a form of sign language used in the United Kingdom (UK) and is the UK’s first or preferred language of around 70,000 deaf people.
BSL is a visual-spatial language signed in space and uses the hands, body, face and head to convey meaning. It is a complete language with its grammar, vocabulary and syntax. This sign language is not based on English, and so it is not possible to simply fingerspell words from English or translate English word for word into BSL.
There are different dialects of BSL depending on the region. The main dialects are London BSL, Scottish BSL and Northern Ireland BSL. The Scottish Government recognises it as a different language, and the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages protects it. BSL is taught in schools, colleges, and universities in England and Wales and is a part of the National Curriculum.
In March 2015, BSL was recognised as the whole official language of the UK in a Written Ministerial Statement. BSL is used by deaf people worldwide, including in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Ireland, South Africa and the United States of America.
History of BSL
It is long and complicated, but it can be broadly divided into three main phases. The first phase began in the early 1800s with the development of home sign systems by deaf people without access to formal education. The second phase started in the mid-19th century with the establishment of schools for the deaf that used signed languages as the primary mode of communication. The third phase began in the late 20th century by recognising signed languages as natural languages with their grammar and syntax.
British Sign Language (BSL) is one of the more than 300 sign languages currently used worldwide. Early 19th-century British deaf schools were established. In Edinburgh, the Braidwood Academy for the Deaf and Dumb was established in 1808. With the development of oral education techniques in the late 19th century, the usage of signed languages in deaf schools started to decline. However, some deaf people continued to use signed languages among themselves.
The British government officially recognised BSL as a separate language in 2003, and since then, there has been a growing effort to promote and preserve BSL.
In 2017, England and Wales declared the BSL an official language, alongside English and Welsh, meaning that BSL users have a legal right to access public services in their language.
Basic Grammar and Sentence Structure in BSL
In BSL, basic grammar and sentence structure are relatively simple. There are three main components to a sentence: the subject, the verb, and the object. The issue is the person or thing doing the action, the verb is the action itself, and the object is what or to whom the action is being done. For example, in the sentence “I am eating an apple,” I am the subject, am is the verb, and an apple is an object. Basic grammar also includes the proper use of adjectives and adverbs, as well as correct pronoun usage.
Basic sentence structure simply means putting these components in the correct order so others can understand what you’re trying to say. With a little effort, you’ll be able to communicate clearly and effectively in BSL.
Basic grammar and sentence structure in BSL is relatively simple. There are three main components to a sentence: the subject, the verb, and the object. The issue is The person or thing doing the action, the verb is the action itself, and the object is what or to whom the action is being done. For example, in the sentence “I am eating an apple,” I am the subject, am is the verb, and an apple is an object. Adjectives, adverbs, and proper pronoun usage are all part of basic grammar. Basic sentence structure simply means putting these components in the correct order so others can understand what you’re trying to say.
However, it’s now easy to join any course to become proficient. For example- you can do a BSL level 1 course with zoom classes.
Some Useful Phrases in BSL
Here are some helpful BSL phrases:
- Hello – *Says “hello”*
- How are you? – *Asks how the person is doing*
- I’m fine, thank you. – *Replies that they are doing well*
- What’s your name? – *Asks for the person’s name*
- My name is ___. – *Responds with their name*
- Nice to meet you. – *Says it’s nice to meet the person*
- Please – *Asks politely for something*
- Thank you. – *Says “thank you”*
- You’re welcome. – *Replies when someone says “thank you” to them*
- Goodbye – *Says “goodbye”*
- I’m sorry. – *Apologizes for something*
- Excuse me. – *Asks to be excused or to get someone’s attention*
Tips for learning BSL
- Below, find some tips to enhance your learning.
- Immerse yourself in the language
- Find a good teacher or tutor
- Practise, practise, practise!
- Make friends with other signers
- Watch BSL videos and films
- Join a deaf club or organisation
- Attend BSL classes or courses
- find a BSL level 1 course with Zoom Classes
- Visit places where BSL is used regularly
- Read books and other materials in BSL
- Be patient and prepared to make mistakes – it’s all part of the learning process!
BSL is a fantastic tool for communication and can be learned by anyone, regardless of age, gender, or race. You know about the basics of British Sign Language (BSL). So why are you waiting for? With some practice, you can learn it quickly. Best of luck!