British Sign Language (BSL)

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BSL in Employment

Some Deaf people use BSL in a variety of employment contexts to communicate.  Some Deaf people work with Deaf colleagues and they can communicate directly with each other in BSL, while some Deaf people need to communicate with hearing colleagues who cannot use BSL, or only have limited BSL skills.  The government have a scheme called Access to Work, which provides funding for interpreters in the workplace for Deaf and hearing colleagues to communicate with each other, or for equipment such as a textphone or other technical equipment/service, e.g.

BSL courses

One can learn BSL through accredited courses that are delivered by a number of providers, include colleges, schools and private companies.  BSL courses start at beginner stage (Level 1) and progress to Level 2, Level 3, Level 4 and Level 6, the highest level.  Courses vary in length and frequency, with some courses delivered in class by a BSL teacher/tutor, or online.  Courses are designed for students to learn the vocabulary, grammar and syntax of BSL in order to communicate with BSL-users.  An online search will provide a list of course providers locally, or give details of online courses

Other countries

BSL in social contexts

Deaf people use BSL in a wide variety of social contexts.  Deaf clubs, Deaf theatre, Deaf pub, and Deaf events are a few social activities where Deaf people gather to chat, mingle or interact.  Sometimes hearing people such as interpreters or CSWs or people learning BSL will also attend these events to participate in 'Deaf culture'.

Interpreters and CSWs

A sign language interpreter (or BSL interpreter) is someone who trained to translate between English and BSL.  Interpreters are either trainees or qualified.  They interpret simultaneously what is being said or spoken, into BSL for a Deaf person, and what is being signed in BSL, into spoken English for a hearing person.  An interpreter does not translate word for word or sign for sign, but uses their knowledge and skills in both language to translate the content of the signer and the speaker into each respective language.

British Deaf Association BDA)

The BDA is a deaf-led and run charity that advocates for the rights of deaf people, including the provision of an advocacy service and community projects.  The BDA are also active in pushing for the legal recognition and status of BSL to promote and preserve the language for Deaf people in England and Wales.  The BDA also supports the work of international organisations like the World Federation of the Deaf and the European Union of the Deaf.


BSL in guided reading

In bilingual schools for Deaf children where BSL is the child’s first language, guided reading is an activity whereby the Deaf child reads a story or text in English and uses BSL to understand the content and context of the English.  Most young Deaf children will sign or fingerspell word-for-word, but the order of the English words is not always understood and the child needs support or guidance with understanding the content by translating the information into BSL.  Effectively, guided reading is supporting the deaf child to translate the English text into BSL to ensure that they understan

BSL Stories

Family Signing Book

The book provides parents with the opportunity to learn basic signs and for deaf children to be involved in the process, by teaching their parents.  The book can be used by the whole family with the ultimate aim of deaf children being able to better communicate with their parents, relatives, siblings and friends, both at home and socially.



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