British Sign Language

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'.

Here is a video showing a deaf child communicating with her mother, using BSL.

Interpreters and CSWs

A sign language interpreter (or BSL interpreter) is someone who has 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 speaker into each respective language.

British Deaf Association

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.  It supports the work of international organisations like the World Federation of the Deaf and the European Union of the Deaf.



Articles, Journals, Books and Research Evidence in Bilingualism

Hilger, A.I., Loucks, T.M., Quinto-Pozos, D. and Dye, M.W., 2015. Second language acquisition across modalities: Production variability in adult L2 learners of American Sign Language. Second Language Research, 31(3), pp.375-388.

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 Books

Family Signing Book

This 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 communicate better with their parents, relatives, siblings and friends, both at home and socially.

BSL in Schools

British Sign Language is used in some schools for deaf children to enable them to access the curriculum, develop their knowledge and understanding, as well as develop their social and emotional skills.  Some schools use a bilingual approach where BSL and English are used and taught separately, while other schools use a mixture of BSL and English (Total Communication approach) to teach and communicate with deaf children. A Resource Base, is a provision in a mainstream school with additional staffing and resources to support deaf children. BSL is used is some Resource Bases.

British Deaf History Society (BDHS)

The BDHS was set up in 2006 to collect numerous artefacts, deaf artwork and paper archive collections of all kinds that are deaf-related to preserve the history of deaf people.  They have a Museum and Art Gallery in Warrington.

Sign Language Assessment

Articles, Journals, Books and Research Evidence in Sign Language Assessment

Cawthon, S.W., 2015. Issues of access and validity in standardized academic assessments for students who are deaf or hard of hearing. In: Knoors, H. and Marschark, M. eds. Educating deaf learners: Creating a global evidence base. New York: Oxford University Press. pp.213-228.

Herman, R., 2015. Language assessment of deaf learners. In: Knoors, H. and Marschark, M. eds. Educating deaf learners: Creating a global evidence base. New York: Oxford University Press. pp.197-212.

BSL in Teaching

BSL is used in schools and other education settings to deliver the curriculum.  Some schools have a bilingual philosophy where the curriculum is delivered in BSL and English is taught as a separate language, using BSL to teach reading and writing in English.  Other schools use the signs of BSL simultaneously with spoken English, sometimes called Sign Supported English, which is often used for children who use spoken English as their predominant language. 


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