About British Sign Language

BSL is the language used by the Deaf Community in the UK. It is now recognised as one of the four indigenous languages in the British Isles. It has its own grammar and syntax, very different from the grammatical rules of English. It uses both manual and non-manual components: hand shapes and movements, facial expression and body movements.

BSL is described by linguists as a ‘topic-comment language’. This means that sentences start with the topic followed by a comment, for example in English we say ‘What is your name?’ In BSL this would be signed ‘Name you what?’

If you have a Deaf child, please contact us about funding.

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Communicating with Deaf people

There are 900,000 people with severe/profound deafness in the UK . If we including age-related hearing loss, there are 11 million people affected by deafness. That is 1-in-6 of the UK population.

The UK Census tells us that 65% of people who use BSL as their main language cannot speak English either ‘at all’ or cannot speak it ‘very well’.

Within our aging population: 40% of fifty year-olds have started to lose their hearing. This increases to 70% by the age of seventy.

The Deaf Community

The degree of deafness does not, in itself, determine whether or not a person is a member of the Deaf Community. For example, someone who has become deaf in adulthood may still identify with the hearing world and rely on lip-reading/speech and hearing aids. Whereas someone born with hearing loss, but born into a Deaf family, may identify with the Deaf Community and use BSL.

Official Minority Language in the UK

BSL is an official Minority Language in the UK, along with Welsh, Cornish or Gaelic. The latter have legal protection – BSL does not. This means that young BSL users are not taught in their own language.

Without ‘phonetic input’ reading becomes excruciatingly difficult. 50% of Deaf children leave school with the reading age of a 9 year-old. 30% are deemed functionally illiterate. They are not taught, or judged in their own language – but in one they cannot hear.

Monolingual BSL Users

It is impossible for monolingual BSL users to comprehend English fully. They must have information in their own language.

The new law ensures this for NHS patients, but until BSL is granted ‘legal status’ it won’t happen in other public institutions such as schools, where the bench mark is always set in English.

Communication Access

Deaf BSL users must rely on hearing ‘English-to-BSL’ interpreters. Due to shortages, in the South-East it is estimated that for every BSL user with an interpreter booked – there were 20 Deaf BSL users who couldn’t have one at all.

In 2014, 68% of people requesting a BSL interpreter for their doctors’ appointments, didn’t get one.

Deaf Awareness Event

At Dot Sign Language, our goal is for every school, college, supermarket, doctor, dentist and any customer-facing business to have a ‘go to’ person with BSL skills. If you would like us to run a Deaf Awareness event at your workplace or teach BSL to your staff, we will tailor the session to fit your schedule and your needs.