What Is British Sign Language?

what is BSL

Firstly, sign language is the act of communicating using signs and or gesticulations.

British Sign Language is therefore a sign language used in the United Kingdom to communicate with the deaf community. The population of the said deaf community which for the purpose of civility are referred to as members of the speech and hearing impaired community have been estimated at 125, 000 for adults while kids are up to 20, 000 in populace.

This language is not limited to the members of the hearing and speech impaired community, anyone is free to learn it. Relatives of deaf persons have no option but to learn else they will have difficulties communicating with their deaf relatives. These speech impaired individuals cannot be denied their right to education just because they are challenged in speech and hearing.

Teachers need to be trained on the BSL so they can use it to teach them. So another population away from the speech and hearing impaired community is using the BSL and it’s a major language for some persons in the England and Wales.

The language is also used in public functions to communicate with these challenged individuals all across the United Kingdom. The British Sign Language (BSL) is native to the United Kingdom even though some other English speaking nations across the globe have adopted the language. Although, the United States and The United Kingdom share English as a major language, their sign language system has some marked distinctions.

The American Sign Language (ASL) is different from the British Sign Language (BSL), only about 31% of signs in both the ASL and BSL are identical.

The British Sign Language in 2003 was recognized as an official minority language in the UK by the British Government.

History of the British Sign Language (BSL)

The British Sign Language (BSL) has existed for centuries and has been dated back to 1570. The first school for the deaf and dumb in Britain was opened by an Edinburgh teacher known as Thomas Braidwood in 1760. He pioneered the British Sign Language since his first use of signs as a means for communication was adopted by the British Government and thus became the British Sign Language (BSL). Braidwood sign language was formerly referred to as the “Combined System” prior to its adoption by the British Government.

Braidwood had a student known as Joseph Watson who was well tutored on the act of sign language communications. Watson would do great at it to become the first headmaster of the first public school for the deaf in the United Kingdom. The school was named “Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb” located in Bermondsey. The British Sign Language has since evolved from its cradle with many modifications to suit contemporary times. Modifications in languages are common across major languages around the world, which will include accents and regional variations.

The BSL has also gone through its own share of modifications throughout all the centuries it has survived. Some of the notable modifications that has characterized the evolution of the British Sign Language (BSL) include the evolvement of ancient signs like alms and pawnbroker into contemporary signs like the internet and laser which were formulated to align with the digital age.

In the past, tolerance for the British Sign Language (BSL) and its users where quite negligible and somewhat unofficial, that narrative is however different in modern times.

Features of the British Sign Language (BSL)

Since its signs we are talking about, features of the British Sign Language include; rapid or slow movement of the hands, head, body and face. The bulk of the gesticulations comes from both hands of the user and the BSL alphabet system has all the alphabet in English Language from A to Z represented by hand and finger formations. So yes, the BSL has it’s own alphabet system known as the fingerspelling alphabet system. The BSL is often referred to as a spatial language since it requires moving signs in space which may vary from other sign languages in some climes.

Other features that are used in distinguishing the BSL include: location and orientation (in space mostly), hand movement, hand shape and non-manual features like facial expressions. In the facial expressions, some things like eyebrow height, eye gaze, head movement and mouthing all matter.

Each finger position and facial expression is unique to an interpretation and one slight twist in the shape of a finger can alter a unique meaning and cause it to change, making the BSL a language that demands sheer attention to details in order to gain mastering in the act. It also demands some level of meticulousness and expertise to teach others or communicate with the deaf and dumb.

Why the BSL is Important

You might not have any relative that’s deaf and dumb, so you might not want to see this entire subject of sign language as the last thing that might interest you, but it should matter to you. The sign language could get you employed in a government agency where sign language is needed. In the British Broadcasting Corporation, many channels broadcast with the BSL even as special programmes for the deaf community on television are on the rise.

Beyond it’s bankable nature, it allows you to relate with the deaf and dumb community wherever you find them. If you’ve lived by the notion that they are entirely useless, it’s a wrong way to think and you might be surprised on the avalanche of talent you will find deposited in their “awkward” lot. Beyond their impairments, they are awesome people. You could find introverts, extroverts, amazing people and virtually every other category of normal humans in their composition.

If you are going for a political position, the sheer fact that you can use the BSL can keep on an edge because you will be able to relate with them freely and convince them to stand by you. They love the fact that you see them as a people of interest in your cause and they’ll appreciate that gesture by throwing their weight solidly behind you. You can enrol with online course, with a online course provider like The Course Mix.

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