British Sign Language
|British Sign Language |
|Signed in:||United Kingdom|
|Total signers:||Over 50,000 first-language signers|
|sign language — list of sign languages — legal recognition|
British Sign Language (BSL) is the sign language used in the United Kingdom (UK), and is the first or preferred language of an unknown number of Deaf people in the UK (published estimates range from 70,000 to 250,000 but it is likely that the lower figures are more accurate). The language makes use of space and involves movement of the hands, body, face and head. Many thousands of people who are not Deaf also use BSL, as hearing relatives of Deaf people, sign language interpreters or as a result of other contact with the British Deaf community.
Relationships with other sign languages
Although the United Kingdom and the United States share English as the predominant spoken language, British Sign Language is quite distinct from American Sign Language (ASL). BSL fingerspelling is also different from ASL, as it uses two hands whereas ASL uses one. BSL is also distinct from Irish Sign Language (ISL) (ISG in the ISO system) which is more closely related to French Sign Language (LSF) and ASL. Northern Ireland Sign Language (NISL) has BSL as one of its two mother languages. Both NISL and ISL are used in Northern Ireland.
The sign languages used in Australia and New Zealand, Auslan and New Zealand Sign Language, respectively, evolved largely from 19th Century BSL, and all retain the same manual alphabet, grammar, and similar lexicon. BSL, Auslan and NZSL together may be called BANZSL. Makaton, a communication system for people with cognitive impairments or other communication difficulties, was originally developed with signs borrowed from British Sign Language.
BSL users campaigned to have BSL recognised on a similar level to Welsh, Scottish Gaelic, and Irish. BSL was recognised as a language in its own right by the UK government on 18 March 2003, but it has no legal protection, so therefore is not an official language of the United Kingdom.
BSL has many regional dialects. Signs used in Scotland, for example, may not always be understood in southern England, and vice versa. Some signs are even more local, occurring only in certain towns or cities (such as the Manchester system of number signs). Likewise, some may go in or out of fashion, or evolve over time, just as terms in spoken languages do.
Many British television channels broadcast programmes with in-vision signing, using BSL, as well as specially made programmes aimed mainly at deaf people such as the BBC's See Hear and Channel 4's VEE-TV.
BBC News 24 broadcasts 45 minutes of in-vision signing at 07.30-08.15 and 13.00-13.45 GMT each weekday. BBC One also broadcasts in-vision signed repeats of the channel's primetime programmes between 00.30 to 04.00 each weekday.
Learning British Sign Language
British Sign Language can be learnt throughout the UK and three examination systems exist. Courses are provided by community colleges, local centres for Deaf people and private organisations. Most tutors are native users of sign language and hold a relevant teaching qualification.
The Council for the Advancement of Communication with Deaf People (CACDP, also known as CAP) is accredited by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority(QCA) and provides awards at the following levels:
- Level I – Elementary
- Level II – Intermediate
- Level III/ NVQ 3 – Advanced
- NVQ 4 – Required as part of the NVQ 4 BSL/English Interpreting
The Sign Community British Deaf Association has formed the BSL Academy to provide an official British Sign Language curriculum and tutor training.
In Scotland, there is a Scottish Qualifications Authority ( also known as SQA) system for students learning British Sign Language. Currently there are 3 levels in the SQA system (continuing assessments):
- SQA: Introduction to British Sign Language
- SQA: British Sign Language Level 1
- SQA: British Sign Language Level 2
Becoming a BSL / English Interpreter
Applications for Junior, Trainee or MRSLI (Member of the Register of Sign Language Interpreters) status are considered and vetted by the Independent Registration Panel. To be eligible candidates must have the relevant qualifications and must pass a CRB (Criminal Records Bureau) check. Interpreters must have an advanced knowledge of English and BSL and must be able to process information quickly and accurately.
Interpreters may apply for the status of "Junior Trainee Interpreter" after completing the Level III/ NVQ 3 BSL assessment (they must also be enrolled on a recognised interpreter training programme and have professional indemnity insurance to register). They may then undertake work in restricted settings. Deaf Studies courses exist at several British universities. You can begin these some courses with NVQ 3 in BSL, although other courses require no previous knowledge of BSL. Courses are often mapped against the CACDP NVQ 3 or 4 in BSL and/or NVQ 4 BSL/English Interpreting. Once registered with an approved course and having demonstrated their BSL is NVQ 4 standard interpreters are then eligible for the "Trainee Interpreter" title and can work in a wider variety of settings.
After completing an approved course and once the interpreter has been assessed for the NVQ 4 in BSL Interpreting (or equivalent), Trainees can apply to become a "Member of the Register of Sign Language Interpreters" (MRSLI). This status allows an interpreter to work in all settings. Even once MRSLI status is achieved, however, an interpreter is required to undertake Continuous Professional Development.
The Association of Sign Language Interpreters (ASLI) provides seminars, a network of regional groups and a mentoring scheme. When available, specialist training is required to work in specific domains. Membership is available at Affiliate, Corporate, Associate and Licensed levels. The latter two categories provide the interpreter with professional indemnity insurance.
- DeafBooks – for the Let's Sign Series of BSL educational materials to view and buy on-line with free downloads
- DEAFSIGN – free information site for British Sign Language/deafness
- British Deaf Association – Sign Community
- ScienceSigns – free online BSL dictionary for science subjects
- EngineeringSigns – free online BSL dictionary for engineering and built environment subjects
- ArtSigns – free online BSL dictionary for art and design subjects
- Association of Sign Language Interpreters – Information and resources for BSL / English Interpreters and their Consumers
- The Royal National Institute for the Deaf – The UK's best-known charity focusing on improving accessibility for Deaf people
- deafchurch.co.uk- News from Deaf Community and Churches, events, forum, Contains BSL Learners Pages.
- RuDeafAware – Deliver Deaf Awareness, Sign Language & Private Tutorials to the public services.
- Deaf 24/7 – Internet resource on deafness and British Sign Language related information especially in the United Kingdom
- Learn British Sign Language - Info & Resources – A website containing British Sign Language Resources, including free resources for learning sign language and fingerspelling.
- Barrier Breaker Delivers BSL services, including interpreters, BSL language support and CACDP approved training in BSL.
- Learn BSL
- A British Sign Language website
- Learning BSL
- Signs of God- BSL Training for Interpreters working in Churches and other religious contexts
- art of vision.CO.NR A non-profit website made my two teenagers from London that contains useful signs in BSL
- A large library of BSL Signs in the form of videos
- Sign Language / Interpreting Resources - Delivering services in the deaf community
- Learn British Sign Online Online 7 week course in British Sign Languagede:British Sign Language
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