British Sign Language

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This article is about British Sign Language. BSL is also an abbreviation for Breed-specific legislation and Biologic Space Laboratories from Metroid Fusion.

British sign language (BSL) is the sign language used in the United Kingdom (UK). BSL is the first or preferred language of nearly 70,000 deaf or hearing-impaired people in the UK. It is a language of space and movement using the hands, body, face and head. Many thousands of hearing people also use BSL.

Although the United Kingdom and the United States share English as a spoken language, British Sign Language is distinct from American Sign Language (ASL). BSL fingerspelling is also different from ASL as it uses two hands instead of one. The Makaton system was developed by borrowing signs from British Sign Language. BSL is also distinct from Irish Sign Language (ISL) which is more closely related to French Sign Language (LSF) and ASL. Both BSL and ISL are used in Northern Ireland.

BSL has what could loosely be termed 'accents' or dialects. Signs that are used in Scotland for example, may not always be understood in the South of England, and vice versa. Some signs are even more local, occurring only in certain towns or cities. Likewise, some may go in or out of fashion, or evolve over time, just as terms in spoken languages do.

Despite the dialects, and different sign languages fluent signers don't have much problem communicating with each other. For example a fluent signer of BSL only will quickly communicate with a fluent signer of LSF. This is in comparison to the slow minimal communication of a fluent English (only) speaker and a fluent French (only) speaker.

The systems for sign language used in Australia and New Zealand, Auslan and New Zealand Sign Language, were based largely on 19th Century BSL, and all retain the same manual alphabet, grammar and similar lexicon. BSL, Auslan and NZSL together may be called BANZSL.

BSL users campaigned to have BSL recognised on a similar level to Welsh and the Gaelic languages of Scotland and Ireland. BSL was recognised as an official British language by the UK government on 18 th March 2003, but it does not have any legal protection.In New Zealand, New Zealand Sign Language is soon joining English and Maori to become the third official language of New Zealand.

Many British television channels broadcast programs 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.

See also

External links

  • British Deaf Association (
  • The Council for the Advancement of Communication with Deaf People ( - a UK charity whose primary aim is to improve and facilitate communication between deaf and hearing people.
  • The Royal National Institute for the Deaf ( - The UK's best-known charity focussing on improving accessibility for deaf people
  • Deaf 24/7 ( - Internet resource on deafness and British Sign Language related information especially in the United Kingdomde:British Sign Language
  • Deaf Essential Ltd ( - Deaf Essential Ltd is a national provider of Deaf services. We help to improve access for the Deaf community by providing registered language professionals. We improve access to the Deaf community by training people in British Sign Language, Deaf Awareness and our translation and Media Production Services.

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