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Four ways you can learn sign language

Wednesday, September 6th, 2017 | Blog

In the UK there are estimated to be around 900,000 partially or profoundly deaf people, 45,000 of these people are children, yet only 0.1% of the UK population know how to communicate with them.

Just like the spoken word, there are different national variants of sign languages across the world. British Sign Language (BSL) is the most widely used form of sign language in the UK, it uses a combination of hand movements, gestures, body language and facial expressions to communicate.

Thomas Braidwood laid the foundations for today’s British Sign Language, he created the Braidwood Academy for the Deaf and Dumb in Edinburgh during the 18th century, where he encouraged his pupils to ‘hear’ using sign language in place of lip reading or forcing deaf children to speak, which was the norm at the time.

During the early 20th century there was great opposition to sign language, with children being taught to finger spell and lip read once again. These teaching methods lasted right up until the 1970’s, when it was acknowledged that children taught in this way were not reaching their true potential. Around the same time, awareness of British Signage Language grew once again.

In 2003 British Sign Language was finally recognised and as minority language in the UK, giving it the same recognition as spoken languages such as Welsh and Gaelic.  This status opened up greater funding for the provision of tutors and interpreters.

Thomas Braidwood’s contribution was recently celebrated with a Google Doodle, timed to coincide with the start of the new academic year to encourage more people to learn British Sign Language and open up channels of communication between hearing and non-hearing children and adults.

There many different ways to learn British Sign Language some of the following options may be of interest to you.

1. Mobile Phone Apps

There are multiple mobile apps dedicated to teaching sign language. Sign BSL enables users to search for common words and phrases, which are presented and signed by the apps’ own user base.  The app gives users a quick and easy access to a library of signs. To download the app follow the links below:

Sign BSL on iOS App Store

Sign BSL on Google Play

2. YouTube

Just entering the search term “learn British Sign Language” into YouTube yields 845,000 results and there are many free video tutorials and dedicated channels devoted to teaching sign language.  We would suggest that you take a search to find the right video that works for you.

3. Online Courses

There are many online course providers available, this route allows you to learn in your own time at a pace that works for you.

www.british.sign.co.uk offer an online course broken down into seven lessons, followed by an interactive assessment, with a certificate being issued on successful completion of all assessments. 

4. College Courses

Many local colleges provide affordable, and sometimes free British Sign Language courses. Having a two-way conversation in a different language is often one of the best ways to learn. Search learn BSL to find a local colleague course to you.

Being able to communicate in sign can make a real difference to a deaf or partially person and it’s a great skill to have.

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