BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page was last updated in March 2007We've left it here for reference.More information

23 July 2014
Accessibility help
Text only
Your Voice

BBC Homepage

Contact Us

Like this page?
Send it to a friend!

Elsewhere on BBCi
See Hear
Elsewhere on the web
British Deaf Association
BSL Dictionary Online

In Your Area
What do you think about your local accent?
Talk about Voices in your area

Did You Know?
95% of people in Northern Ireland think of themselves as having a moderately strong accent, compared to only 63% of people in the east of England.
Voices poll results

Page 1 of 2
BSL today
The history of BSL

Your comments

Laura, SE London
It's a disgrace that there are approx 250 BSL interpreters for over 50,000 deaf people. The Government should be taking serious action to address this. The course fees are outrageous.

Sue Colledge from North Wales
I wish people would get their facts straight before spouting off about "there's no point having BSL signed on tv" and "hard of hearing people can just put a hearing aid on". Firstly BSL is totaly different than English and most BSL users have problems understanding English. Secondly hearing aids don't just amplify what the person is tring to listen to it amplifies everything, only if there is a loop system set up that a hearing aid is of any use as it isolates the area your in.

Eve from Essex
I totally agree that it would be good if everyone had the opportunity to learn BSL so we could all communicate with deaf people. It is a shame that it has to be so expensive. I've just paid more than £300 for a 1 year level 2 course and think I've just failed my exam on some of the comprehension as the signer was as fast as an interpreter, and wouldn't repeat anything! Why does expense and extremely high standards have to get in the way of those who have the keen desire to communicate? The exam cost another £125 plus travel to London. A lady just leaving after her level 2 exam said that it was her 4th attempt and if she didn't pass it this time she was going to give up - very sad. Someone else reported that only 20 per cent of students are passed at level 2!

William Leeds
I work for the leeds society for Deaf and Blind people and feel that the language should become an optional GCSE language in high schools. i have just finished my level 1 BSL course and found that BSL was easier to learn (and more fun!) than any foreign language i learnt in high school. so i recomend it to anyone interested.

Andrea in London
Hi All, I suffer from recruitment and at times find it hard to understand what people say, specially male voices, now if you are female and have a screechy voice I won't like your voice either because 9 out 10, it hurts my ears. I believe BSL should be taught in mainstream schools as a form of integrating better the deaf community as a lot of deaf schools are being closed in this country. BSL is not about replacing English, it is not about replacing the spoken language, it is about visual communication. I am fortunate to speak 2 other languages and know how tricky at times it was to learn English, what you hear is not the way you write. Now if you can't hear and what you are reading is not how you pronounce, it makes it 10x harder. I admire the Deaf Community and strongly believe they must carry on fighting for their rights. I understand that it is a language in its own right, but above all, it is a way of communicating. Just remember, that no matter how well or badly one signs, if they are deaf of hard of hearing. They will still need to catch buses, buy tickets, go places, and lead a normal life, therefore they will speak, some better and more confidently then others. It is more shameful to have foreign ethnic minorities that live in this country for decades and don't bother to learn basic English.

Marta from Italy
I would love to learn the sign language, but I find it ridiculus as not only courses are not free, but prices are absolutely high. I would go to a course myself if it wasn't that expensive.

Kat from London
I'm hearing and am learning BSL at the moment. I go to a church with BSL interpretation and where Deaf people participate as much as hearing people. We also have Deaf services and a sign language choir. I've been completely accepted into the Deaf community at my church now. Signed languages can sometimes convey meaning much better than spoken languages ("all", for example) and it's an incredibly beautiful language. I feel privileged to be a part of this world.

g.a. phillips
I think BSL is great.I am parshaly deaf myself I wear a hearing aid my self also i know the alphabet in BSL all by heart. I also know the five valves all by heart.also I know some sign words.also I am learning myself BSL because I am deaf myself I also have a three year old child who is also deaf so I think BSL should be learnt everywear to help all deaf people. as I said earlyer I think BSL is great and good for everone that needs it thank you your friend george.

anne-marie from wales
i am partly deaf and all through infant and junior school i had serious problems doing my work due to not being able to hear what the teacher was saying and i was classed as a dull child. now i am nearly 18 and i have been given the opportunity to learn bsl for the first time. i firmly believe that sign language should be taught in schools, even if it is just a tempory course, just to give children and teachers alike an understanding of life when you can't hear, maybe then children like me with hearing difficulties will be given more chances to learn and develop like everyone else.

Paul, Cumbria
Should BSL be taught as a curriculum subject in schools? we learn French and German but BSL would benefit more people within the UK community...

Stella Antunes from London
A way of "teaching" the Hearing community about BSl and the Deaf culture is by promoting more Deaf Awareness events. This would bring both communities together.

Ian, Folkestone
Please make the 'signers' smaller, they block the viewing area by up to 30%.

J from Leicester
I'm profoundly deaf since birth and firmly believe that oral speech must come first with extra support (i.e Teacher must face to face in good light or rephrase words) at early stage of every deaf child's life before learn to use BSL otherwise it will get harder to able to speak properly. Using Oral speech can help to write English (although it won't be prefect but better). BSL can wait same with other foreign lanuguages as choices. Please don't use bad experiences about lip reading or oral speech from 19th & 20th century as excuse for BSL. For goodness sakes, this is 21st century and there is amazing range of technology like using digital hearing aids! So, please learn and use them!

Paul PJ from London
Sorry Ruka, it isn't pointless having BSL on TV, there are over 60,000 people in the UK who prefer to use BSL and not all of them can read English as well as hearing people. The structure of BSL and English are completely different, many Deaf people have a great degree of difficulty using written English, the recognition of BSL as a language means now BSL users can have information presented in the best format for them. A BSL Act equivalent to the Welsh Act wouldn't be the same but an equivalent.

Ruka from S. England
Yep, I think promoting BSL is a good idea, as many people for true deafness an other reasons can't speak or hear. I have learnt the BSL alphabet and a few other signs, and would be happy to learn more if I had the time. I have nothing against it if a person truly has a need for it. Though I doubt the need for BSL by those hard-of-hearding (HOH) sufferers who can hear if they get a hearing aid! Moreover, re: Richard Jones above, though a BSL Act equivalent to the Welsh Language Act seems logical as it is as much a native British language as Welsh, the Act couldn't be as extensive. The main three aspects of the Welsh L Act is to 1) have a Welsh TV station, which is pointless in BSL because deaf-people can read as well as the rest of the population so can use CeeFax, 2) the Act requires Welsh road signs - N/A, 3) the Act requires Welsh-language schools. Ok, a BSL is a nice idea. But such may cut deaf people of from the rest of Britain! Just my two cents....

Fin, Belfast
There is soooo much of a difference between BSL and what we here call NISL (Northern Irish Sign Language) that we are now pushing for the government to recognise it as a language in its own right. A lot of the signers in Belfast also speak ISL (Irish Sign Language). This is mostly one handed, so we hold a pint of guiness in the other. No, not really, but its useful!

Sarah, North London
I have been a B.S.L (hearing)student for over two years now and still feel eager to learn more. I am capable of holding a conversation for 10 minutes or so and appreciate signing a great deal. I approach the beginning of my Level 2 course this year (Sept 05) and hope to teach it.

Hannah from Nottingham
Im not deaf, but my cousin does communicate in BSL at the moment as she has Downs and a clef pallet so she can fluently rabbit away. But I've tried to get on a course for BSL level 1 but it costs £500.

heather uk
if you deaf. lern bsl it much easy than hav deaf friends.

jessie from cardiff
i love sign language ive learnt it all in 6 months, im 17 and am now fully able to have a convosation with my deaf mate.

Brisa from America
I highly recommend BSL for all of the deaf people n Britian, we americans here use ASL- it's a strong language and it doesn't really offend the most.

Alcuin from London
I have Meniere's disease, which means that over time I will lose my hearing. A girlfriend once suggested I should learn sign language so that I didn't lose out. The trouble is, she wasn't British and we weren't sure where we'd end up. I've picked up a few signs in American Sign Language but I can't understand BSL at all.

Nita Cuff from Bucks
I am a hearing person, but firmly believe that sign language (BSL) should be taught to children when in first school as part of the National Curriculum for English. We teach them French and in some areas Urdu, why not BSL? It is a universal language and would enable them to communicate in any country because the basic signs remain the same no matter what the language or dialect of the country or part of this country. Might also be useful in Geordy land as well!!

David. A. Duller
Whatever each Deaf person in Britian believes,there is no doubt there is still a future for the Deaf community. However,because of all the likely changes, it is all the more important that our Deaf History is preserved and recorded for our future generationa to look back upon with genuine pride in our heritage.

Richard Jones
There should be a BSL Act equivalent to the Welsh Language Act.


About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy