How to sign the alphabet in British Sign Language

Lots of us have been trying our hand at new skills to pass the time while we've been at home.

We’ve all seen the banana bread bakes, jigsaws have been flying off the online shelves and many people are trying to learn a new language.

But while some are getting fluent in French, Japanese and even Dothraki, what about sign language?

WATCH: Charlie talks about the differences between left and right handed signing

British Sign Language (BSL) has been around in some form since the 16th Century and was officially recognised as a language in 2003 – it’s the most common form of sign language in the UK.

WATCH: Charlie Raine shows you how to sign A-G in BSL

It’s thought around 11 million people in the UK are deaf or hard of hearing – but there are only 151,000 BSL users at the moment.

WATCH: Charlie Raine shows you how to sign H-Q in BSL

But the language is growing - we’re used to seeing people who use BSL on the television and last year interpreter Tara Asher supported Stormzy on stage at Glastonbury with an incredible performance. More and more people are learning to sign – and you can give it a go too.

WATCH: Charlie Raine shows you how to sign R-Z in BSL

BSL is made up of a combination of hand shapes and movements, lip patterns, facial expressions and shoulder movements.

The language has its own grammar system but it’s not structured in the same way as English. This mostly changes the word order of sentences - in BSL, you start with the topic and then say something about the subject after that. For example, in English, you might say 'what is your name?' but in BSL, you would sign 'name, what?'

Deafened actress and YouTuber Charlie Raine began losing her hearing when she was two years old and started speech therapy a year later. Outside her family, Charlie hid her deafness growing up but after finding videos online showing BSL tutorials and signed songs, gained the confidence to attend sign language lessons, earn her BSL qualifications and embrace her deafness.

TOP TIP: Imagine your writing hand is the pen and your other hand is the paper. This will help you get the correct positioning when signing and help you to understand which hand to use.
WATCH: Charlie Raine reminds you of the full BSL alphabet

In her videos, she shares basic signs, tips and advice. If you're really serious about learning to sign, Charlie thinks the best way to do so is with a qualified teacher - but to get you started, follow her guides and learn how to sign all the letters in the alphabet.

WATCH: Practice makes perfect!

So, now you know your A-Z in BSL! You can use this skill to spell out words using a process called fingerspelling – this is a great way to start before going on to learn words and phrases.

In these videos, Charlie is signing outside the normal sign space for illustrative purposes. When signing, try to keep your hands close and in front of you, particularly with vowels.

How sign language changed my life
Six ways to bring language learning to life at home
Can language exist without grammar?