British Sign Language is a visual means of communicating using gestures, facial expression and body language with its own vocabulary, grammar and syntax. It is not dependent upon or related to English and is used mainly by people who are Deaf or to support those who have a hearing loss.
Similarly, to spoken language, there are regional variations. For example, the sign for ‘holiday’ which has around 10 -12 sign variations is dependent upon the area of the UK that you are in.
British Sign Language is a real, full and living language that is part of a rich cultural heritage and one of the UK’s indigenous languages.
It is also a gateway to learning, a path towards a sense of Deaf identity, and the means whereby Deaf people survive and flourish in a hearing world (Source: BDA, 2014).
People who use BSL want their language to be protected and promoted in the same way many other languages are. As a result, it was finally recognised as a language by the British Government on 18 March 2003 (Source: Parliament.uk).
However, there is still ongoing campaigning for BSL to achieve legal status in the UK.
There are currently 12 million adults who have a hearing loss (Source: RNID 2018) and of these 151,000 of these use British Sign Language (this figure does not include professional BSL users, Interpreters, Translators etc). The British Deaf Association reported that there are 1.4 hearing people using BSL at home for every Deaf BSL user in the home.
Read more on our What is BSL? page.
Signature is a national charity and the leading awarding body for deaf communication qualifications in the UK. With almost 40 years’ experience, we’ve supported more than 460,000 people to learn British Sign Language.
All Signature qualifications are nationally recognised and accredited by Ofqual (The office of the Qualifications and Examinations regulator).
In 2019 Signature was announced as the winner of ‘Awarding Organisation of the year’ by the Federation of Awarding bodies.