terptree: Deaf Awareness Week - Thursday 10 May: BSL facts

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Thursday, 10 May 2012

Deaf Awareness Week - Thursday 10 May: BSL facts


Day 4 and its on to some interesting and useful things to know about BSL!

It is estimated that over 70,000 Deaf people in the UK use British Sign Language as their first or preferred language.  British Sign Language is known as BSL.

Deaf BSL users share many experiences of being Deaf, a cultural connection and a wealth of Deaf history.  Like for example, I am sure that you are aware that Charlie Chaplin used a lot of mime to his acting to make him comical – well, a lot of his work was inspired directly from the Deaf community, who saw his act and immediately had accessible comedy!

BSL is a completely different language from English.  BSL uses movement of the hands, body, face and head.  Deaf people in the UK use a two-handed fingerspelling alphabet.  

BSL has a different grammatical structure, similar to spoken languages where the word order differs from English.  An example of this is English: What is your name?  My name is Susan.  BSL:  Your name what?  Name me, Susan.

Deaf peoples first of preferred language is British Sign Language (BSL).  This as you can imagine, makes it difficult to access English, as a second language.  This means that many documents that use lots of jargon are fully inaccessible for Deaf people.

Deaf people around the country use varying dialects, just as in spoken languages with accents and vocabulary.  E.g. like the word wee in Scottish means little in English.  An example of BSL is few (Liverpool sign) and few (London sign).  There are hundreds Sign Languages that are used around the world, that reflect on the culture and usage of language in that particular country or area.  Although America uses English as their spoken language, American Sign Language (ASL) is greatly established.  ASL uses different vocabulary (signs) and also uses a one-handed fingerspelling alphabet.

Deaf people who use BSL are a linguistic and cultural minority, not a medical group who have lost their hearing.  Deaf people often do not see themselves as disabled, as they have a strong Deaf identity.

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