British Sign Language

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British Sign Language

British Sign Language (or BSL) is the language used by Britain’s Deaf community. It is a language in its own right, not a way of speaking English through signs. It is estimated that around 70,000 people use BSL as their first language, and that up to 250,000 people use some BSL.

Sign languages differ from country to country: British Sign Language is different from French or American Sign Language, for example. Just as in other languages, there are regional varieties or dialects too. BSL has a long history and culture, but for most of the 20th century, it was banned in schools for Deaf children. Pupils were made to speak and lip-read instead. Despite this, BSL survived and since 2003 it has been officially recognised by the Government as an independent language.

Jeff Brattan-Wilson was born in Swansea to Deaf parents and is himself Deaf. Watch the video and read the transcript to find out what he has to say about his first language, which is British Sign Language.

My name is...



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