Posted by: learnsignlanguage | September 9, 2010

Are there differences between BSL and ASL?

When discussing the use of sign languages I often get asked if they are universal and if everyone uses the same in each country.

Sign language itself is not a universal language. There are many different sign languages around the world and many of these have developed independently from each other. Furthermore not only do sign languages vary from country to country there can also be variation in vocabulary and grammar within particular sign language communities.

Sign language is a visual-gestural language which has its own grammar utilising facial expressions (non manual features), hand shapes and upper body movements to convey meaning.

Sign language is a spatial and visual language and a lot of beginners think it is similar to mime (which it is not). The important thing to remember is that the grammar used in both BSL and ASL is completely different to that used in everyday English.

One notable difference you will see is that BSL uses a 2 handed manual alphabet whereas ASL uses a one handed manual alphabet.

Both ASL and BSL however have the same potential for expressing subtle, technical and complex meanings as do spoken languages.

For an example of the British Sign Language alphabet click here and for the American Sign Language alphabet click here.

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