Posted by: learnsignlanguage | April 20, 2011

Learning the basics of British Sign Language

Have you ever wondered what British Sign Language is?

It is a language that is used by approximately 150,000 Deaf people in the British Isles. Thousands more who are not Deaf (such as employers of Deaf people, relatives/friends and interpreters) use BSL

Is it easy to learn?

Well one of the first aspects of sign language that people learn is to fingerspell the alphabet. It is easier to learn the alphabet and signs from either a Deaf person themselves who signs or from a video or DVD… this is so you can see the exact movements more easily and the correct facial expressions. Sometimes people can learn the alphabet from a picture as well to help them to remember.

Sign Language is a visual language and the best way that you can learn it is to see it in action and watch the positions of the hands and the facial expressions. If possible try to find as many ways as you can to see someone signing because you can then really take notice of the vast hand movements, see the different facial expressions and can start to copy them. You can find lots of material on the internet, whether it is books, dvd’s, you tube videos or watching the signers on the TV.

As you progress with your learning you will probably learn basic greetings, numbers, colours and a few other topics to get you started. Once you start to learn BSL you may find it helpful to write down the things that you learn so you can practise it each week…remembering that British Sign Language IS a language and as such takes time and dedication to learn.Watching an instructional video can help you remember and see exactly how it should be done as you build up your vocabulary.

The more you practise the easier it will become. It will also help to practise with a friend.

You may find, like with many sign language beginners that it is more difficult to receive signing back from a Deaf person. Please rest assured If you’re finding it hard it DOES get easier! It’s crucial that you look at the Deaf person’s face rather than their hands. This may seem surprising but it is easier to understand the signs when you do this because you will automatically see the signs in your peripheral vision.

It is also helpful to attend regular social events/Deaf clubs where there are a number of Deaf people so that you can practise. Don’t be shy about looking at the signers or be worried that you won’t be able to understand them because as you get further and further into your sign language learning you will learn about rephrasing sentences or asking for clarification so that the message between you gets understood.Gradually you will learn more and more and will be able to have more in depth conversations using BSL and your confidence will grow.

My advice is to keep practising and use all the resources you can whether it’s from your Deaf friends, hearing friends who sign, DVD’s, books, or the internet etc. You will soon find that the more you learn the more you WANT to learn!

For more information and to receive a free tips booklet and ‘Sign Language for Beginners’ DVD please visit

Article Source:

Sonia Hollis - EzineArticles Expert Author

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