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Interesting facts and information about British signing and interpreting.
Fact One: What is British Sign Language?
It is a visual-gestural language.
It makes use of three dimensional space and the movement of hands (and other parts of the body) to convey meaning. It has its own vocabulary and syntax.
An aid to understanding British Signing Language can be helped by understating the processes of spoken language. Spoken language involves the use of the oratory faculties to produce sounds mapped against specific words and grammatical combinations.
The oratory elements are then received by the auditory faculties and processed accordingly. British hearing sign language however, makes use of the visual faculties as opposed to the auditory faculties.
In the same way that spoken language makes use of rules to produce comprehensive messages, British BSL sign language is also governed by a complex grammar which allows both the tangible and the non tangible to be discussed thoroughly.
Contrary to the beliefs of significant parts of the speaking population, UK Sign Language is not a mixture of arbitrary signs modeled on the visual referent.
Fact Two: Who uses British Signing Language?
It is estimated that up to 70,000 individuals use Brit Sign Language as their first language.
Clearly however, use of British Finger Signing Language is not confined to this community of people. It is also used by families, friends and colleagues of deaf individuals and also, professionals such as British Deaf Language interpreters and teachers.
Fact Three: How does English Sign Language differ from spoken language?
As mentioned above, British Sign Finger Spelling Language makes use of visual channels, whilst spoken language makes use of auditory channels. The differences do not stop here however.
Speed is also a key differentiating factor and as such, words in the spoken mode can be produced twice as quickly as signs.
Even though this is the case, this does not make the communicating of British Fingerspelling Language any slower than spoken language; the reason being that the eyes can perceive multiple signals - therefore, the signs maybe combined with other movements of the face, head and body...
...Fact Four: Is British Sign Language officially recognized?
Surprisingly, BSL has only been recognised as a formal language in the last 20 years.
The seemingly innocuous implications of non recognition however, had serious impacts on the development and self confidence of Deaf children.
The UK government has only recently recognised British Deaf Signing Language as an official British Language (18th March 2003). This recognition has not extended to legalisation however and as such, access to services and relevant information continues to be problematic for Deaf people.
Fact Five: What impact did non recognition of British Sign Language have on Deaf children?
In the 20th Century, Deaf children were typically forbidden from using signed language. This was due to an ill conceived belief that Deaf children would be better served and better able to participate in the wider hearing community by learning to lip read and form words.
The heart breaking reality was that in fact, the children were generally no better at lip reading than their hearing counterparts. Additionally, a survey in the late 1970's demonstrated that most deaf children were leaving school with the equivalent reading abilities of an eight year old child.
As such, their potential to achieve and enjoy the fruitful relationships and interactions enjoyed by their hearing counterparts had been thwarted and they had been forced to live an existence which negatively affected their self confidence and self fulfillment.
Fact Six: Is British Sign Language a global language?
A common misconception is that BSL is a global language.
This is not the case and the language may even vary accordingly to region. As an example, the dialects of sign language in Manchester are different to those in London. However, even though the regional dialects differ, it is usually still possible for individuals to make themselves understood to each other.
Each country has its own version of Sign Language, which makes the belief that Americans, New Zealanders and Australians must share the same language another misconception.
There is however, an International Sign Language which is used at global events to assist in inter-country communication.
This particular language differs from country specific languages in that it is not as complex and can be likened to pidgin sign language. This particular form of sign language is also known as International Sign Pidgin, International Gesture and, more commonly, Gestuno.
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