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What are the Advantages of British Sign Language – 20 Advantages of BSL!

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Sign languages like British Sign Language or BSL are becoming more and more common. There are over 151,000 individuals in the UK that use BSL. However, only 58% of them are deaf. So, it’s not just the deaf that use sign language for communication. Even schools in the UK are thinking of teaching kids sign language. Kids can learn any language faster than adults. But there are many advantages of BSL that adults can benefit from too.

Let me explain in detail.

But first, do you know what exactly BSL is?

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What is BSL?

British sign language, or BSL, is the most widely used sign language in the United Kingdom. It is used by those who are deaf as well as others who have difficulty hearing or speaking. BSL is made up of a number of different actions.

  • Hand gestures
  • Patterns on the lips
  • Body language and facial expressions

The visual character of BSL distinguishes it from spoken languages. To communicate effectively in sign languages, people must be able to see each other clearly.

As you may have guessed, BSL does not follow the same language structure as spoken English. In English, a sentence has a standard structure:

Subject + a verb + possibly an object

The language structure in BSL, on the other hand, is as follows:

Topic- comment structure

The topic is mentioned first, followed by a comment on the issue, which is then clarified.

Take a look at the following as an example:

In English, we would say: The man is walking on the road.

But in BSL, we would say: Road man walk.

However, there are some guidelines to follow. Have you noticed how the road comes before the man in the example above? It’s on purpose.

The largest object in your mental ‘picture’ or scene’ must be communicated first. Then add the smaller pieces one by one. Last is the action or verb, which in this case is ‘walk’. So there you have it: BSL’s basic structure.

The language is visual in nature. So before you say something, make a mental picture of what you’re going to say, and make sure the other person can easily make the same mental picture.

Two persons talking using sign language.


Different Types of Sign Language

No sign language is universal. There are many sign languages, just like natural spoken languages. Here’s an example of a few of them:

  • American Sign Language (ASL)
  • British, Australian and New Zealand Sign Language (BANZSL)
  • Chinese Sign Language (CSL)
  • French Sign Language (LSF)
  • Japanese Sign Language (JSL)
  • Arabic Sign Language
  • Spanish Sign Language (LSE)
  • Mexican Sign Language (LSM)
  • Ukrainian Sign Language (USL)
  • Plains Sign Language

Why is BSL More Important Than Other Sign Languages?

If you live in the UK, you must learn BSL as it is the standard language among sign language users here. If you learn any other language, they will not be able to understand you as sign languages do not match with each other.

For example, American sign language only shares 30% of its signs with BSL even though they share the same spoken language. So, an ASL user will have a tough time understanding a BSL user.

However, learning BSL will give you some advantages over other sign languages because BSL is part of a family of languages called British, Australian and New Zealand Sign Language (BANZSL).

So, British Sign Language (BSL), Auslan, and New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) share the same grammar, manual alphabet and most of the vocabulary. Learning the others in the same family of languages will become a breeze if you learn BSL.

As the combined users of these languages span over a large geographical location, as their name suggests, you’ll be able to communicate with a lot of people if you learn BSL.

20 Advantages of British Sign Language

So, why is sign language useful? To answer that, here are 20 advantages of sign language communication.

Communicating Family and Friends

If you have a loved one who is deaf, it’s a no-brainer that learning BSL is the best option if you want to communicate fluently. However, you may believe that because BSL is an isolated language, the need to study it is situational.

Although, that is not the case. The world’s population will only continue to grow in the future, not the other way around. It also goes without saying that the number of people in the deaf and hard of hearing community will grow.

It is also true for people with disabilities like Autism, Apraxia of speech, Cerebral Palsy, etc, where efficient communication is done through sign language.

If you learn BSL, it will facilitate you to communicate with your loved ones who are deaf or suffering from a disability that hinders their speaking capability to any degree.


Open Up Your Career Prospects

A lot of professions need people who are skilful in sign language. This language adds advantage to your resume by opening doors of various job professions.

For example, Emergency Medical Technician is an occupation where sign language is almost always required. Many hospitals employ nurses who can communicate with signs, and more are being hired. Universities are also experiencing an increase in Communication Support Workers assisting students with disabilities with their studies.

As you can see, BSL career prospects aren’t as limited as some might think. It’s a tremendously diverse field, just like every other spoken language’s professional sector.

Here’s a list of professions where you can use your sign language expertise for making a comfortable living.

  • Sign Language Interpreter
  • Communication Support Worker (both pre and post 16)
  • Sign Language Teacher
  • Lipspeaker
  • Notetaker
  • Speech-Language Pathologist
  • Audiologist
  • Social Worker
  • Psychologist
  • Care Worker/Child Care Worker

Portrait of woman teaching sign language.


Lending a Helping Hand Beyond Family and Friends

Deaf people experience daily obstacles in the hearing world that we all live in because of many hurdles in modern culture. So, if you’re in a restaurant or a store and notice a probable communication barrier between two people, you might be able to help.

You can make someone feel at ease if you are volunteering at an organisation and notice someone who is alone because they are the only deaf person.

Even at work, using sign language to communicate with your deaf customers can help you overcome communication difficulties.


Exercising the Brain

Learning a language of any kind helps to stimulate the brain. There are many cognitive benefits of learning sign language. Here’s a fairly comprehensive research on it from The Guardian.

Furthermore, committed language students showed growth in the hippocampus, a brain region connected with learning and spatial navigation. The cerebral cortex, or the brain’s outer layer, also sees the same growth at the same time. This citation is according to a study headed by experts from Lund University in Sweden.

So, language is a good exercise for your brain.

But what about sign languages?

It turns out the same is also true for sign languages. Sign language is similar to any spoken language in the sense that they activate the brain in a similar fashion. That is to say, they can improve your,

  • Cognition
  • Creativity
  • Brain functionality
  • Memory
  • Spatial awareness
  • Mental rotation skills, and more.

Language practice is comparable to riding a bicycle. Once you master it, your brain will never forget how to do it.


It’s More Common Than You Think

Understanding how many people communicate in their regional sign language is extremely difficult, if not impossible. Conversations in sign languages take place around us all the time. But just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t taking place.

Let’s consider both American Sign Language (ASL) and British Sign Language (BSL) for example.

According to the Modern Language Association, ASL is one of the most studied modern languages at colleges and universities in the United States. After English and Spanish, it is the third or fourth most prevalent language in the United States. In the UK, BSL is the first or preferred language of the Deaf people. Estimations say that there are more than 151,000 BSL users in the UK. About 87,000 of them are deaf.

Portrait of young man teaching sign language.


Tapping Into a New Community

If you know nothing regarding the deaf community, you’ll be surprised to hear that Thomas Edison, the physicist who invented the lightbulb and the telegraph, was deaf.

Sir John Cornforth, a Nobel Laureate in Chemistry who worked in synthesis and catalysis, was deaf.

Olaf Hassel, the discoverer of Hassel’s comet and nova, was also deaf.

Charles Henri Nicolle discovered the mechanism behind the transmission of Typhus through body lice. He won the Nobel Prize for Medicine and Physiology for this. He was also deaf.

Konstantin Eduardovic Tsiolkovsky is the father of Astronautics. Needless to say, he was deaf too.

This is just a glimpse. The deaf community has a very rich history just like any other community. When you learn a language, you inadvertently get introduced to their community and the culture surrounding these communities. The same goes for any sign language too.


Making New Friends

Imagine a scenario in which a colleague is deaf. But you really like them. You’ll miss out on communicating with them only because they talk in signs.

You can form new relationships due to your involvement with other individuals in the deaf community.


Improves Your Peripheral Vision & Reaction Time

Sign language users have improved peripheral vision and reaction time, according to a University of Sheffield conducted a study where they found that sign language users have enhanced peripheral vision and reaction time.

You’ll be more attentive because it’s so visual-focused. Your “visual field response” will benefit as a result, which is good in numerous sports and even driving.

The same scientists discovered that,

“Deaf persons have remarkable visual abilities that hearing adults do not.”

When speaking in sign language, it’s important to pay attention not only to the hand motions but also to the facial expressions, lip-reading, and body language.

But you can’t observe everything at once, which is why your peripheral vision is so vital, and you’re forced to use it frequently.


Communicating with Babies

Babies may have difficulty talking to you if they still haven’t learned to talk. But sign language may enable them to have some rudimentary conversation with you. They can easily communicate common things and concepts like milk, play, sleep etc., to you.

Infants as young as six months old can begin to understand basic signals. Research shows that exhibiting fundamental signs to hearing babies can help them develop cognitively, just like spoken language. It also contributes to a richer, more positive contact and link between parent and child.

Many scientists feel that learning multiple languages at a young age allows your brain to accommodate additional languages.

Young man demonstrating OK using sign language.


Communicating with Animals

Just like any of us, animals can be deaf too. If you learn sign language, you can teach your pet some basic signs. The animal can learn to take cues from your signs if trained well.


Enhancing Your Communication Skills

Even if you’re not fluent in BSL, you can still communicate effectively with people who communicate in signs. Say you don’t know the sign for ‘candy’. You have a myriad of other options available to you,

  1. Letting the other person lipread the word from you
  2. Fingerspelling the word
  3. Writing the word down on paper or even on your hand

Wordsmith

The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development conducted a research in the year 2000 where they found an interesting correlation between sign language and general vocabulary. They found that signing 2-year-olds had 50 more words in their vocabulary than non-signing children of the same age.

Even though practically every word has a symbol for it, you will need to fingerspell it if it doesn’t have one. The same can be true if you don’t know the words for it.

Any name, be it a person, a place, a product, a brand, or anything else, will also require you to fingerspell it. If there isn’t a sign for them or you don’t recognise them, knowing their spelling will help you fingerspell or, at the very least, write them down.

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Enabling You in Becoming a Better Listener

Speaking in sign language necessitates complete concentration and focus on the person speaking to you. Not only is it crucial to maintain eye contact, but you can’t possibly sign words without looking at them.

It’s also vital to pay attention to their facial emotions and body movements, which are equally as important as their hand gestures in sign language. We have it much easier with spoken language as hearing allows us to multitask. For example, browse social media on the phone as well as somewhat participate in a conversation.

You thus become a better listener if you keep your attention on the person speaking to you in sign language.


Diversity

Many companies and organisations claim to be inclusive and diverse. But if they cannot be inclusive of huge communities like the deaf community, their claims aren’t sincere.

If they train up their staff in sign language, they will be able to communicate with the deaf community and will be better prepared to deal with language and communication challenges.

Thus, sign language can help you, and your company become more diverse.


Young woman demonstrating sign language.


Business Prospects

A sign language interpreter is the most evident occupation that permits you to utilise sign language regularly. Training on basic sign language, on the other hand, can go a long way toward helping your consumers.

You will also acquire basic etiquettes through learning sign languages, some of which are described above, such as creating good eye contact, engaging with the Deaf culture, and meeting new people.

One other thing is, you simply can’t refuse service to someone whose only mode of communication is through signs.

First and foremost, it is a flagrant violation of human rights. Second, it is illegal in most nations, including the United Kingdom. Knowing sign language or having an employee who can communicate with signs is beneficial in these situations.

People feel respected, cared for, and at ease when communicated well. Transparency and a trustworthy client-customer relationship where the customer is valued is very necessary in today’s world for any business or service to survive.


Language Efficiency

Learning one new language makes learning a new one much easier. This has long been a trend experienced by multilingual people. It’s not any different in sign language either.

“Researchers set out to examine what benefits bilingualism might have in the process of learning a third language. They found that students who know two languages have an easier time gaining command of a third language than students who are fluent in only one language.”

Science Daily

So, it’s not just an experience anymore, rather an established fact backed up by research. If you live in the UK, then why not choose BSL as your second language?

If you already know a second language, then choose BSL as your third. Not only will it make you pick up on other sign languages much easier, but also increase your job prospects.


Improves Your Body Language Skills

As speaking in sign language entails more than just using your hands, you really have to engage with the people you’re signing to.

Other parts of body language, such as eye contact, facial emotions, gestures, and other aspects of communication, are significant in signing too. Once you understand how to keep a positive body language while signing, it becomes much easier to connect with other people.

This is true regardless of your hearing status.

Just think of the opposite. The only alternative is to exhibit bad body language while talking to someone, such as staring at your phone or looking about.

A little boy expressing everything is fine using sign language.


Deaf Awareness

One in five adults in the UK suffers from hearing loss. As a result, Deaf Awareness is a pretty huge thing if you communicate with other people.

But do you know what Deaf Awareness is?

The goal of Deaf Awareness is to promote the positive aspects of deafness and social inclusion.

Learning sign language will help you connect with deaf people and give you a greater understanding of the issues we encounter.

As a result, you’ll learn more about deaf awareness and possibly become involved in spreading deaf awareness as well.


It’s a Language That is Useful in Many Cases

Sign language helps people in ways that many of us may not think about. Consider a scenario where you work in a noisy place, and you have ear pads. It’s nearly impossible to communicate in this instance.

But, you can still sign away, even if you are far apart but can still see each other. Underwater scuba diving is another scenario where sign language will help you communicate fluently without being vague.

In fact, some of these scenarios do have their own sign language.

The thing is if you’re going to learn a sign language for a scenario like this, a rich language like BSL is the best option. You can use it to fulfil your purpose as well as use it later for general-purpose communication too.


It’s a Beautiful Language

BSL is unique. Like any other language, it has its history, its beauty and its gracefulness.

Once you tap into the language, you start seeing these features and the value of the language starts becoming apparent to you.


Conclusion

To summarise, the advantages of BSL not only makes it possible to communicate with those who are deaf, but also a multiplicity of other people. If you live in the United Kingdom, learning BSL is recommended because it is the country’s most widely used sign language.

You get the cognitive advantages of learning a new language and having the opportunity to add it to your CV as a specialisation. Are you convinced enough already? You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better organised and expertly made course on BSL elsewhere.

FAQs

What are the disadvantages of sign communication?

As for the disadvantages, there is really no disadvantage to using sign language for communication. The only slight hindrance that may annoy sometimes is the fact you need to be able to see the person clearly to know what they are signing.

 

So, if it’s completely dark around you, you may find it difficult to communicate in signs. But this also comes with its own advantage in the fact that you’ll connect more effectively with the person as you’re keeping constant eye contact when communicating in signs.

 

Why is British Sign Language important?

By learning BSL, you will be able to communicate with deaf people and contribute to a society that includes deaf people. Learning BSL can help you become deaf-aware and enjoy the deaf community’s vast variety.

 

How long is BSL good for?

Like any other language, once you learn BSL, it’ll stick to your memory for a very long time, if not forever.

 

We used the analogy of riding a bicycle. Learning a language is like riding a bicycle. Once you master it, you’ll generally never forget how to use it.

 


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