What do you know about British Sign Language (BSL)?

13th Dec 2013

It is traumatic enough being rushed to hospital in an emergency, but what if you couldn't understand the doctors talking to you about what was wrong – and you woke up after an operation still not knowing the full story?

British Sign Language (BSL) is the sign language used in the United Kingdom (UK), and is the first or preferred language of some deaf people in the UK; there are 125,000deaf adults in the UK who use BSL plus an estimated 20,000 children. In 2011 15,000 people, living in England and Wales, reported themselves using BSL as their main language. The language makes use of space and involves movement of the hands, body, face and head. Many thousands of people who are not deaf also use BSL, as hearing relatives of deaf people, sign language interpreters or as a result of other contact with the British deaf community.

Relationships with other sign languages

Although the United Kingdom and the United States share English as the predominant oral language, British Sign Language is quite distinct from American Sign Language (ASL).

BSL is also distinct from Irish Sign Language (ISL) (ISG in the ISO system) which is more closely related to French Sign Language (LSF) and ASL.

Learning British Sign Language.

British Sign Language can be learned throughout the UK and three examination systems exist. Courses are provided by community colleges, local centres for deaf people and private organisations. Most tutors are native users of sign language and hold a relevant teaching qualification.

Signature excellence in communication with deaf people is accredited by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) and provides awards at the following levels:

·         Level I – Elementary

·         Level II – Intermediate

·         Level III/ NVQ 3 – Advanced

·         NVQ Level 6 – Required as part of the NVQ Level 6 BSL/English Interpreting. (This qualification was formerly called NVQ Level 4)

Becoming a BSL / English interpreter

Deaf Studies courses with specific streams for sign language interpreting exist at several British universities. Course entry requirements vary from no previous knowledge of BSL to NVQ level 6 BSL (or equivalent). Courses are often mapped against Signature's (previously CACDP) language qualifications and/or the National Occupational Standards for Interpreting; mapping ensures completion of a course gives eligibility to register with the National Registers of Communication Professionals with Deaf and Deafblind People (the NRCPD)

Interpreters may apply for the status of "Junior Trainee Interpreter" after completing the Level III/ NVQ 3 BSL assessment (they must also be enrolled on a recognised interpreter training programme, have completed some initial training and have professional indemnity insurance to register). They may then undertake work in restricted settings. Once registered with an approved course and having demonstrated their BSL is NVQ 4 standard interpreters are then eligible for the "Trainee Interpreter" title and can work in a wider variety of settings.

For more information, on how Pearl can help you with your BSL requirements, please contact our team on 020 7253 7700 or sales@pearllinguistics.com

Sonia Gola, Interpreting Booking Co-ordinator


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