Sign language uses visual signs made with your hands to convey meaning. The arms, posture of body, and facial expressions also play an important role in expressing meaning.

As with spoken language there is no universal sign language. In the UK, British Sign Language (BSL) is the most widely used method of signed communication, but there are other types, including Sign Supported English (SSE), which is not a formal language, but more a type of English with signs.

Fingerspelling also plays a part within sign language. It is a form of alphabet done through gestures with both hands, and is usually used to spell out the names of people and places.

British Sign Language

It is estimated around 60,000 people use BSL in the UK, and there are numerous local variations.

BSL is structured differently to English language, as when communicating with BSL you start with the main topic, and then say something about the topic. For example, ‘your name what?’ would be used in BSL when asking someone their name.

The best way to learn British Sign Language is through classes, as you are able to gain hands on experience. However, you can also learn from leaflets, books, and videos. Your local education centre for adults should offer classes.