British Sign Language (BSL) is the sign language used in the United Kingdom (UK), and is the first or preferred language of deaf people in the UK; the number of signers has been put at 30,000 to 70,000. 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.
The sign languages used in Australia and New Zealand, Auslan and New Zealand Sign Language, respectively, evolved largely from 19th century BSL, and all retain the same manual alphabet, grammar, and similar lexicon. BSL, Auslan and NZSL together may be called BANZSL. Makaton, a communication system for people with cognitive impairments or other communication difficulties, was originally developed with signs borrowed from British Sign Language. The sign language used in Sri Lanka is also closely related to BSL despite the spoken language not being English, demonstrating the distance between sign languages and spoken ones.
BSL users campaigned to have BSL recognised on a similar level to Welsh, Scottish Gaelic, and Irish. BSL was recognised as a language in its own right by the UK government on 18 March 2003, but it has no legal protection, so therefore is not an official language of the United Kingdom.
Many British television channels broadcast programmes with in-vision signing, using BSL, as well as specially made programmes aimed mainly at Deaf people such as the BBC's See Hear and Channel 4's VEE-TV.
BBC News broadcasts in-vision signing at 07:00-07:45, 08:00-08:20 and 13.00-13.45 GMT each weekday. BBC One also broadcasts in-vision signed repeats of the channel's primetime programmes between 00.30 to 04.00 each weekday.
The Council for the Advancement of Communication with Deaf People (CACDP or CAP) is accredited by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) and provides awards at the following levels:
The Sign Community British Deaf Association has formed the BSL Academy to provide an official British Sign Language curriculum and tutor training.
In Scotland, there is a Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) system for students learning British Sign Language. Currently there are 3 levels in the SQA system (continuing assessments):
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 and have professional indemnity insurance to register). They may then undertake work in restricted settings. Deaf Studies courses exist at several British universities. You can begin some of these courses with NVQ 3 in BSL, although other courses require no previous knowledge of BSL. Courses are often mapped against the CACDP NVQ 3 or 4 in BSL and/or NVQ 4 BSL/English Interpreting. 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.
After completing an approved course and once the interpreter has been assessed for the NVQ 4 in BSL Interpreting (or equivalent), Trainees can apply to become a "Member of the Register of Sign Language Interpreters" (MRSLI). This status allows an interpreter to work in all settings. Even once MRSLI status is achieved, however, an interpreter is required to undertake Continuous Professional Development.
The Association of Sign Language Interpreters (ASLI) provides seminars, a network of regional groups and a mentoring scheme. When available, specialist training is required to work in specific domains. Membership is available at Affiliate, Corporate, Associate and Licensed levels. The latter two categories provide the interpreter with professional indemnity insurance.