British Sign Language 11 year anniversary today

British Sign Language was only recognised as an official language in its own right in this country, 11 years ago: 18 March 2003. May it continue to be welcomed and used in all walks of life.

British Sign Language is a vibrant language in its own right with its own grammar, vocabulary, structure and syntax.. British Sign Language is not simply about replacing a spoken word with a hand gesture. Like other languages (e.g. French and English), there cannot be an exact word for word translation.

Sign language has been around for a long time this changed suddenly in 1889. Back in the 18 century Thomas Braidwood brought sign language into the educational system in the United Kingdom. Sign Language remained in schools for a good fifty years until the fateful Second International Congress of Education of the Deaf was held in Milan. There the 1889 Royal Commission of the Blind and Deaf & Dumb was issued. This commission decreed the end of sign language in schools in preference to the Oral Method, a method that punished those who dare use sign language and promoted the difficult, often impossible task, of teaching children who were born deaf, had never heard, to speak. One of the consequences was that more than 70% of UK Deaf children left school with a reading age of 7 and with few qualifications and social skills.

The British Deaf and Dumb Association (BDDA) was formed in 1890 by Francis Maginn to fight the Oral Method and to protect the rights of the Deaf people. In 1971, the "Dumb" was dropped to create the British Deaf Association which continues to exist today. What a long time it has taken in this country for British Sign Language to once again accepted and recognized: from 1890 to 2003!

Apparently, with the combination of Deaf and hearing people who use BSL, this language is now more common than Welsh and Gaelic!

Happy 11 years anniversary BSL!!!

Leave a Reply