It's Learn to Sign week! Organised by the BDA (British Deaf Association) there should be lots of stuff going on throughout the country aimed at encouraging people to learn to how to sign. So, I think I shall be getting in on this and doing a series of posts about BSL (British Sign Language).
The week runs from 4th to the 10th October and you can find out more at the BDA page here. Approximately 90,000 people have BSL as their first language. It is a living language evolving as Deaf people use it and it not artifically created. It is Deaf people's own language and is not devised by hearing people. Each sign language throughout the world (and there areaas many as there are spoken languages) is distinct and they are not based upon spoken languages. There is an International Sign language used at international conferences and this is in turn distinct from countries own sign languages.
BSL is not a series of gestures or mime. It has it's own vocabulary, not all of which can be translated into English, it's own syntax and grammar and it's own rules. Used fluently, it is incredibly graceful and beautiful to watch.
Yet the UK only officially recognised BSL as a language in 2003. Seems bizzare huh? In Scotland there is currently a consultation period occuring that will be used to decide if BSL should be recognised as language in Scotland, (for more information see here). Scotland is part of the UK but sometimes has different laws, I'm not quite sure how or why this is the case, maybe a reader can enlighten me?
You can read more about the history of BSL here. Stay tuned this week as I blather more about this.