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This new page, still under development, will focus mainly on issues around the teaching and use of BSL in Scotland. We hope it will contain items that will also be of interest teachers and users of other signed languages.


Who should learn BSL?
It is common to think of BSL as a life skill that may be important to some deaf people. Recent Acts of Parliament have sought to improve access to information, services and opportunities for deaf people, partly by increasing provision of signed resources. In the world of work, there are moves to provide resources that make it easier for employers to hire deaf people.

What has received less attention thus far is the need for hearing people to learn BSL too, if they are, for example, to provide services to BSL users which ensure equality of access. In the context of schooling for deaf youngsters, especially where presumption of mainstreaming is the norm, deaf learners want and need to be able to communicate with their teachers and their hearing classmates just as much – and perhaps sometimes more – than with their deaf peers. In this context, BSL can be seen as a desirable and useful skill not just for some learners but, potentially, for all.

It is worth bearing in mind that deaf children whose first language is a sign language, and whose second language is the oral language of their community, may experience bilingualism well before their hearing peers. Communication skills can take many forms and the pattern of language acquisition is likely to differ from one deaf learner to another.

The linguistic challenge
For some deaf learners, especially those who are have been deaf since birth or soon after, any oral language, being unheard, is very difficult to acquire. Some become very proficient, but for others, acquiring competence in oral or written languages will remain problematical. For some of these, their native sign language (SL) may be their first route to communicative competence and can be considered their first language. For all, acquiring competence in written language will present further difficulties. For hearing children learning to read, knowledge of the oral form of a word together with an appreciation of the sounds it contains is a prerequisite for learning to read it. For deaf children learning to read is much more difficult. It has been said that for all deaf children, learning to speak, read and write the language of the hearing community around them is tantamount to learning a foreign language.

What follows is an attempt to collect and disseminate links to information and resources which might assist in the provision of BSL tuition to whichever children might benefit, whether deaf or hearing.


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Additional needs - introduction

Why teach languages to learners of all abilities?

Including deaf learners in foreign language classes

English as a second language
(as this applies to deaf learners)


[5.5.16] NEWS

Hamilton School for the Deaf is the first in the country to offer pupils the chance to sign in another language. Pupils are learning French Sign Language (LSF), in fulfilment of the the Scottish Government's ambition that every child should learn two languages in primary school.

Please see note on copyright

European Briefing: Sign Languages
Extract from: The European Dimension, Language Learning and Special Educational Needs Newsletter No 3, Autumn 1995
Download article

Science in BSL
An article about the BSL Science gloassary that tnow contains more than 850 signs for physics, biology, chemistry and maths for deaf people, teachers and interpreters across the UK and the rest of the world.
Download Science in BSL



Translating, Interpreting and Communication Support Services across the Public Sector in Scotland: A Literature Review
Joanna McPake & Richard Johnstone with Jo Lo Bianco, Hilary McColl, Gema Rodriguez Prieto & Elizabeth Speake. Scottish Central Research Unit 2002. See, in particular, Section 5.5 on Education.

Language and Literacy Policy in Scotland
Professor Joseph Lo Bianco holds the chair of Language and Literacy Education at the University of Melbourne in Australia. He spent six months in Scotland from October 2000 to end March 2001 on secondment to the Scottish CILT SCOTLANG project. During his time here he made contact with groups representing many different languages interests. His report offers a personal reflection on languages policy issues affecting Scotland. He outlines current developments in policy-thinking about languages internationally, offers an insightful analysis of current approaches in Scotland and makes a number of powerful recommendations on what Scotland might do to achieve a more integrated policy covering modern languages, heritage languages, community languages, Sign Language, English as a second language, adult literacy and other aspects.




[Links last checked 16.4.12 unless otherwise indicated]

Consultation on a BSL Bill for Scotland
A background paper produced by Cathie Craigie (Member of the Scottish Parliament) to support the passage through the
Parliament of a British Sign Language (BSL) Bill. It includes a comprehensive review of the current situation in Scotland, together with comparisons with provision in New Zealand and Finland.

Creating Linguistic Access for Deaf and Deafblind people: A strategy for Scotland
A report prepared by the Scottish Association of Sign Language Interpreters in 2002

The Scottish Parliament has a page for BSL users

Free BSL audio/visual tours at Holyrood
BSL users can tour the Scottish parliament building with a hand-held audiovisual guide incorporating BSL.

Deaf voters 'unheard' by politicians
An item from BBC Scotland arguing that many deaf people are excluded from the democratic process.
The site has a number of interesting features including an interactive discussion forum, an email subscription list, a BSL sample section, a myth buster and resources for schools.

Signs for Education
Forest bookshop specialises in books and other resources relating to deafness. They have a section of resources on Signs for Education.

Some websites for learning BSL online
Some free of charge, some not.

Provision for Community Language Learning in Scotland
Report of a study by Joanna McPake, published in 2006. The study aimed to investigate the extent to which current provision enables plurilingual children to maintain and develop their languages. It includes consideration of provision for BSL and Makaton.

Furthering Access to College Education for Deaf Students (FACE)
Guidelines for best practice, including access to assessment (in conjunction with SQA)

British Sign Language Studies
The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA)offers a Professional Development Award (PDA) in British Sign Language (BSL) Studies. Updates here:

Signed languages
Want to find out about uses of signed languages in Britain? Lots of information and links here:

Signing provides common language
Here's a link to a short article on the BBC website about a primary school in Brighton where children speak 24 different first languages and which is teaching them all Makaton to help them communicate. Perhaps BSL or other full signed language could be used for the same purpose, especially, perhaps, in a school where there are some deaf children? Or should the lingua franca simply be English?

Signed stories
TV's online library of illustrated, spoken, signed and subtitled story books that deaf children and their hearing peers can enjoy together. May also be of interest to those teaching English as a foreign language to Deaf children.

British Sign Language Broadcasting Trust
Details of the programs on the BSL Zone each week.

Minority status call for signing
An item from BBC Scotland (19.6.09) in which Professor Graham Turner argues that signing should be treated as an indigenous and minority language.

Electrial Safety Council
TwoThirtyVolts aims to teach children about the benefits and dangers of electricity. This is a link to the British Sign Language (BSL) version. To acccess the site without BSL, just omit that part of the address.

Identifying specific language impairment in British Sign Language: Implications for theory and practice
The abstract for a presentation given by Kathryn Mason during Direct Learn's Online Conference on Supporting Deaf People 9-12th February, 2011.

The future of British Sign Language in an Inclusive Scotland
In November last year, two events took place at the Scottish Parliament to look at the future of BSL in Scotland. These events were organised by Scotland’s Future Forum and the Edinburgh Beltane. A short report has been published that gives information on what was discussed at the events. To read the report, go to:

Sign Language and Bilingualism: discovering a different form of bilingualism
An article from Psychology Today, by François Grosjean

Widgit resources
Concept cards, BSL signs and words for teaching in the early years.

Talk With Sign Books
Talk With Sign Books Ltd is a mail order company specialising in all media relating to D/deafness and Deaf Culture.

BSL in the curriculum
Dingwall Academy is the first school in Scotland to offer
BSL as an alternative to the traditional language options. Note reference to Curriculum for Excellence.

British Sign Language (Interpreting, Translating and Applied Language Studies)
This is a new programme – the first of its kind in Scotland and, in key aspects, unique in the UK – in which British Sign Language (BSL) is studied to professional level. Students are trained to work as BSL/English Interpreters and Translators, and to use BSL proficiently in related professional areas.
See the Scotsman's article on the above:

Benefits information if you are deaf or hard of hearing
A set of films has been produced in British Sign Language for people living in UK who are deaf or hard of hearing.

1 + 2 = free?
An article reflecting on the ‘1+2’ languages initiative recently announced by the Scottish Government and the opportunity it offers to strengthen provision for the wide range of 'home' languages used in Scotland, including BSL. (Scottish Languages Review, Issue 24, Winter 2011-12.)

Heriot Watt University
See here for courses that combine study of two modern languages, including sign languages.

European Forum of Sign Language Interpreters
Details of national organisations of sign language interpreters throughout Europe.

[2.6.12] BSL elearning
This website receives ocasional requests for information about online resources for learning BSL. We'll list here the ones that come to our attention. Please note that listing does not imply endorsement.

Actual Signs:
ign World - fingerspelling:

[10.9.12] Teaching sign language in Iran
A deaf teacher of sign language from Newcastle has spent three weeks as a volunteer in Iran.

[5.10.12] MA Translation Studies - BSL Strand, Durham University
Part-time, two-year programme for entry-level and novice interpreters leading to full professional qualification.
The Durham approach to Translation Studies offers a distinctive perspective to BSL translation/interpreting. Translation study is positioned as an essential component for interpreters. The School of Modern Languages & Cultures provides a languages rich and multicultural environment to study. The MA BSL strand uses innovative and contemporary approaches to study.

[5.12.12] Citizenship
The Scottish Parliament has just updated their pages with BSL video clip on ‘How the Scottish Parliament works’

[25.1.13] Sign 2 Sing
Resources for getting all the class involved in signing and singing, and in contributing to an attempt to enter the Guiness Book of Records!

[24.6.13] Signing should be classed as foreign language for GCSE
BBC Report:

[10.10.13] Information in BSL at UCAS
Deaf students applying to university now have additional support from UCAS, with seven new videos available in British Sign Language (BSL). Key parts of the UCAS process are explained in a series of videos, signed for deaf students in BSL.

[4.9.15] Planning for the (Scottish) National BSL Plan: Building a sustainable framework for BSL in schools

[22.1.16] Why Facebook has become so important to the sign language community



Related to subject area
s in school, further and higher education

[Links last checked 16.4.12 unless otherwise indicated]

Four glossaries from Direct Learn and the University of Wolverhampton:

From the University of Edinburgh:
Maths, Physics, Biology and Chemistry:

BSL Glossary: Translation Studies
Bilingual glossary of introductory concepts. A British Sign Language Glossary of introductory concepts that is also a bilingual glossary as the English source texts are included for reference.

[19.10.16] SIGNLY: A new app to help BSL users


For other links relating to English as a second language for Deaf learners, see here.



[Links last checked 16.4.12 unless otherwise indicated]

French sign language
The website of deaf actress and author Monica Companys set up to market her own educational products teaching LSF (Lange des Signes Française)

European Master in Sign Language Interpreting. Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh in partnership with Finland and Germany.

Deaf Planet
A website specially made for deaf children, in Canada, so it's in American Sign Language (ASL) or Langue de Signes Québecoise (LSQ) with subtitles and sound in English or French.

Education of deaf children in Norway
This account appeared in the January 2005 issue of the BATOD journal. It covers, amongst other things, the right of deaf children to study foreign sign languages and written English.

The Makaton charity website:
An article about a Primary school that uses Makaton as a tool to support inclusion.

English for Deaf Sign Language Users: Still a challenge
A paper by Franz Dotter about access to international communication in English for deaf sign language users in other countries.

Charity for deaf trains interpreters to help in Malawi
A herald Scotland article.

An article about sign languages in Zimbabwe

Heriot Watt University
See here for courses that combine study of two modern languages, including sign languages.

Deaf Individuals’ Bilingual Abilities: American Sign Language Proficiency, Reading Skills, and Family Characteristics
A scientific paper on psychology. Free to download.

[17.4.12] Scottish Storytelling Centre
The Centre has strong links with the Deaf community so it's worth keeping an eye on their website for theatre performances by BSL users, including shows during the Festival Fringe. The Events Manager says ,...the shows are most suitable for people with some interest in or knowledge of BSL, inlcuding those attending BSL classes'.

[7.4.13] European Master in Sign Language Studies
For information on general aspects of the programme and its previous implementation, on entry requirements, on the fees to expect, on how to apply and the selection procedure.

[24.6.13] European Commission paves the way for sign language project
News of a new pilot project to improve communication between the European institutions and the deaf and hard of hearing.

[26.2.16] French sign language
A school for deaf children has become the first in the country to offer pupils the chance to learn to sign in another language. The step was taken in order to fulfil the government's ambition that every child should learn two languages in primary. (Read the full article on pages 8-9 of TESS digital online - subscription required).

[11.3.16] Chinese Sign Language & Deaf China online

[23.9.16] Promting Exellence in Sign Language Instruction
The ProSign 2 project aims to raise the profile of sign language teachers in Europe. Read more:


[Links last checked 16.4.12 unless otherwise indicated]

Signature (formerly CACDP)
Offers nationally recognised qualifications in BSL, speech to text reporting, etc. Centres in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.

Including all pupils: Dingwall Academy
A video about the inclusion of pupils with a hearing impairment in mainstream classes and the education of all pupils about sign language.

Continuing Professional Development
Courses for teachers in Scotland working with deaf, blind or deaf/blind pupils.

British Association of Teachers of the Deaf
Promotes the educational interests of all deaf children, young people and adults and safeguards the interests of Teachers of the Deaf. Branches UK-wide.

The importance of language (any language) to mental health
In this interview a clinical psychologist talks about how the incidence of mental illness is higher higher amongst deaf people, and how language acquisition contributes to mental health.

Internationale Konferenz: Integration hörgeschädigter Kinder und Jugendlicher in allgemeinen Einrichtungen
International Conference, held December 2010, on the integration of hearing impaired children in mainstream schools. The Conference proceedings can be found online here, together with video reportage. Most of the speeches are in German, of course, but some are in English.

English for deaf sign language users: Still a challenge
A paper by Austrian expert Franz Dotter about teaching English as a foreign language, or lingua franca, to deaf students. Likely also to be of general interest to those concerned with teaching English or foreign languages to deaf students generally.

Benefits information if you are deaf or hard of hearing
A set of films has been produced in British Sign Language for people living in UK who are deaf or hard of hearing.

[30.7.12] DotSUB adds interactive transcripts facility in 513 languages




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