BSL


BSL

ScotRail launches sign language app to help deaf customers

30 May 2019 (The Herald)

Train operator ScotRail is introducing a new British Sign Language (BSL) app to help deaf customers communicate with staff.

In what is being described as a first for the UK rail industry, the app directly connects someone travelling on their trains or at the platform to an interpreter through a video call.

The interpreter will then pass on the query to a member of staff and sign the answer back.

ScotRail access and inclusion manager, Andrew Marshall-Roberts, said: “We’re committed to making the railway open and accessible for all, and teaming up with InterpreterNow to launch this new app is just one of the ways we’re doing that.

“Customers using British Sign Language as their main form of communication can now have the confidence to travel by rail, knowing our people can help with any query they have in a simple, straightforward way.”

The app, which launches on Thursday, uses the InterpreterNow service and is open to “any part of their journey” – from information to disruption times to queries at stations or ticket offices.

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New sign language manual launched – complete with dialect words

14 May 2019 (The Shetland Times)

A new manual to help children and adults with communication difficulties has been launched for the isles.

“Signalong” is a key word-signing system, based on British Sign Language, in which adapted signs are used alongside speech to support communication.

This new manual has been developed to provide an image bank of over 250 signs, many of which have a Shetland flavour, including new signs for puffin, ferry, knitting, fiddle and Up-Helly-A’.

The manual has been developed by Signalong tutor Susie Fox, an additional support needs (ASN) teacher at Bell’s Brae Primary School in Lerwick, who has worked closely with the national communications charity.

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Highland 1+2 BSL Introductory Pack

10 May 2019 (Highland)

A pack that has been developed by the Highland Deaf Education Service as part of Highland’s 1+2 L3 programme.

The pack takes the form of a USB sick and contains Lesson Plans, resources, video clips, activities, board items etc. It is designed to be used by staff who are not fluent signers and there are lots of teaching pointers contained in it. We believe it is the first of its kind and we have not seen anything like this for BSL.

We have had incredible feedback from schools in Highland. We piloted it in 2017/18 and rolled it out to schools who had taken up the training  in 2018/19. Staff say the resource is extremely easy to use and their pupils are loving it! The  appeal is so widespread some secondary schools are also using it.

More information is available in the attached flyer. Please note there is a cost for the pack and for associated training.

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National event marks commitment to BSL

9 May 2019 (Scottish Funding Council)

For the first time all Scottish colleges, universities and specialist institutions have published British Sign Language (BSL) plans, ahead of the October 2019 target set by Scottish Ministers in the 2017-23 BSL National Plan.

BSL plans set out how institutions will support students who use BSL, with clear and measurable commitment to improvement where necessary. The plans are reviewed annually by the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) to make sure inequalities are addressed.

Read more...

More than NINE out of 10 Brits don’t know more than two words of British Sign Language

27 March 2019 (FE News)

There are 11 million people with hearing loss in the UK, yet new research has revealed that a staggering 94% of Brits admit that they do not know more than two words of British Sign Language (BSL).

The research, conducted by adult-education college, City Lit,reveals that over a quarter of Brits (27%) feel embarrassed that they can’t communicate with people with hearing loss, with 59% calling for sign language to be made part of the National Curriculum.

It is estimated that there are at least 24,000 people* across the UK who use BSL as their primary language. Yet some 61% of Brits feel that those who are deaf or suffering with hearing loss are marginalised from society because not enough people know how to communicate with them.

The research suggests that one common area of day-to-day life where people with hearing loss might experience marginalisation is in the workplace, with only one in five saying their employer has measures in place to help people communicate with deaf colleagues. Research by the NHS has shown that almost three quarters of deaf people (74%) felt that their employment opportunities were limited because of their hearing loss, and over two thirds (68%) have felt isolated at work.

While 50% of people admit they don’t know any sign language, 60% would like to learn to communicate better with people with hearing loss.

Read more...

Related Links

‘People get judged’ – meet Britain’s only deaf full-time football coach (The Guardian, 26 March 2019) Ben Lampert, who works with Brentford and England’s deaf team, wants a place for deaf players and coaches in the professional game.

How British Sign Language developed its own dialects

5 March 2019 (The Conversation)

There are many different ways of speaking English in the UK, with people using different regional dialects in different parts of the country. For example, some people would say “give it me” while others might say “give it to me”. There is also variation in the names given to everyday items like bread roll. Even when the same vocabulary is used, there are differences in accent – in how words are pronounced. For example, some people pronounce “foot” and “cut” so that they rhyme, while others do not.

What is perhaps much less well known is that the majority sign language of the UK’s deaf community, British Sign Language (BSL), also varies from one part of the country to another – it is clear that BSL has dialects. We do not know if BSL has regional accents (systematic differences in the pronunciation of the same signs) but research has found that deaf people from different parts of the UK use distinct regional signs for the same meanings (like the variation in words meaning “bread roll” in English mentioned above).

Many people mistakenly assume that sign language is some kind of universal form of communication. In fact, there are over 100 different sign languages in the world today. Like all natural sign languages, BSL was not invented by any single individual, but developed spontaneously.

BSL began to emerge centuries ago when deaf people gathered together to form communities across the country. As it developed separately from English, BSL has vocabulary and grammar that is different. For example, a single sign can be used to mean “I haven’t seen you in ages”. The order of signs in a question such as “what’s your name?” may be unlike typical English order too, with the question sign meaning “what” coming at the end of the sentence.

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Scots dialect brought to life in sign language

20 February 2019 (BBC)

Actor Connor Bryson brings to life the Scots dialect in sign language.

The 24 year old advised the cast of the BBC comedy 'Two Doors Down', teaching the actors to speak in sign language but with a Glaswegian accent.

He said: "There are different signs for different regions in the UK. Glasgow is more like the people in Glasgow, more expansive, more emotional."

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Deaf actress learns to sign in Glaswegian for hit BBC comedy Two Doors Down

8 February 2019 (Daily Record)

Deaf actress Sophie Stone had to learn to sign like a Glaswegian for her role in hit BBC comedy Two Doors Down.

She plays Louise, an old friend of Joy McAvoy’s character Michelle, and appears in Monday’s episode – which is the last in the series.

Sophie admitted she wanted to get the right regional dialect sign language for the show.

Sophie, 38, who’s originally from London, said British Sign Language – BSL – has dialect influence, slang and phrases of its own from region to region, just like an accent.

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Sign languages are fully-fledged, natural languages with their own dialects – they need protecting

28 January 2019 (The Conversation)

We most often think of indigenous languages in the context of colonisation – languages used by people who originally inhabited regions that were later colonised. These are the languages that the UN had in mind when it stated a deep concern about the vast number of endangered indigenous languages. And rightly so. More than 2,400 of the about 7,000 languages used around the world today are endangered and most of these are indigenous languages in the above sense.

It’s welcome, then, that 2019 marks the International Year of Indigenous Languages, along with the awareness raising this will bring, as indigenous communities who speak these languages are often marginalised and disadvantaged. But there are other communities who speak indigenous languages that may still not receive much attention: deaf communities around the world who use sign languages.

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Moves to improve the lives of deaf people in Glasgow revealed

16 November 2018 (Glasgow Live)

Moves to break down barriers for deaf people across Glasgow have been revealed.

City chiefs have agreed plans to improve the lives of British Sign Language (BSL) users by making education, leisure, health and democratic services more accessible

It’s all in response to the Scottish Government’s ‘national plan’ to make Scotland the best place for deaf and blind people to live, work and visit.

Glasgow City Council has developed its strategy after talks with its own service leaders and BSL users.

Read more...

Petition to make BSL first language for deaf children in Wales

5 October 2018 (BBC)

A petition for British Sign Language (BSL) to be recognised as the first language of many deaf children in Wales has been submitted.

Deffo! Cymru, a forum for young deaf people in Wales, wants the Welsh Government to widen access to education and services in BSL.

The petition gathered 1,162 signatures and the National Assembly's petitions committee has recommended changes.

The committee's report will now be considered by the Welsh Government.

One of the report's recommendations is the development of a national charter for the delivery of services, including education, to deaf children, young people and their families.

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Scottish Parliament draft BSL plan

19 September 2018 (Scottish Parliament)

The Scottish Parliament is looking for feedback on its British Sign Language plan. Contributions invited by 28 September 2018.

Visit the website for more information and to submit your feedback.

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Theatre play for schools - The Arrival

13 September 2018 (Education Scotland)

A new theatre play, The Arrival, will be touring Scotland from 26 September to 26 October 2018.

The story is about a man that travels to a new land in search of a future for his family.

The play and classroom activities are targeted at S1-S2 pupils. The aim is to engage the students in the world of The Arrival throughout the day, setting up playful interventions, happenings and surprises that create the sense of an event, building towards a performance of the play after lunch.

The key fact is that the play is accessible to deaf, hearing and people who have English as a second/other language.

See the trailer and visit the website for more information and to book.

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Deaf Science Club

20 August 2018 (Glasgow Science Centre)

Due to popular demand, Glasgow Science Centre is running a second Deaf Science Club starting on Saturday 8 September 2018. 

The fortnightly science club has been created for Deaf, BSL users and those hard of hearing.

Budding scientists aged 6–14 years old can explore the Universe in the Planetarium, see a live science show full of spectacular demonstrations and get hands-on in workshops.

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Deaf boy’s campaign for new GCSE in sign language takes step forward

2 August 2018 (ITV)

A GCSE in British Sign Language (BSL) could be introduced in this parliament after the government backed down on a decision to delay it.

Deaf schoolboy Daniel Jillings, 12, is campaigning for the new exam in time for his GCSEs, and his family launched a legal challenge to get one instated as quickly as possible.

The Department for Education had previously said no new GCSEs would be introduced in this parliament, but following submissions from the family’s lawyers it said it may consider making an “exception”.

Daniel’s family’s lawyers argue the lack of a GCSE in BSL may be “discriminatory and unlawful”.

School Standards Minister Nick Gibb said on Wednesday: “We will consider any proposals put forward for a GCSE in British Sign Language.

“As we have made clear previously, any new GCSE would need to meet the rigorous standards set by both the Department and Ofqual.

“If these expectations are met and a British Sign Language GCSE is ready to be introduced, we will then consider whether to make an exception to our general rule that there should be no new GCSEs in this parliament.”

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Family to challenge lack of GCSE in sign language

6 July 2018 (TES)

A 12-year-old deaf boy is at the heart of a planned legal battle to challenge the government’s "discriminatory" decision to delay the introduction of a GCSE in British Sign Language (BSL).

Daniel Jillings, from Lowestoft, Suffolk, uses BSL as his first language and is concerned that there will be no qualification in place related to signing when he takes his exams in a few years’ time.

Read more...

'No barriers to stop you' - deaf referee aims to inspire [video]

27 May 2018 (BBC )

Category six referee Jason Taylor will become the Scottish Football Association’s first representative at the Deaf Champions League finals, which takes place in Milan from 28 May – 2 June.

Having started refereeing in 2005, Jason hopes to inspire other deaf people to "realise there are no barriers to stop you from doing what you want to do".

From Dunfermline, he says his refereeing idol is Hugh Dallas.

Read more...

Ground-breaking work on sign languages and the CEFR

3 May 2018 (ECML)

Just six years ago there were no references to sign languages in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).

With support from the European Centre for Modern Languages of the Council of Europe (ECML), today we celebrate the existence of the ground-breaking “Sign Languages and the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. Common Reference Level Descriptors” (2016), a result of the ECML ProSign1 project. 

One of the strengths of the ProSign descriptors is that they are not language specific, because they focus on communication rather than linguistic competencies. They have been developed to support sign language teachers, sign language learners, academics, policy makers, and others who are concerned with quality sign language learning, teaching and assessment.

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BSL event at the Scottish Parliament

27 April 2018 (Scottish Government)

To help us prepare our British Sign Language Plan, we will be holding an event at the Scottish Parliament building to gather the views of BSL users. Please come along!

The event will be on the afternoon of Friday 18 May and the morning of Saturday 19 May.

Tours of the Scottish Parliament debating chamber and garden lobby will be available in BSL on both days.

Visit the website for more information and to book.

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Launch a British Sign Language GCSE, MPs urge

6 March 2018 (BBC News)

British Sign Language should be turned into a GCSE that is taught in schools, MPs were told. The appeal came as a petition calling for British Sign Language to be made part of the national curriculum attracted more than 32,500 signatures. It also follows the success of Oscar winning film The Silent Child, starring profoundly deaf Maisie Sly, aged six.

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Oscars 2018: Ex-Hollyoaks star uses sign language in acceptance speech

5 March 2018 (BBC)

A film starring a six-year-old deaf British girl and made by two former Hollyoaks stars has won an Oscar.

The Silent Child, which tells the story of a girl who struggles to communicate, was named best live action short film.

It stars Maisie Sly, aged six, from Swindon, and Rachel Shenton, who played Mitzeee Minniver in the Channel 4 soap.

Shenton also wrote it and used sign language in her acceptance speech. It was directed by Chris Overton - AKA Hollyoaks cage fighter Liam McAllister.

"I made a promise to our six-year-old lead actress that I would sign this speech," Shenton said while accepting the statuette at Sunday's ceremony in Hollywood.

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Children to learn sign language through Welsh

31 January 2018 (BBC)

Applies to Wales

A new project has been launched which aims to teach sign language to young children through the medium of Welsh. 

The scheme, run by Mudiad Meithrin and funded by Bangor University, is the first to teach British Sign Language (BSL) through Welsh rather than English.

It will introduce one word per week in Welsh and BSL which will be shown to as many as 12,500 children under four.

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Glasgow factory workers learn sign language to communicate with deaf colleagues

29 November 2017 (Evening Times)

A group of city factory workers have been learning sign language to allow them to communicate with their deaf colleagues.

Window factory staff at RSBi, the manufacturing arm of City Building, are being taught British Sign Language as part of a new national scheme to boost opportunities for deaf people.

The Scottish Government scheme, the first of its kind, aims to make Scotland the most inclusive place for BSL users to work, live and visit.

Royal Strathclyde Blind Industry got involved by enlisting the help of non-hearing BSL approved employee Mark McGowan to teach classes at its window factory in Queenslie.

The lessons have been running since October and the firm says they have increased day-to-day communication among workmates creating a more happy and confident team.

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Actors taking sign language to the stage

13 November 2017 (The Scotsman)

A group of actors from the UK’s only degree course for deaf performers are taking their show on the road for the first time this week, with the hope that it will challenge public perceptions. 

The production, which blends British Sign Language (BSL) with spoken English, will be performed by students from the Glasgow-based Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. The group of ten actors are all studying Performance in British Sign Language and English, a three-year degree course which is the only one of its kind in the UK.

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Sign language users in Scotland 'to gain new rights'

24 October 2017 (BBC)

The Scottish government is expected to announce plans to integrate the use of British Sign Language (BSL) into every element of daily and public life.

It will reveal its national plan for people with hearing loss later.

Measures expected to be in the plan include moves to remove barriers which prevent deaf people becoming teachers.

It is also likely to address "fair and equal access" to employment opportunities, including apprenticeships and internships.

Minister Mark McDonald is to visit the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow, which offers the UK's only degree course for deaf performers.

He will then outline the details of the national plan to the Scottish Parliament.

Read more...

British Sign Language alphabet: How an intricate system of gestures gave a voice to millions

7 September 2017 (The Independent)

As Britain’s pupils return to school for the start of the new academic year, Google marks the occasion with a new Doodle paying tribute to British Sign Language (BSL).

BSL is a vital tool that has enabled generations of young deaf and speech-impaired students in the UK to communicate with their teachers and classmates, ensuring their disability does not have a negative impact on their opportunities in the classroom.

But how was BSL first conceived and how has it developed?

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Vast majority of young people think there should be a GCSE in sign language

15 May 2017 (TES)

Deaf charity finds that 97 per cent of 8-25 year-olds think sign language should be taught in schools. Almost all deaf young people think British Sign Language (BSL) should be taught in schools, according to a new survey. The National Deaf Children’s Society surveyed more than 2,000 deaf and hearing people, aged between eight and 25 and living across the UK, for its Right to Sign report. The charity found 97 per cent of young people thought that the language should be taught and 92 per cent thought it should be offered as a GCSE.

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More sign language classes are to be held in Moffat due to demand

4 May 2017 (DNG24)

Resident Fiona Stewart, who is herself deaf, will lead the four sessions, starting on the evening of Wednesday May 17 and also running the 24 and 31 and June 7.

It comes after she hosted a successful initial introduction to British Sign Language (BSL) course earlier this year, attended by 50 people.

It was initiated by Catherine Jackson, whose children wanted to learn BSL.

She said: “The class was so popular that we ended up running two groups, both over four sessions. And there’s still a waiting list and requests for us to run more.”

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Launch of British Sign Language (BSL) Bookbug session in Fife

25 April 2017 (Fife Today)

Bookbug – a free story, song and rhyme session for babies, toddlers, pre-school children and their families is set to launch Fife’s debut British Sign Language friendly group at Kirkcaldy Libraries next month.

All deaf parents with hearing children, hearing parents with deaf children and deaf parents with deaf children are invited to book a place.

Depending on uptake, the hope is to continue these specialised sessions on a monthly basis.

The event, on May 15 at 10.30am, is part of Bookbug Week 2017, which takes place between May 15-21 in celebration of ‘Bookbug’s Big Giggle’. This fun and playful theme will inspire children and adults alike to feel good by sharing songs and rhymes.

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Dingwall Academy's pioneering sign language work hailed at Holyrood

2 April 2017 (Ross-shire Journal)

Dingwall Academy’s leadership in promoting British Sign Language (BSL) has been applauded by the Scottish Parliament – after the school was highly praised by Strathpeffer-based MSP, Maree Todd.

She used the recent debate on the consultation on the Draft BSL National Plan to highlight the initiative of Dingwall Academy’s unit. During her speech, she used BSL to welcome former Dingwall Academy pupil, Caitlin Bogan, who was watching the debate from the viewing gallery.

The MSP later said: “We should all be proud of what is being done in the Highlands. Dingwall Academy is one of the few schools to deliver a BSL unit – all students in first year, including my son Gregor this year, take BSL classes as a taster along with other languages, including French, Gaelic and German.

Read more...

Should pupils have to learn sign language?

15 March 2017 (BBC News)

"When I meet hearing children who can sign, I feel happy and confident," says Emmanuel, seven.

"I want to teach everyone British sign language - the whole world."

Faiza, 11, says: "If children learnt more sign, it would mean I'd try to play with them more. Communication would be easier.

"If my hearing friends didn't sign, I would feel lonely and sad."

For these deaf children at Blanche Nevile School in north London, helping hearing peers learn British sign language (BSL) is a chance to break down barriers and make new friends.
Their school shares a site with Highgate Primary School, and the schools work in partnership so that deaf and hearing children can learn alongside each other.

While BSL was recognised as a language in its own right 14 years ago, it is not included in the national curriculum in England.

Now, an online petition set up by Wayne Barrow, who grew up with deaf parents, is aiming to change that.

Read more...

Related Links

Should hearing children learn sign language? (BBC News, 15 March 2017) - meet school pupils learning to sign and learning alongside deaf children (video report)

Sign language costs 'too high' for some families
(BBC News, 15 March 2017)

Watch as MP uses British Sign Language in the House of Commons (Daily Mirror, 16 March 2017)

MP Dawn Butler praised for using sign language in Commons (BBC News, 16 March 2017)

New student profile on SCILT's website

24 February 2017 (SCILT)

We have a range of Job Profiles on our website designed for teachers to use in the classroom to enhance learning about the world of work and how language skills can play a part.

Our latest addition comes from Emma Therer, a student of German and Linguistics, whose aim is to become a translator and interpreter. She believes languages are key in getting to know people and to learn about other cultures.

Read her profile and others on our website now.

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Heriot-Watt Multilingual Debate 2017

12 December 2016 (Heriot-Watt University)

Heriot-Watt University's Multilingual Debate is an annual event showcasing the interpreting skills of undergraduate and postgraduate students.

The 2017 Debates will take place on Wednesday 22 March with two multilingual teams arguing for and against a motion of topical interest in a range of languages. There are two Debates; one in the morning, one in the afternoon.

The Multilingual Debates are open to schools, colleges and universities and aim to stimulate interest and dialogue among young people in the international politics and social issues of the modern world whilst also setting language acquisition in a realistic context.

The topics for the 2017 Debates have just been announced and can be viewed on the YouTube video.

Visit the Heriot-Watt website for further information.

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Metro Deaf School to make history with Chinese sign language

27 November 2016 (Star Tribune)

St. Cloud State University and the Metro Deaf School in St. Paul have joined forces to include deaf and hard-of-hearing students in a first-of-its-kind cross-cultural exchange. The Metro Deaf School has opened a “Confucius classroom” for students to learn Chinese sign language, history and culture.

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Sign language degree opens opportunities

17 November 2016 (Edinburgh News)

A chronic UK-wide shortage of British Sign Language (BSL) interpreters led Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh to launch Scotland’s first BSL degree course in 2012 to equip students with the skills they require for a career in translation and interpretation.

The first cohort graduated in June with many going straight into jobs as a result of the high demand for BSL interpreters.

Many interpreters are self employed, working freelance and using agencies to source work within the deaf community. Others go into salaried employment, as Sam Rojas, 21, did with North East Sensory Services (NESS) in Aberdeen after graduating from Heriot-Watt.

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How human brains do language: One system, two channels

8 November 2016 (Science Daily)

Currently there is a debate as to what role sign language has played in language evolution, and whether the structure of sign language share similarities with spoken language. New research shows that our brain detects some deep similarities between speech and sign language.

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Inverclyde Academy pupils’ modern languages day is a winner

6 October 2016 (Greenock Telegraph)

Inverclyde Academy youngsters explored other cultures as part of a day celebrating modern languages.

Third year pupils also served up coffee and cakes to their guests, who included language ambassadors from Strathclyde University and Mandarin speakers.

Principal teacher Sarah Bell invited along experts in British Sign Language, as she widened out the European day of languages.

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Promoting Excellence in Sign Language Instruction

21 September 2016 (ECML)

The ProSign 2 project Promoting Excellence in Sign Language Instruction aims to raise the profile of sign language (SL) teachers in Europe and to support them in their efforts to achieve excellence in their teaching, both content-wise and didactically.

PRO-Sign 2's goal is to disseminate high quality materials aligned to the CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) and to facilitate the exchange and strengthening of expertise amongst Europe's sign language teachers to support them in their work and to raise the quality of sign language teaching and learning.

Find out more on the ECML website.

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Scotland leading the world in sign language provision

27 June 2016 (The Herald)

Scotland is setting the agenda for sign language provision internationally thanks to new graduates from the country's first degree course on the subject.

More than a dozen new sign language interpreters have become the first to qualify after completing an MA in British Sign Language (BSL) at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh.

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Why learn Scotland’s fourth language - British Sign Language?

21 March 2016 (Third Force News)

Scottish cultural mix of the country’s three languages, Scots, English and Gaelic, means that from the craic of the east coast to the patter of towns in the central belt, traditional idioms and turns of phrase that would trip the foreign tongue are never far off. However questions about Scotland’s fourth official language are often greeted with puzzled looks or a bemused radio silence; what fourth language? British Sign Language (BSL) follows its own syntax and grammatical structures that varies from English and is the manual language of the Scottish deaf community, a unique linguistic-cultural group numbering around 6,500 people.

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British Sign Language (Scotland) Act gains momentum

11 March 2016 (Scottish Government)

A new expert advisory group has been appointed to support the implementation of legislation which will improve the way public services meet the needs of deaf British Sign Language (BSL) users.

This follows the introduction of the historic BSL (Scotland) Act 2015 last September, which recognised BSL as a language of Scotland, and will result in the first BSL Action Plan.

Eight deaf BSL users were recruited, as well as a hearing parent of a deaf child, to work alongside public bodies – such as Creative Scotland, COSLA and the NHS – to support the implementation of the Act.

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Making Themselves Heard: Chinese Sign Language & Deaf China Online

7 March 2016 (What's on Weibo)

February 21st marked the United Nations International Mother Language Day, so-named for its recognition of mother tongues across the world. It was also the day that sign language interpreter and performer Xiaoshu Alice Hu (Austria/China) called attention to the inclusion of sign languages, Chinese Sign Language in particular, in the celebration of international mother languages.

Hu, who speaks Chinese, Austrian and English sign language, posted a picture of herself holding a sign, saying: “Please don’t ignore our Deaf’s Mother Language-Chinese Sign Language!” with the hashtag #中国手语 (ChineseSignLanguage).

Spoken Chinese is commonly perceived as one of the world’s hardest languages to master. Aside from the hours spent deciphering thousands of characters, learners are also confronted with four subtly differing tones that are at first almost indistinguishable to the foreign ear. In day-to-day conversation, a perfect combination of light inflexions and stresses on each syllable can make-or-break a sentence from native fluency into complete nonsense.

With this in mind, it is rare to find discussions on what it is like to master Chinese without hearing the sounds and tones that so famously characterise it, yet for the Chinese Deaf community, this is a daily means of communication.

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Sign language interpreting service expands

3 March 2016 (Scottish Government)

Online British Sign Language (BSL) interpreting service contactSCOTLAND is celebrating its first anniversary by expanding into the third sector.

The Scottish Government-funded service, which allows Deaf people across Scotland to contact public sector services using sign language, is being extended to community groups, voluntary organisations, charities, social enterprises, co-operatives and individual volunteers.

This project is unique in the UK and is the first nationally funded public sector Video Relay Service (VRS).

Minister for Sport, Health Improvement and Mental Health, Jamie Hepburn, confirmed the Scottish Government’s commitment to the service as it marked its first anniversary.

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‘Sign language should be added to the national curriculum’

27 February 2016 (Eastern Daily Press)

Applies to England

We have seen a little surge in the past 20 years of hearing people wanting to learn British Sign Language, either to head down in the professional career track of deaf relations such as interpreting or communication support workers or just for casual use to communicate with a deaf friend.

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Deaf school offers French signing as foreign language

26 February 2016 (TESS)

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.

The idea that there is only one international sign language is a widely-held misconception, says Enrique Canton, who is teaching French sign language to pupils at the Hamilton School for the Deaf in South Lanarkshire. Just as there are many spoken languages, each country has its own sign language, he explains, adding, 'Thereafter, there are regional variations, just in the same way that hearing people have regional or local accents.'

Mr Canton, who is deaf, was raised in France and, following a short spell living in Spain, moved to Scotland 15 years ago after meeting a 'Scottish lass.' He knows sign language in French, Spanish and British as well as international sign language.

(Read the full article on pages 8-9 of TESS digital online - subscription required).

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Entire class learns sign language to communicate with deaf classmate

8 February 2016 (The Independent)

An entire class of pupils in Bosnia are being taught sign language so they can communicate with a deaf classmate.

Teacher Sanela Ljumanovic decided to help the children in her class at Sarajevo's Osman Nakas primary school learn to sign, after noticing six-year-old Zejd Coralic had become isolated from his peers.

It comes after Bosnia adopted laws in 2003 that meant children with disabilities should be fully integrated into the classroom.

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Why Facebook has become so important to the sign language community

21 January 2016 (BBC News)

Sign language users once had to meet at local deaf clubs to have conversations and share their views. Now, video on social media means things have changed, says deaf journalist Charlie Swinbourne.

Read more...

Multilingual Debate 2016

19 January 2016 (Heriot-Watt University)

Heriot-Watt University's Multilingual Debate is an annual event that showcases the interpreting skills of undergraduate students on our Languages (Interpreting and Translating) degree programme, as well as the developing professional skills of postgraduate students on our MSc Interpreting and Translating programmes. The event takes the form of a formal debate with two multilingual teams arguing for and against a motion of topical interest in a range of languages. The teams deliver their views in their various native languages (French, German, Spanish, English, Arabic, Chinese, British Sign Language (BSL)).

The audience is mainly made up of pupils coming from Scottish and English secondary schools, but also university undergraduate students considering entering the interpreting profession, as well as government and local authority representatives. The audiences participated in the debate by listening to the arguments, putting questions to the speakers in the languages represented and voting on the motion.

The Multilingual Debate 2016 takes place on Wednesday 23 March at Heriot-Watt University's Edinburgh campus.

To find out more about the debate topics and how to sign up to attend a session, see the video presentations in Arabic, BSL, Chinese, English, French and Spanish on the Heriot-Watt website.

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Scotland becomes first part of UK to recognise signing for deaf as official language

18 October 2015 (The Herald)

Campaigners have hailed new legislation which will recognise signing as an official language in Scotland as a step towards breaking the “brick ceiling” which the deaf community faces in everyday life.

The British Sign Language (Scotland) Bill, which is due to become law in the next few weeks, will see Scotland become the first part of the UK to recognise signing for the deaf as an official language.

It means the Scottish Government and public bodies will have a responsibility to promote the language and consider how services can be provided in British Sign Language (BSL).

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More people want to learn sign language than French or German

16 October 2015 (Daily Mirror)

More people want to learn sign language than French and German, a study shows today.

And a survey by the National Deaf Children’s Society shows two out of three adults think sign language is more impressive than speaking a foreign language.

One in four people in Britain say they want to learn sign language, which would total 12.7m adults.

The top three languages people would like to learn are Spanish (28%), British Sign Language (24%) and French (23%).

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In conversation with William Mager from See Hear

2 October 2015 (BBC blog)

We spoke to See Hear series producer William Mager about his career at the BBC and his work producing the BBC's flagship magazine programme for the deaf community, now in its 35th series. The following interview was conducted with a British Sign Language interpreter and is published here in full.

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Student's smart glove translates sign language into speech

1 October 2015 (ZDNet)

Student Hadeel Ayoub has invented a smart glove which converts sign language into text and speech.

Those with difficulties with spoken language or hearing can find communicating difficult. This problem may be intensified if others do not understand sign language, which replaces words with gestures. However, a student from Goldsmiths, University of London has decided to tackle the problem with a glove that converts these gestures into understandable text on a display or audible dialogue.

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Students begin studying at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland on the UK’s first deaf performing arts degree course

29 September 2015 (All Media Scotland)

Eight new students who are all deaf or hard of hearing have begun their studies on the UK’s first performance degree programme for deaf actors at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

The BA Performance in British Sign Language and English course has been designed specifically for deaf students who aspire to a career in the theatre industry.

Created in partnership with Solar Bear Theatre Company, this three-year degree programme is recognised as the only course of its kind currently on offer in the UK.

The Royal Conservatoire has been preparing for this new degree for almost four years, with many academic and administrative staff undertaking sign language courses, deaf awareness training and hosting short courses for deaf students in the performing arts.

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Applause as MSPs unanimously back bill promoting use of British Sign Language

18 September 2015 (The National)

Legislation to promote the use of British Sign Language (BSL) was unanimously backed by MSPs last night.

The passage of the British Sign Language (Scotland) Bill, brought forward by Labour MSP Mark Griffin, was greeted with cheers and applause by campaigners in the Scottish Parliament’s public gallery.

It will require Scottish ministers to develop a national plan for BSL and place an obligation on public-sector bodies to prepare and publish their own plans.

The aim is to increase awareness of BSL and its use in the delivery of services.

During a debate on the bill at Holyrood, Griffin cited statistics from the Scottish Council on Deafness showing that 77 per cent of BSL users who visited hospital could not easily communicate with NHS staff.

He said: “It is that sense of abandonment and isolation – whether it be in a healthcare situation, in a school or an education situation – that I hope the passing of this legislation will address.”

Languages minister Dr Alasdair Allan said the Scottish Government would set up a BSL group to advise on the content of the national plan.

Labour equality spokeswoman Rhoda Grant said the bill “will send a strong message to the deaf and deaf-blind community that we value them and we value their language”.

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Related Links

For more information on the Bill itself, visit the page about the British Sign Language (Scotland) Bill on the Scottish Parliament's website and see Parliament TV coverage of the proceedings held in the Scottish Parliament on 17 September 2015.  You can also access the Official Report from the Meeting of the Parliament on 17 September 2015 in which the British Sign Language (Scotland) Bill was discussed.

MSPs support bill to promote British Sign Language (The Herald, 17 September 2015)

The British Sign Language (BSL) (Scotland) Bill passed unanimously (The Edinburgh Reporter, 17 September 2015)

British Deaf Association applauds British Sign Language (Scotland) Bill (BDA, 17 September 2015)

Sign language given formal status in Scotland (Holyrood, 18 September 2015)

New BSL bill is a welcome sign of the times (The Herald, 18 September 2015)

BBC presenter campaigns for UK schools to teach British Sign Language

11 September 2015 (Limping Chicken)

To mark the start of the new school year in September, British television presenter Angellica Bell is encouraging school children across the UK to learn British Sign Language.

The former children’s presenter has made a free educational video for national charity Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, to help raise deaf awareness in schools.

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Planning for the National BSL Plan: Building a sustainable framework for British Sign Language in schools

3 September 2015 (Scottish Insight)

The British Sign Language (Scotland) Bill aims to promote British Sign Language (BSL), a visual-gestural language used at home by over 12,500 people in Scotland (Scottish Census, 2011). The Bill requires from Scottish Government a national plan outlining an action framework for BSL. Getting the first national plan right is critical to meeting the Bill’s objectives, as this plan will establish the framework for all subsequent action on BSL (Education and Culture Committee, 2015).

This programme will support the first national plan by bringing together Deaf sector organisations, BSL users, educators and early years workers, policy makers, and experts in BSL, sign language studies and language learning. These stakeholders will share information, identify challenges and explore opportunities for increasing teaching of BSL within the Scottish Education system. “Promotion of BSL in an education setting” was identified by the Education and Culture Committee as one of five areas requiring particular attention in the national plan. In the long-term, the aim is for an inclusive society where deaf BSL users can communicate in BSL with their friends, peers and colleagues. To meet this longer-term vision, careful thought and planning is required around how to provide sustainable opportunities for hearing children to learn BSL. The aim of this programme is to ensure that this planning begins now.

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Charlie Swinbourne: How being able to sign helps you communicate in a foreign language

18 August 2015 (The Limping Chicken blog)

I’ve just returned from a two week holiday by the sea in France. My family enjoyed all the things about France you might expect – the sun, pretty villages, beaches, and food.

This was also our first holiday in a non-English speaking country since the children were born, and what struck me was how, when you try and communicate with a French person who knows no English, being able to sign makes a surprising difference.

On the last night of our holiday, we stayed in a French farmhouse where we were served a home-cooked French meal by a waiter who was a bit of a ringer for Gerard Depardieu and spoke only French. Despite the language barrier, using gesture and sign, we were able to have a full conversation.

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When It Comes To Learning For The Deaf, 'It's A 3-D Language'

28 June 2015 (NPR)

The Motion Light Lab, or ML2 is the newest hub of the National Science Foundation Science of Learning Center, Visual Language and Visual Learning (VL2) at Gallaudet University, the premier school for deaf and hard of hearing students.

In its latest venture, the team wants to pair original ASL rhymes with a 3-D signing avatar, a concept that could eventually be rendered into a signing cartoon animal on a kids show, for example.

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British Sign Language (Scotland) Bill: Stage 1

8 May 2015 (Scottish Parliament)

Debates on the motions for the British Sign Language (Scotland) Bill: Stage 1 and British Sign Language (Scotland) Bill: Financial Resolution took place on Tuesday 5 May and transcripts have now been published on the Scottish Parliament website.  These can be accessed via the links below:

British Sign Language (Scotland) Bill

27 April 2015 (Scottish Parliament)

The Education and Culture Committee published its Stage 1 Report on British Sign Language (Scotland) Bill on 27 April 2015. The Stage 1 debate will be held on Tuesday 5 May.

The British Sign Language (Scotland) Bill was introduced in the Parliament on 29 October 2014 by Mark Griffin MSP. The Bill aims to promote the use of British Sign Language in Scotland.

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Related Links

MSPs support bill to make public bodies back sign language (The National, 28 April 2015)

Allan gives evidence on sign language bill

17 March 2015 (Stornoway Gazette)

Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan, today (Tuesday) appeared in front of the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Culture Committee to help promote legislation to support the use of British Sign Language.

Alasdair Allan was giving evidence on the Scottish Government’s response to the British Sign Language Members’ Bill being put forward by Mark Griffin MSP.

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National roll-out for sign language interpreting service

2 March 2015 (Scottish Government)

A nationwide roll-out of a new online interpreting service will allow deaf people across Scotland to use sign language to contact public sector services.

The Scottish Government has announced today the extension of the current NHS 24 online British Sign Language (BSL) Video Relay Interpreting Service pilot to the rest of the public sector in Scotland.

The new Scottish Government-funded service, contactSCOTLAND, will mean deaf people can now speak to public services, such as their local council, doctor’s surgery and the Scottish Government, without the need for someone to call on their behalf.

This project is unique in the UK and is the first nationally funded public sector Video Relay Service.

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BSL and Makaton signing classes for Highland pupils

25 January 2015 (The Scotsman)

Nursery and primary school pupils in the Highlands will be the first in Scotland to be taught sign language as part of the new curriculum.

Smithton Primary, on the outskirts of Inverness, will teach youngsters both British Sign Language (BSL) and Makaton – a form of signing for those with special educational needs or communication disorders that is popularly used by Mr Tumble on the CBeebies show Something Special.

The move at the school has been welcomed by the British Deaf Association and the Scottish Association of Sign Language Interpreters.

It has come about after the Scottish Government’s announcement that all primary age children should have two additional languages as well as their first language.

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British Sign Language (Scotland) Bill

15 December 2014 (Scottish Parliament)

The British Sign Language (Scotland) Bill was introduced into the Parliament on 29 October 2014 by Mark Griffin MSP, and was subsequently referred to the Education and Culture Committee as lead committee. 

The Bill aims to promote the use of British Sign Language including by making provision for the preparation and publication of a British Sign Language National Plan for Scotland and by requiring certain authorities to prepare and publish their own British Sign Language Plans in connection with the exercise of their functions; and to provide for the manner in which such plans are to be prepared and for their review and updating. 

The Committee is curretnly seeking evidence on the Bill. The deadline for responses is 2 February 2015. 

More information on the Bill together with BSL video and audio version of the call for evidence are available on the Scottish Parliament website.

There is also a BSL Bill Group on Facebook.

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