30 June 2021

Top 10 British Sign Language (BSL) FAQ’s

Here’s some useful information about BSL, BSL interpreters, BSL videos, and the many reasons to get them. More information can also be found on the BSL page on A2i’s website.

 1. What is BSL?

BSL means British Sign Language. It is a visual way of communicating used by deaf people to talk to each other. BSL is the sign language used in the UK. Other countries have their own sign languages.

2. How do you sign BSL?

People often think BSL is signed using just your hands, but that’s not the case. BSL users do use hand shapes and movements, but they also use gestures, lip patterns, facial expressions, and shoulder movements to talk.

You can find online video dictionaries that show you some common signs, for example at https://www.signbsl.com.

Lady signing the word 'Communicate' in BSL









3. Is BSL just English, with your hands?

No. As discussed above, BSL users don’t just use their hands.

Also, BSL is a full and complex language, with its own grammar and principles, which are completely different from the grammatical structure of English. There are also regional variations, just like regional accents in spoken languages.

The only time English is really used in BSL is for fingerspelling, which is used in limited situations such as spelling people’s names or place names.

BSL was recognised by the Government as an official minority language in its’ own right in March 2003.

4. How many people use BSL in the UK?

BSL is the first or preferred language of around 151,000 Deaf people in the UK (2016 British Deaf Association).

A group of people signing BSL








5. What is a BSL interpreter?

A BSL Interpreter is a hearing person who signs what someone else is saying so deaf people can understand it.

In simple terms, they translate the meaning of written or spoken English to BSL.

Interpreters need to use their knowledge of both languages, and their understanding of the cultural differences between the people they are interpreting for, to translate a message accurately.

Due to the nature of the work, they need to process and translate information quickly and accurately.

6. How do I know if the BSL is correct?

As with any language, there are courses for everything from everyday conversation skills, right through to degrees and professional qualifications. So, if you are looking to get a BSL video you need to check your BSL interpreter is suitably qualified.

To be a qualified BSL interpreter in the UK you need to be a Registered Sign Language Interpreter (RSLI), registered with the NRCPD. The NRCPD is the national regulator of British Sign Language/English Interpreters and Translators. To register you  have to have completed an approved course, abide by their Code of Conduct, and pass a standard DBS check amongst other things.

Lady signing the word 'Understand' in BSL








7. Is BSL the same as Makaton?

To the untrained eye, they can look the same. Makaton uses gestures, facial expressions, eye contact, and body movements to help people communicate, but it is used alongside a bit of speech. It is used by children and adults with communication and learning difficulties, for example, people with poor literacy skills; and it is increasingly used by the general public, for example, parents communicating with babies and young children.

BSL, on the other hand, is a complete and recognised language.

8. What is the difference between deaf and Deaf?

The word deaf, with a lower case d, is used to describe people who have a severe hearing problem.

The word Deaf, with a capital D, is used for people who have been deaf all their lives, or since before they started to learn to talk. For most Deaf people English is a second language, and sign language is their first.

Man signing the word 'Self' in BSL








9. What are the benefits to me of providing BSL videos?

Can you imagine how difficult and frustrating life would be if you constantly struggled to get the information you wanted? If you couldn’t find information independently and privately? If you always had to wait for someone to help you? These are some of the hurdles faced by Deaf people if BSL information videos are not provided.

There is also the burden on family members and friends to translate some potentially private or technically difficult information.

There are plenty of other good reasons too….

Providing BSL videos:

  • shows people you respect them and treat them equally,
  • demonstrates you are inclusive and considerate,
  • improves access to your organisation, services and information,
  • improves your customer service,
  • will make potential customers more confident in your organisation and more likely to use your services,
  • plus…if you add subtitles to your videos they will be accessible to more people, including the 90% of people who watch social media videos muted!

There are also legal reasons to provide information in BSL:

  • Deaf sign language users qualify for protection under the Equality Act 2010. This means service providers have a legal duty to make reasonable adjustments, so people who are Deaf are able to access their services.
  • Under the Accessible Information Standard organisations that provide NHS care and / or publicly-funded adult social care are legally required make sure people with a disability or sensory loss are given information they can understand, and the communication support they need.

10. How much does a BSL video cost?

BSL videos are bespoke and depend on the length and complexity of the document, so please just contact A2i for a quote.

However, as a guide, A2i’s prices start at £100 per 500 words, with a minimum charge of £400 for BSL video and £100 for subtitling. Standard presentation is as an mp4 file sent digitally. BSL videos on DVD is also an option.

Go to the BSL page of our website for more information.

Lady signing the word 'Rights' in BSL









For more information about A2i’s BSL service, or a quote, just get in touch with A2i’s friendly team at
Email: info@a2i.co.uk
Web: a2i.co.uk
Telephone: 01179 44 00 44
Or use our quick quote form


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