12.7 million people in the UK would like to learn sign language, a new survey by the National Deaf Children’s Society reveals – with more Brits wanting to be able to communicate in sign language than in French and German.
In fact, research shows two thirds of adults think sign language is more impressive than speaking a foreign language.
British Sign language is a language in its own right and uses handshapes, facial expressions, gestures and body language to convey meaning. It is the first language of some deaf people and is used in addition to spoken English by others.
The survey found that:
- a quarter (24.50%) of people in Britain say they want to learn sign language;
- the top three languages respondents would like to learn are Spanish (28.80%), British Sign Language (24.50%) and French (23.20%);
- sixty-one percent of people feel embarrassed they can’t communicate well with deaf people and wish they could do better;
- two thirds (66.80%) of people think that sign language is more impressive than speaking a foreign language; and
- proving that British etiquette is alive and well, “thank you” is the phrase people would most like to learn in sign language, closely followed by “can I help” and “sorry”.
The survey results will be welcomed by deaf children and young people who use sign language either as their first language or as a support to spoken English.
A lack of deaf awareness can be a problem for all deaf children, whether they use sign language or not, often leading to isolation and loneliness at school. Nearly 80% of deaf children in England attend mainstream schools where they may be the only deaf child enrolled – without good deaf awareness they can miss out on important social development like conversations with classmates and playground games.
To kick-start the nation’s introduction to sign language and deaf awareness, the National Deaf Children’s Society is today launching the ‘Fingerspellathon’ challenge, which calls on people to learn to sign the alphabet and get sponsored to fingerspell certain key words.
Commenting on the findings, National Deaf Children’s Society Chief Executive, Susan Daniels, said:
“It is so important that deaf children and young people do not miss out on conversations, activities and opportunities to make new friends. Raising deaf awareness is key to this and the Fingerspellathon is an excellent way of showing support, learning a new skill and raising vital funds to support deaf children and their families.”
For more information on the Fingerspellathon or to sign up to the challenge, please visit: www.ndcs.org.uk/fingerspellathon
The Limping Chicken is the world's most popular Deaf blog, and is edited by Deaf journalist and filmmaker Charlie Swinbourne. Find out how to write for us by clicking here, how to follow us by clicking here, and read our disclaimer here.
The site exists thanks to our supporters. Check them out below:
- Signature: Leading awarding body for BSL qualifications
- Ai-Media: Remote captioning. Find out about 5 funny ways to use captions!
- Bellman & Symfon: home alerting solutions
- Deaf Umbrella: sign language interpreting and communications support
- Eyewitness Media: TV and film from a Deaf perspective
- Appa: Communication services for Deaf, Deafblind and hard of hearing people
- SignLive: Online video interpreting for Deaf people
- SignVideo: Instant BSL video interpreting online
- 121 Captions: captioning and speech-to-text services
- The National Theatre: Captioned and BSL accessible theatre in London
- Doncaster School for the Deaf: education for Deaf children
- Signworld: Learn BSL online!
- Action Deafness Communications: sign language and Red Dot online video interpreting
- BSLcourses.co.uk: Provider of online BSL courses
- Association of Notetaking Professionals: The professional body representing Electronic and Manual Notetakers
- Sign Solutions: communication support, training and translation
- InterpretersLive: On demand BSL video interpretation
- Hamilton Lodge School in Brighton: education for Deaf children
- Lipspeaker UK: specialist lipspeaking support
- Ozen: Australian hearing aid specialists
- Elmfield School, Bristol: Inclusive education for Deaf pupils
- deafPLUS: BSL advice helpline
- Exeter Deaf Academy: education for Deaf children
- Royal Shakespeare Company: Captioned and BSL interpreted performances (see dates here)
- Royal School for the Deaf, Derby: Residential education for deaf children
- RAD Tax Advice: Tax and Tax Credit info for Deaf people
- Performance Interpreting: BSL interpreting at concerts
- National Deaf Children's Society: The leading charity for deaf children
- Signed Culture: Advocating for BSL access to arts and culture
- SignHealth: healthcare charity for Deaf people
- CJ Interpreting: communication support in BSL
- British Society for Mental Health and Deafness: Promoting positive mental health for deaf people