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How To Sign The Alphabet In British Sign Language

“Language”, a life-preserving form of communication. No matter it is spoken or signed, language is that route which knits us together as a social community. You can learn different types of spoken languages like Spanish, French, Welsh, etc., why not sign language? It will unlock a whole new window for you.  

If you want to become wood-perfect in british sign language alphabets, you’ve bobbed up on the right place! Don’t leave that chair and stick with me to learn how to sign the alphabet in British Sign Language.

What is Sign Language?

Before anything else, let’s know what a sign language is.

 

Sign language is a way of interaction for deaf people in which they use a combination of manual articulations with non-manual elements to express their feelings. Sign language is a wholly developed natural language with distinct grammar and lexicon. Though there are some similarities among sign languages from different corners of the world, they are not universal. 


The sign language that is commonly used in the United Kingdom is called British Sign Language (BSL). British Sign Language is a full-fledged independent sign language with its own grammatical structure and syntax. It is also not allied with spoken English.

History of British Sign Language (BSL)

As an unwritten language BSL doesn’t have any well-documented history. It is believed that BSL was formed in the 18th century. But it had become well accepted in the 19th century when deaf schools were started in Britain. 

 

Since 1980, television started broadcasting BSL regularly on making signs visible to the whole nation. As a result of this, most signers know a sign that is recognised across the country despite their own regional signs.


After a massive campaign in 2003, BSL was finally recognised by the UK government as an official minority language. Now  BSL is the preferred language of around 145,000 people and 20,000 children within the United Kingdom.

The Grammar of British Sign Language

Sign languages use the unique features of the visual medium, but may also exploit physical features. Mostly, spoken language is linear so that you can make or receive only one sound at a time. On the flip side, sign language is visual. You can use a simultaneous expression, although this is limited to articulatory and linguistically. Visual perception enables the processing of parallel information.

 

The sentences or clauses in a language have a specific structure. If you compare languages to each other, you will see that differences in structure emerge. For instance, in English, we have the Subject then Verb then Object:

I(S) baked(V) a cake(O)

 

In BSL, the concept is different. It starts a sentence with Time-frame then Topic then Action or a Comment.

Yesterday(time frame) cake (topic) baked (action/comment)

 

It is essential to have the time-frame in BSL. The signs in sign language do not change according to the past, present, or future. Whereas in English, we show the time-frame by using a variety of words (made, make, building, etc.).

Sign Language Vs Spoken Language

Sign languages develop within deaf communities. So they can be independent of the surrounding spoken language. Though English is the native language for the USA and UK, the American Sign Language (ASL) is pretty different from British Sign Language (BSL).

 

In some ways, sign languages are different from spoken ones because of the limitations and feasibility sustained by the visual-gestural modality. The salient differences are in the use of visual space and speed of the articulators. There is also variation in the need to get information and the effort of using large muscles for language transmission. 


But there is a lot of fundamental connection between these two. Like the spoken ones, sign languages have syntactic, semantic, formational, and phonological levels of analysis. The aim of writing aims is to communicate whether it is spoken or signed. I will say that sign languages are distinct from spoken languages with a sundry of uniformities.

Boost you English by using the proper spelling, grammar, and punctuation

How to Sign the Alphabet in British Sign Language

Now it’s time for you to fetch a whole new experience. Without any exaggeration, let’s get to know how to sign the alphabets in British Sign Language one by one.

In BSL A
  • “A”
  • Open your hands
  • Palms facing upwards
  • If you are a lefty, do it vice versa
In BSL B
  • “B”
  • Make ‘O’ shape with your fingers in both of your hands separately
  • Touch the thumbs with the fingertips
  • Put your hands together to make a ‘OO’ shape
  • If you are right-handed, touch the thumb of your left hand with the index finger of your right hand
In BSL C
  • “C”
  • Make the pattern exactly like the letter ‘C’ with the index finger and thumb of your right hand
  • Fold other fingers inwards
  • If you are left-handed, do it oppositely
In BSL D
  • “D”
  • Fold all the fingers of your left-hand except the middle one
  • Point the left hand’s middle finger upward
  • Touch the tip of this finger with the index finger of your right hand
  • Touch the knuckle of the left index finger with the right thumb and make a shape like the alphabet ‘D’
  • Keep other fingers of your right hand folded
  • For left-handed people, just mirror the same process
in BSL E
  • “E”
  • Straight your left-hand palm facing at the right side
  • Slightly forward the left index so that you can touch the middle part of it with the thumb of the same hand
  • Touch the tip of the left index with the right one
  • Fold other fingers of the right-hand
  • If you are a lefty, do it vice versa
In BSL F
  • “F”
  • Rest the right index and middle fingers on the left ones
  • Keep other fingers of both hands folded
  • Lefty fella will rest the left ones on the right
  • “G”
  • Put your right fist on top of the left one
  • If left-handed, put the left fist on top of the right one
In BSL H
  • “H”
  • Open up the left hand’s palm facing up
  • Put your right palm on the left one
  • Stroke the right hand on the forward direction
  • Mirror the process if you are not comfortable with the right hand
In BSL I
  • “I”
  • Touch your left middle finger with the left index
  • Bent all other right fingers
  • Keep all the left fingers open and relaxed
  • Touch the right middle finger with the left index if you are lefty
In BSL J
  • “J”
  • Keep your left palm open and facing up
  • Move your right index from the tip of the left middle finger down to its thumb. Trace it as you are writing the letter ‘J’ on your hand
  • Replace the left with the right if you are left-handed
In BSL K
  • “K”
  • Bent the index finger of your right hand
  • Hold it against the left index finger to make a ‘K’ shape
  • Close other fingers of both hands
BSL L
  • “L”
  • Open and face upward your left palm
  • Right index finger rests on your left palm with its other fingers close
  • Change the hands if you are left-handed
BSL M
  • “M”
  • Keep your left hand open and relax
  • Rest the right index, middle, and ring finger on the left palm
  • Other fingers of your right hand should remain close
  • Do it oppositely if you are comfortable with the left hand
  • Keep your left hand open and relax
BSL N
  • “N”
  • Open your left palm
  • Put the index and middle finger of your right hand on the left palm
  • Keep your right ring and little finger and thumb close
  • Change the hands if you are left-handed
BLS O
  • “O”
  • Keep your left palm open and relax
  • Touch the left ring finger with the index finger of your right hand
  • Close other fingers of your right hand
  • If you do your work with the left hand, just change the hands and follow the procedures
BSL P
  • “P”
  • Create a circle with your right index finger and thumb
  • Touch the tip of the left index finger to make a ‘P’ shape
  • Bent other fingers of both hands
  • Mirror the process in case you are a southpaw
BSL Q
  • “Q”
  • Shape a circle with the hand on your left by touching the top of the thumb with the index finger’s tip
  • Rest the right index finger on your left thumb
  • Vice versa for the left-handed one
BSL R
  • “R”
  • Keep the left palm open and relax
  • Bent the right index finger with other fingers remaining close and rest it on the left hand
  • Lefty should do it in the opposite manner
Bsl S
  • “S”
  • Open and relax your left palm
  • Lock the left little finger with the right one
  • Left-handed people will lock the right one with the left one
BSL T
  • “T”
  • Keep your left hand open and palm facing up
  • Press the left open palm with your right index fingertip
  • Flip the procedure if you are a southpaw
  • “U”
  • Touch the left little finger with the index finger of your right hand
  • The left palm should stay open and other fingers of your right hand should remain close
BSL V
  • “V”
  • Make a ‘V’ symbol with the hand on your right side
  • Rest the victory shape on your open left palm
  • Mirror it if you are lefty
  • “W”
  • Open up your both palms
  • Interlock the open fingers with one another
BSL X
  • “X”
  • Bent all the fingers of your both hands except the index fingers
  • Make a cross with the index fingers which will represent the shape ‘X’
BSL Y
  • “Y”
  • Close all the fingers of the left hand but keep the index finger open
  • Touch the base of the left thumb and index finger with the right index
  • If you are lefty, do the opposite
BSL Z
  • “Z”
  • Keep your left palm open and facing to the right side
  • Touch the upright part of the left palm with the fingers of your right hand
  • You should change the hands if you are not okay with the right hand

Nota Bene:

Do you notice the vowels? Yes, each of your fingers represents vowels! See closely: A (thumb), ‘E’ (index), ‘I’ (middle), ‘O’ (ring), ‘U’ (little). That’s wicked, I know right?

Things to Remember

Learning the alphabet is considered as ‘Level-1’ in British Sign Language. Before upgrading your level, a few fundamental things you have to keep in your mind always. 

  • Understand the Diction

In BSL, most words have their own sign. But the alphabets are used to spell out names, acronyms, and the words that don’t have a distinct sign. You can also fingerspell the words with the alphabets if you are unsure about their signs. Moreover, alphabets will be immensely helpful for you to understand BSL further. 

  • No Lowercase or Uppercase

The most convenient part of British Sign Language is there is no capital or small letters! You can emphasize on the word without paying attention whether it has capital letters or not. The sign for letters such as D and Q picture capital letters. Other alphabets like R, outline lowercase letters. But each of them is used for both capital letters and lowercase letters.

  • Use the Dominant Hand

Dominant hand means the hand you write with. Right or left doesn’t matter, the thing that matters in BSL is the consistency. Consider the pen and paper method to understand better. You will point with your dominant hand as if it is the pen whereas the other hand will be the paper. For instance, if you are a righty, your dominant hand will be the right hand. 

  • One step at a time

BSL is split into different levels and learning the alphabet is the basic step of British Sign Language. Learn bits by bits to have greater consistency and to grasp the language. 

 

Once you learn a sign, write down the letter or word. It will help you to know what you have covered and what you have to work on. Learning sign language will take time, but you want to be a pro in BSL, don’t ya?

  • Gestures

The gesture is very important in sign language. When you communicate with people, always sign in front of your chest. Also, keep the pace of your fingerspelling steady and slow, so that the person can understand you easily. Conjointly, try to mouth the whole word instead of mouthing the individual letters. 

Read people’s emotions and opinions before they even say a word, and to build your emotional intelligence.

Concluding Remarks

The purpose of this blog was to assist you on your journey towards learning British sign language alphabets. I hope now you know how to sign the alphabets in British Sign Language. I also try to cover the nits and bits of BSL which may help you to get acquainted with British sign language alphabets in the long run.

 

I believe you have found the blog neat and nifty. Thanks a bunch for staying with me this long. A big clap for you that you have taken a step forward to learn this unique method of communication. 

 

Good luck and take care!   

 

Adios! 

September 4, 2020

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