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International Day of Sign Language

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Published: 21 September 2020

Hand using British Sign Language

This Wednesday we’re celebrating the International Day of Sign Language.  

Marked across the world through a United Nations initiative, the event looks to promote the use of sign language to help increase accessibility in all areas of society. 

As part of that effort, we wanted to tell you a few things about sign language and give you some basic phrases you can use in your everyday lives. 

According to the World Federation for the Deaf, there are about 72 million people living with deafness or hearing loss around the world.  

11 million of those are in the UK with 151,000 using BSL, or British Sign Language. 

There are 135 different forms of sign language, with the most widely used being American Sign Language (ASL) 

Experts often make the point that every form of sign language is not only distinct from each other, but also from spoken languages. 

Just like verbal languages, it evolves and changes over time with new words and phrases being added based on need.  

Some things you might not know about sign language 

  • Sign language is the fourth most spoken language in the UK. The others are EnglishScots and Welsh. 
  • It’s about more than just hand movements. Facial expressions, gestures and body language are also used to communicate. 
  • Lots of deaf people have ‘name signs’. Rather than spelling out their name with individual letters, they often use a single gesture, similar to a nickname. 
  • It’s not as hard to learn as you might think. You can take classes or study online, but like any language, the more you use it the easier it will come. 

British Sign Language (BSL) signs you should know 

With that last point in mind, we’ve put together the three most useful words and phrases you can learn today.  

1. Goodbye 

BSL for goodbye

2) How are you? 

The BSL sign for How are you

3) Thank you 

BSL sign for thank you

(All images from

Learning BSL is a skill you should think about for a number of reasons. For one thing, it increases accessibility for you and the person you’re talking with and makes for a fairer, more open society. 

For another, just like knowing any language, being able to use BSL will look great on your CV and open up your opportunities even further.  

We’re proud of our inclusivity and dedication to accessibility at the University of Sunderland in London.  

If you haven’t already, take a look at our Accessibility button which you can find at the top of every page on our website.  

We were also recently given the University of Year award for Social Inclusion from the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2021. You can read more about that in our News section.

Find out more by following #WeAreSunLon on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.