Evolution of BSL

Ramon Woolfe finds out how sign language has evolved

Documentary about the evolution of British Sign Language (BSL). Presenter Ramon Woolfe takes us on a journey into the development of BSL, as seen through the eyes of of his relatives - Ramon is the eighth generation of his family to be born Deaf. We meet Ramon’s grandmother, who refers to her sign language as ‘ordinary sign language’ while his mother shows how she uses BSL with less English influence. We find out about attempts to preserve regional signs through Ramon’s father, and also meet leading figures in the Deaf community, the media and academia to find out about the history of the language, and what the future might hold.

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  • intresting
    Posted on
    191024
  • Really interesting to see the evolution of all languages.
    Posted on
    191024
  • A very interesting video about the evolution of language, whether spoken or signed. I hadn’t realised the extent of regional differences in BSL
    Posted on
    190830
  • very interesting . I think all language does evolve and change over the years ,new words are added all the time ,some may be slang but eventually get used in everyday language ,so I dont think BSL is any different
    Posted on
    190815
  • thought it was very interesting and how things have changed 
    Posted on
    190815
  • interesting but looks hard!! Hope I end up signing as well. 
    Posted on
    190815
  • very interesting, I am a hearing person but interested in language ,  my grandchildren use a lot of different words i don’t understand and have to ask them what they mean ,I think language in general evolves and changes all the time.
    Posted on
    190815
  • really interesting film , I enjoyed it very much ! 
    Posted on
    190801
  • This was a great insight to BSL.  Our 5 month old beautiful Granddaughter is profoundly deaf. This is the first time anyone in all our families have had a deaf child. We are all learning BSL in order to communicate with her.  Thankyou. A brilliant video 
    Posted on
    190801
  • very interesting. Thank you for this. I hope I can learn at least something as it looks really hard..
    Posted on
    190801
  • really interesting, thank you!
    Posted on
    190513
  • Fantastic course... I've always wanted to learn Bsl now I can hold a basic conversation with others that don't have a voice. Love it!! 
    Posted on
    190212
  • I thought that was really interesting, its not something i had thought about but thats my ignorance i suppose. Really its like having accents from different areas.
    Posted on
    190206
  • This was very interesting and informative. It amazed me that there can be so many signs for one word. I just hope I can keep up with this course and practice what I learn.
    Posted on
    190204
  • Very interesting & informative. 
    Posted on
    190204
  • It is so interesting to see that even sign language has its own dialects as any other language. It is a challenge for a translator who is not accustommed to a non-standardised sign language.
    Posted on
    190116
  • Very informative and interesting 
    Posted on
    190116
  • Very insightful and though provoking in relation to evolving language and recognition of regional sign language. I am interested to know how BSL is viewed and used by those for whom English is not their first language. The video has inspired and motivated me and I am so looking forward to learning signing, so thank you.
    Posted on
    190116
  • What a wonderous insight into signing.  I'd never really thought about (local) regional signing though I'm familiar with the differences between Countries such as America, Australia etc.  Two of my children were taught basic signing at school but it was never continued therefore they didn't have the change to advance like they do when learning a foreign language.  I think this is a real shame.  I hope to learn and pass on my knowledge to my youngest two children as nowadays it would be more likely that someone with hearing difficulties feature in their circle of friends or attend their schools/groups and eventually, their workplace. 
    Posted on
    190116
  • Very interesting, and informative
    Posted on
    190107
  • It was very interesting to find out that signing is changing and evolving through the generations 
    Posted on
    180907
  • Fascinating video. I can not wait to learn more and learn how to sign
    Posted on
    180907
  • Very interesting to learn about the changes of bsl over the years as well as the continous changes still being made.
    Posted on
    180801
  • Very interesting
    Posted on
    180730
  • Very interesting viewing,looking forward to learning how to sign so I can communicate with my passengers.
    Posted on
    180716
  • i found the film very useful with information,i did not relise signing was different in other areas
    Posted on
    180607
  • To understand a language you need to understand where it has come from. The evolution of BSL now to what it was must be confusing to the older generation. I never realized that the sign for different things over different areas varies where you are. 
    Posted on
    180604
  • Hello. I have just finished watching this video Evolution of BSL. I am beginning the BSL Course 1 and 2 for myself to learn as a hearing individual, I have always wanted to learn much more sign language(s). I have self taught ASL when I was child just a little with the alphabet and some sentences and took one lesson class in early twenties years ago. But I have got away from it so I want to learn again.
    Very insightful knowledge! I like the variation of the signs just like in the hearing world with accents/dialects.
    I am a Black American Woman living in the UK now almost four years so I am hearing various English/British accents and dialects, and others are hearing my American (specifically Coloradoan with a hint of Southern) accent. I was raised in U.S State Colorado and growing up I must have picked up a little of the Southern draw from my parents who were raised in two of the Southern States. 
    So on that note, it is great to see how sign language is quite similar with regional signs.
    Question I have: I am confused on the mention of the individual describing that his children were taught English with signs compared to his grandchildren? Does English taught with signs means like spoken English while using signs?
    Thank you.   
    Posted on
    180604
  • This footage is really interesting and to see how far sign language has moved forward,I’m looking forward to finding more out and how to sign 
    Posted on
    180604
  • A very interesting video, thoroughly enjoyed watching it. I also hadn't realised about local signs, but it's logical there would be local signs as we have colloquial phrases/words in the English language. I hope the local signs don't die out, it's part of an area's history although I agree that all language evolves over time.
    Posted on
    180604
  • it was really intersting to see how BSL has evolved over time and to gain a greatre understandnig of how it can be both similar and different to English. I think it’s as important for BSL to have different regional variations as it is for spoken langauge.
    Posted on
    180416
  • I found this video so interesting as I never really thought about local dialects in sign language. I actually liked this and hope people can keep them going. 
    Posted on
    180416
  • I work in a mainstream primary school where we use Makaton but i wanted to learn BSL as my teenage son was diagnosed with severe-profound hearing loss to his right ear about 5 years ago.
    I am looking forward to learning lots more on this course but enjoying it. Thank you.
    Posted on
    180409
  • I found this very interesting. especially about signs being different in different regions
    Posted on
    180313
  • I had never heard of sign language being different for different regions.
    Posted on
    180305
  • i guess with everything things change and develop. Fascinating that they is such variety in signs.
    Posted on
    180305
  • Fascinating! As a hearing person, this is completely new to me! 
     
    Posted on
    180301
  • i love BSL it’s the best 
    Posted on
    180222
  • Really interesting,amazing how many words one sign can mean. 
    Posted on
    180212
  • i didn't realise there were regional signs, i thought it was a one size fits all kind of thing. Very interesting
    Posted on
    180212
  • Very interesting to see how signing has changed over the years
    Posted on
    180212
  • an interesting insight into evolution of BSL. Enjoyable and informative. 
    Posted on
    180129
  • really found this fascinating, no idea how complex words are .
     
    Posted on
    180129
  • Just started the course. It never occured to me that there would be regional differences to BSL. Understandable that the language would evolve as all language does gradually. But found the video fascinating. looking forward to finding out more.
    Posted on
    180125
  • This was  a very informative  video. I enjoyed it  very much  especially  about  the  regional signs  and  the evolving  of  signs as well as  new  sign.. 
    Posted on
    180117
  • Interesting vido
    Posted on
    180117
  • I'm a hearing person and I am just starting BSL level 1 course with BSL online and whilst I didn't think about regional signs, why should there not be? We have regional accents in the UK, surely that is the same thing. My accent isn't "posh" I'm from Nottinghamshire, but it does help to define who I am. It would be a shame to lose this. However I understand that sometimes my accent and the speed I speak can make it difficult for others to understand what I'm saying so there are also arguements for some standardisation. Evolution however should always take place, without it, we wouldn't even exist. :-)
     
    Posted on
    180112
  • very informative and interesting 
    Posted on
    180112
  • I have just started the BSL Level 1 and 2 course. It didn't even occur to me that there would be differences depending on where you live, Just like dialects. I feel quite Silly that I did't even think about it.
    Very interesting video. 
    Posted on
    180108
  • As a hearing person I found this very interesting.
    Posted on
    171205
  • Very interesting and informative. When i learned level 1 and 2 BSL (cacdp) over 20 years go, I bought 'the' dictionary to aid my studies. Friends of my age (was in my 30s then) at the locall Deaf Club, cautioned it would be out of date before I got round to reading through it all (given the size of the book I wasnt surprised),. Older members of the Club couldnt really see the point - after all they got by on SSE ok!
    Not long ago I did a Makaton course, and the chap taking it said he thought families were wrong to expect their children to use anything BUT Makaton! I challenged him on this and his argument was that it would be confusing to a child to learn makaton at school and then BSL etc at home. I told him I thought this to be a ridiculous statemnt. given that hearing children grow up in multi lingual households, and have no issues, so why would it be any different. I also pointed out the school Iws working in didnt use Makaton at all, but seemed to have their own system.
    I wasnt impressed with him or his course tbh.
    I love BSL it is a beautiul language, which ought to be part of the Nat. Curr,
    Posted on
    171205
  • That was incredible! I knew there variations of Sign Language like Makaton but not regional dialects. 
    This video has made me look at Sign Language in a completely different way. 
    Posted on
    171128
  • As a hearing person ,currently learning BSL.Ifound this video very helpful and extremely interesting .Particularly in the variety of usage of BSL within the deaf community itself.
    Posted on
    160616
  • Hi,
      Just to say thanks for this video.  It explained a lot. 
      I'm a hearing person who has just started to learn sign language, initially using the internet.  In the first week I got confused as I saw 3 signs for green and two for the number 6.
      As I also have an intereset in the Engish language, I totally understood about the need for all languages to change.
     As for regional signs, I feel this is similar to regional dialects (and accents) which are also in danger of dying out.  Therefore, to to this extent both languages (English and BSL) are the same.
     In my opinion, no matter what the 'right and wrongs' of a language (any language) are, ultimately all languages are there so ideas can be communiicated to others.  If that goal is achieved, surely that's what counts?
    Thanks again
    Val   
     
    Posted on
    160616
  • What an excellet video about BSL. I am learning BSL as I am partially deaf in right ear and could be deaf in both. This video gives me confidence that BSL will get stronger and be more used.  Wonderful  
    Posted on
    160616
  • Wonderful informative video.Our son born deaf..first deaf person in the family. He is now 48 and  has problems communicating with the deaf and hearing communities.   Thankfully times have now changed and we live in a more enlightened society but it is to late for my lovely son.
     
     
    Posted on
    160616
  • A very interesting programme of which I've often commented on when being around Deaf people. Being a CODA and seeing 2 variations of signs growing up (Exeter & Gloucester) then to see other regional signs makes me crave the use of our home signs again to the point where I get confused and often doubt my signing. It's good to see new signs but we should try to maintain the older ones too.
    Posted on
    160616
  • Of greater interest would be to find about the changes in morphology (how a sign is broken down into meaningful components) of older and regional signs as well as of Auslan and NZ signs.  Also interesting would be look at the grammar of the BSL variants.
    One exanple of the variations of this kind is in the two-handed sign SIGN as a verb.  The circular movement in the sign vary depending on who signs to whom - 'I sign to you [forward circling to you]' vs 'You sign to me [backward circling to me]'. I was told, in the old ASL, there was such a distinction in the movement of the sign SIGN(verb), but now the distinction is gone in ASL.
    Use of facial expression may have undergone changes. Anecdotes have it that excessive facial expression was frowned upon in the past, thus lessening the use of mouth adverbs.
     
    Posted on
    160122
  • Full of info. Loved seeing the different generations.
    Thank you
    Posted on
    150722
  • When discussing the variations of signs, most focus is being laid on lexicon (vocabulary). That is expected, and perhaps less interesting for a linguist. What I don't see are morphological and syntactic variations in the sign language.

    An example from ASL: the verb "to sign" has circling movement of both hands and can be inflected according who signs to whom as well as according to temporal aspect and to adverbial meaning (big/loud, secretively, hesitantly, etc.). I was reported that older deaf person would use forward circling movement to say "I sign to you/him/her" and backward circling for "you/he/she signs to me" or "I was signed by someone". Contemporary ASL does not allow the latter inflection. The same restriction is also observed for another sign "to visit" that also has a circular movement.

    There may be syntactic variation, for example, if pronominal spatial references in signs are obligatory or optional. For example, HER HOUSE has been placed to be on my right side and the hands in the sign GO-TO must be go from me to this established point, or it can be "neutralized" or inflected from me to forward.

    Are there such variations in the BSL corpus?

    Hartmut
    Posted on
    140820
  • Another aspect to look at the different signs of a particular concept is if the sign is used as a noun or as a verb, for example, I see the sign glossed "PHOTO" could mean "photographic picture" or "take a photograph of someone or me".

    Posted on
    140820
  • I'm learning BSL courtesy of one of my friends, who is profoundly deaf (totally deaf in one ear, and only 30% or so in the other. She lip reads brilliantly, and speaks very well (she had 50% hearing as a child, then lost 20% of it at about the age of 4, but it has been enough to 'work with', so to speak. However, I always felt guilty that she had to work so hard when we met up to communicate with me (although she always said it wasn't an issue, bless her). Unfortunately, learning BSL through an official course is so expensive here (I live in the Channel Islands), much more expensive than in the UK, and only available through one teacher in one place, so I asked my friend if she would teach me. She was thrilled I'd asked her - that was about a year ago - and I've really learned so much, and have been welcomed into the local dDeaf community and attend the monthly Deaf Club meetings where I am often too nervous to be able to string anything coherent together with my hands, but everyone is very patient!

    However, in my 'day job' I am a teacher, with a special interest in how language is acquired, used and learned. This video about the evolution of BSL, and the differences between the regions and generations was fascinating! Jersey has many signs which are different to the mainland versions, so it's something I was made aware of right from the start. Now, having seen this film, I'd love to do some research into the Jersey BSL lexicon as compared UK regions... except I'm still such a novice at BSL! How frustrating!

    Posted on
    140605
  • Interesting. Have English dictionary. Love c what bsl version All different generations together. Great
    Posted on
    140602
  • Extraordinary story... Must be a long way to research about Evolution of BSL. Thank for shared and experiences.
    Posted on
    140531
  • Great film, hope many will view it - deaf and hearing. Good to see a variety of sign; long may they continue.
    Posted on
    140531
  • Hi
    I am learning BSL at Calderdale (1st year) and all the different signs in BSL Dictionary for the same word confuse me as the correct one to use - a lot say 'regional' after the sign - I have heard there may be a BSL signing dictionary for words for the Yorkshire region ie more likely to be used in Yorkshire. Have you heard of such a book and would you know where I could purchase one from? Thank you.

    Chris Jackson
    Posted on
    140311
  • a wonderful documentary, simply wonderful :-)
    Posted on
    140121
  • Hi, Wow! Great to watch as if the Sign Languages all over the world do change fast truly.

    Many thanks for the make of evolution of British Sign Language (BSL) as we, the South African family except my wife as a German, had emigrated to Canada with three hearing sons, now we learn ASL, of course I do still remember SASL at old times, living here now 16 years in Canada.

    Keep up with the next make,

    Cheers,

    Douglas and the 'Hugill' family
    Posted on
    131230
  • I found this fascinating as I had just been writing my thought about formal and informal conversation; the everyday conversation we use. I think we adapt how we communicate to the given environment. I don't like the idea of a sterile, standard Sign language and don't think this will ever happen. It would be un natural!

    I'm sure your Dad must Sign as a Manchester lad when he's in Manchester?

    Sign changes by progress, the mobile phone for instance, by generational identity; the younger generation always thing they know best and where we live.

    Sign is a great language, because it does have the fluidity of being easy to share and adapt with each other.
    Posted on
    131230
  • Thanks for a wonderful programme, Ramon. It was fascinating to see your family history and so many great interviews!
    Posted on
    131125
  • A well rounded, informative and very positive programme. Great to see people from different generations, being together, celebrating. Brilliant to see joyous, confident Deaf children. All human Language is a miraculous, wonderful thing that people sometimes take for granted, but Sign Language is one of the most beautiful natural wonders of the world. Thank you to Ramon and your family.
    Posted on
    131107
  • Very interesting and useful!
    Posted on
    131021
  • I really enjoyed watching this show for many reasons. One of which is my interest in BSL and studying my BSL 3 but also seeing how BSL has changed so much over the years.
    Thank you as I found it very interesting and helpful to me.
    Posted on
    131016
  • I enjoyed watch your programme about language .. Yes Stoke on Trent still strong used stoke sign language .. I went school The Mount Stoke on Trent when I moved to North Yorkshire I learn new yorkshire language but I keep some mine sign Stoke .. So my marriage broke down back home to Staffordshire .. I forget all Stoke sign when I saw Deaf people at Stoke amaze me nice memory back ..

    I agree how language effect Deaf people in the future still same or different
    Posted on
    130827
  • A fantastic programme to watch, enjoyed,,it is so true, I live in South Africa and we have two Deaf boys. The sign languages do change with time, even if I visit the school, it is different and it is not so understandable. By Susi
    Posted on
    130827
  • Very amazing I enjoyed that programme. I grow up with hearing family they respect what my Donaldson's School for Deaf in Edinburgh told no allowed sign language at home have to speak but when I become BSL Teacher they all accept BSL = Deaf People 1st or prefer language !!!!!
    Posted on
    130320
  • ramon how it just fab I saw me in there. your mum linda with sister howard all of yoir grandma louise amb3r spende 7s star of play wow more th3n amazing I hqve image my future bsl deaf time line by katrina
    Posted on
    130320
  • I’m deaf from Australia. WOW, I was very interesting watch on Video called “Evolution of BSL” I understand as well BSL same/similar as AUSLAN (Australia Sign Language) and NZSL (New Zealand Sign Language) have different dialect. I have notice see old deaf people and young deaf people are different sign language. North and South Australia sign language are different sign language. From Michael
    Posted on
    130124
  • Ironically the BBC has run a similar story with endangered language in New York City - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-20716344...
    Posted on
    121226
  • I thought the programme was absolutely amazing and insightful. More please! Can't get over the fact that there are 22 signs for purple :-)
    Posted on
    121226
  • Wow! Lovely to see the different generation of deaf people and how we can learn from each other in Sign Language from old time to modern day! Hope you can create a book of new signs like facebook, twitter and jardons which would be great for all of us deaf to learn. Thanks and keep up the good work!!!
    Posted on
    121226
  • The personal journey of Ramon I found very interesting and enlightening. Good to see the younger generation signing freely at last.
    Posted on
    121226
  • I found very interesting about your life and how much BSL has changed over the years.
    Posted on
    121226
  • Oh fab! One for the archives! Lovely see four generation n give or see their languages n insights of Bsl - love to see a movie made of the family! I mean real movie!
    Posted on
    121226
  • Brilliant story with evidences about Evolution of BSL! It would be great for my BSL classes to learn about our history of BSL. Thanks!
    Posted on
    121226
  • Hello I am profoundly deaf since birth. I watch your programme Evolution of BSL. One question he mentioned that in future there would be empty sign languages. There is never empty source of sign languages. It is very important . Deaf people have Different communications of sign language, lip-reading, body language. The fact Deaf people of sign language have their own culture way. I come from republic of ireland. Best regards martin
    Posted on
    121226
  • Loved it. This is an amazing programme.
    Lovely to see the evolution of language in just one family.
    Posted on
    121226
  • Interesting movie! From USA...
    Posted on
    121226

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