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  • 20 mins

An informal and friendly introduction to British Sign Language

Updated Tuesday 7th May 2019

As part of Deaf Awareness Week (6-12 May), The Open University Students Association has created a series of tutorials to introduce British Sign Language.

British Sign Language introduction Creative commons image Icon British Sign Language under Creative-Commons license There are around 125,000 deaf adults in the UK who use British Sign Language (BSL), along with an estimated 20,000 children. Reports of sign language in the UK go as far back as 1570 when it was used in secular communities. Its popularity has grown exponentially over the years and now there are thousands of non-deaf people in the UK who can use BSL. Until the 1940’s sign language would be passed on from person to person through families and deaf communities, but it was not recognised as an official language until 2003.  

Here at the OU we have around 1,300 students who have registered with a hearing disability. The Open University Students Association teamed up with one such student, Joshua Page, and his friend Joshua Sprules to put together some basic BSL tuition to introduce you to BSL.  

BSL uses a mixture of hand signals, body language and lip patterns to communicate. If you’re practicing any of the below with a BSL user, try to imagine you’re communicating through a window and keep your movements within the frame.   

We hope you enjoy working through these videos and that it gives you some confidence to communicate with a deaf person.  

The alphabet 


Right handed finger spelling 

Visit here to view examples of right hand finger spelling.


Days of the week 














Five Ws and one H 




We hope the short videos have been a useful resource and inspire you to go on and learn more. 


Additional resources and acknowledgements

Action on Hearing Loss

More information on British Sign Language

Many thanks to Josh Page and Josh Sprules for taking the time to help with the creation of these resources. 








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