The Different Types of Sign Language in the UK

Language varies from nations to nations, countries to countries. Even the same language speaking countries have some variation that can differentiate them to the other native speakers. Think about British English and American English, both are not the same even though both of them speak in English. Do you think the same thing happens in Sign Language too? The common belief is, the sign languages are uniform for all over the world, but this is not the truth. The truth is, sign language also has variations. Right now there are more than 300 different sign languages available in the world.  British Sign Language is also included in the list. In the UK there are several sign languages that differ from each other. In this article, we have discussed the different types of sign language in the UK.  

Why is Sign Language?

Though we have spoken language, some people still need sign language for communication. Sign language is mainly used for the people who have hearing impairments or can not speak. 

As you can guess, to these people communicating with words is impossible, but they need communication too. This is why sign language is invented. 

While in spoken language we use sound to communicate, in sign language the tools are pretty different. In sign language the tools for communication are

Using these three tools sign language is communicated and varies from place to place and region to region. But the question is, why they are different and why there are so many forms of sign language? Let’s find out.

Why There are Different Types of Sign Language

Rita Mae Brown an American writer said “Language is the road map of a culture. It tells you where its people come from and where they are going. ” 

Over time language forms through different cultures. So, we found different cultures as well as different verbal languages. If society is the swimming pool then language is the swimming skill and the culture is the water. 

Sign language is not out of this theory too. Sign language also differs based on the culture and the environment. They also do not align with the verbal form of the language. 

For instance, the American Sign Language and the British Sign Language are not the same even though the verbal language of these two communities are similar. 

This happens, because both of these sign languages are from the two different locations of the world with two different cultures.

How Sign Language is Developed

Now let’s find out how sign language has developed. No it is not developed from the parent language. For example there are significant similarities between French Sign Language and the American Sign Language. 

However, the verbal form of these two languages are completely different. These two sign languages are similar because in the 18th century a French teacher, Laurent Clerc introduced a methodical sign system. 

He was deaf and shared this system to the American deaf education.  By the time this American deaf school evolved into American School for Deaf. 

However, due to sharing such methods the school absorbs most of the language from the French and this is why both of these languages have similarities.

Is there Any Regional Variation in Sign Language

Yes, there is a regional variation in sign language. As like verbal language sign language have accents and dialects too. Even sign language tends to have more variation than the verbal language. 

It is because sign language is a secluded form of communication. Even you will find considerable variation between two towns and cities sign language in Britain. 

So, now let’s see what are the different types of sign language that exist in the UK.  

Different Types of Sign Language

Now let’s see the different forms of sign language in the UK. They may differ a little bit according to their dialects.  So let’s checkout the most common sign language in the UK. 

Using these three tools sign language is communicated and varies from place to place and region to region. But the question is, why they are different and why there are so many forms of sign language? Let’s find out.

British Sign Language (BSL)

Almost  151,000 people use British Sign Language and 20,000 children use British Sign Language. In 2011, 15,00 people reported that they use British Sign Language (BSL) as their main language. 

In England 127,000 people use British Sign Language, in Scotland 12,500 people use British Sign Language (BSL), in Wales 7200 people use British Sign Language (BSL), in Northern Ireland 4300 people use British Sign Language. 

The grammar of the British Sign Language is different from the English verbal language. In British Sign Language (BSL) Object comes first then the subject and then verb. 

The formation of the grammar is : Object+Subject+Verb. This structure is called topic comment structure, where the subject is the topic of the sentence and predicate is used as the commentary of the subject. 

In 18 March 2003 British government formally recognised British Sign Language (BSL) as the full independent language.

Certificate in British Sign Language Level 1 & 2

Accredited by CPD | Fast Track to a New Career | Free PDF Certificate Included | Self Paced | Unlimited Lifetime Access

Irish Sign Language

Irish Sign Language (ISL)  is commonly used in the Republic of Ireland. It is also used in Northern Ireland along with the British Sign Language. 

Irish Sign Language is mostly influenced by the American Sign Language. So, you can find similarities in both of the languages. However, Irish Language also has some similarities with the British Sign Language too. 

You will find very little resemblance to spoken English or Irish with the Irish Sign Language. The gender signs are the most intriguing aspect of the Irish Sign Language. 

There were separate schools for the male and female as a result the sign language for male and female differs between the two. 

Sign Supported English (SSE)

This is a different kind of sign language. It is basically not a sign language on its own. As you can understand from its name, it is a supported language that follows the same sign as BSL and follows the same order of English spoken language. 

This language is used to help people with hearing impairments. This language helps them in their learning process in learning English grammar and the sign language at the same time.


Makaton is also a supportive language like SSE. This language helps those who have Down Syndrome which is a neurological disorder or have language impairment. 

This language provides support to learn the language for communication and assist them so that they can communicate smoothly. 

It also helps them in the development of learning processes who have communication and learning difficulties.

How to Learn Sign Language

How to learn different types of sign language

After reading this article you must feel the need to learn sign language. Previously there were special schools for learning sign language. Fortunately now one can learn sign language from their home. 

Alpha Academy, one of the renowned online course providers in the UK . 

Alpha Academy offers British Sign Language Online training program. Since the course is fully online, you can do this course from any parts of the world at your own pace. 

You will get 24/7 customer support and unlimited access to your course materials. 

Developed by the qualified tutors the course is accredited by CPD which will enhance the value of your CV and make you worth in the job market. 


Like the verbal sign language, language also differs from each other. It is not the unified one, based on culture, based on the history of its origin sign language differs. This is why sign language is not similar to the verbal language. This is why different people in the UK use different sign language. To learn sign language, enrol in the online course and discover the new horizon of the language.

Master real skills today

Choose from our 900+ online courses
December 7, 2020

0 responses on "The Different Types of Sign Language in the UK"

Leave a Message

We are a company who is best known for offering awarding body accredited courses for anyone who wishes to take their professional life to the next level.

11 Floor, 15 St Botolph Street, London EC3A 7BB

020 3965 2556

For Partnership

Certificate Validator


© Alpha Academy is a part of Adams Academy Inc. Ltd.

Your Cart

Upgrade to get UNLIMITED ACCESS to ALL COURSES for only £59.00 per year


No more than 50 active courses at any one time. Membership renews after 12 months. Cancel anytime from your account. Certain courses are not included. Can't be used in conjunction with any other offer.