Communicating with Deaf people
Deaf people in the UK use various methods of communication. The most widely used method of signed communication is ‘BSL' (British Sign Language). You may also come across references to Sign Supported English (SSE). SSE uses many BSL signs, but with the grammatical structure of English - unlike BSL, which is a language in its own right. SSE may be used by people who have learned English as a first language and then learned to sign, or as a first language.
The Deaf Community
It is estimated that 9 million people in the UK are deaf or hard of hearing. However, not all of them are members of the Deaf Community - people who use BSL as their first or preferred language. It is difficult to say how many people in the UK use BSL as their first or preferred language - current estimates vary between 50,000 and 70,000. BSL users may describe themselves as Deaf, rather than deaf. This means that they see themselves as part of the Deaf Community.
Their degree of deafness does not, in itself, determine whether or not a person is a member of the Deaf Community. Someone who has become profoundly deaf in adulthood may still identify with the hearing world and rely on lip-reading, speech and hearing aids to listen to sound; someone born with a less profound hearing loss into a Deaf family may identify with the Deaf Community and use BSL.
British Sign Language
BSL is the language used by the Deaf Community in the UK. It has its own grammar and syntax, completely different from the grammatical rules of English. It uses both manual and non-manual components: hand shapes and movements, facial expression and shoulder movement. Linguists generally agree that BSL is a topic-comment language. For example, the question in English "What is your name?" becomes the sequence "Name you what?" in BSL. The topic of the sentence, "name you", comes first, followed by the comment, "what?".