University of Sussex students start a British Sign Language society

Meet Becca, Atusa, and Sophie, the three Sussex students who set up a BSL society


We asked them where their inspiration to start the society came from and they said there was a “gap in the market.”

Becca, one of the founders of the BSL soc, explained: “we realised that for the last few years, we as a cohort had no way to practice and expand our own learning.” They also felt it necessary to start the BSL soc to “bring attention to BSL and the Deaf community.”

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Founder Sophie. Psychology with BSL

When asked if BSL should be taught in schools, Becca revealed an astonishing statistic about deaf people in education. 58.9% of deaf students fail to achieve 5-pass grade GCSEs, compared to 35.8% of hearing students. Specialist schools for the deaf are closing due to the government cutting funding, leaving children who are deaf or hard of hearing (HoH) at a massive disadvantage.

To combat this issue of inequality and inclusiveness, the BSL soc think that “BSL should be taught in schools, at a basic and academic level to try to aid the education of all sign language users.” They think this, not only to ensure educational equality in schools, but also because “parents of deaf/HoH children only get limited BSL educational opportunities” as it is expensive and difficult to access. If it was taught in schools, it would “increase those who know the basics of sign language and therefore, can help teach the basics to others.”

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Founder Atusa Jasmin, Psychology with BSL

Becca told us that learning through BSL is just as effective as learning through hearing and how “visual and logical the language can be.” She went on and gave us an example: “imagine you pick up a glass and lift it to your mouth to drink – that is almost the exact hand-shape and movement that forms the sign for drink!”

Through her study of BSL, she realised that there is often a logical reasoning behind the majority of signs. Sophie found that there is not necessarily anything easy about learning any language, but that BSL was the simplest for her to pick up “because of how interesting it is and how there’s a whole culture to learn alongside it that’s unlike any other.”

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Founder Becca Ellis, Psychology with BSL

In terms of what was challenging about BSL, Becca said grammar. “It is different to English in so many ways – it doesn’t have ‘filler’ words, such as ‘the, and, are, a, etc’ as well as using different sentence structures. You have to translate and change everything in your head before you can even start to think about how you are going to produce it!” other society members agreed that a challenge in learning BSL was comprehending its grammar.