Storytelling Month; BSL and Makaton

Storytelling Month; BSL and Makaton

British Sign Language (BSL)

Sign language is a way of communicating with your hands, facial expressions and body language. It is used by the Deaf community and people with hearing impairments.

There is no universal sign language- each community has its own system of signs. Sign language also has its own grammar and word order. For example, when speaking we would say “where are you going?, and in BSL you would sign as “you going where?”

It’s hard to tell when exactly BSL began, as we don’t have many written records of it. There are reports from as early as the 15th century of Princess Joanna of Scotland using sign language interpreters. The first school for Deaf people opened in the 18th century in Edinburgh, but BSL wasn’t officially recognised as a language by the government until 2003.

Did you know you can have different accents in BSL? Just like in spoken language, you can have different signs for the same thing depending on where you are from. There are at least seven different ways of signing ‘toilet’ depending on where you live!


Makaton is similar to BSL, and is used to help hearing people with learning or communication difficulties. Makaton uses signs and symbols while also speaking, and follows the same grammar and word order as spoken English. The signs and symbols are the same across the country.

Makaton can be helpful for children or adults. Signs can help people express themselves if they are having difficulties with speech. Over time, people can drop the signs at their own pace as they develop speech. Today, over 1000,000 children and adults use Makaton!


Storytelling through sign can be exciting and engaging, as the narrator can dynamically switch between characters to tell the story. Storytellers can use animated facial expressions and body movements to show how the characters are feeling, and really involve the listener in the story.


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