Gaelic Word of the Week – British Sign Language – Cànan Soidhnidh Bhreatainn


Each week we publish the text of our Gaelic Word of the Week podcast here with added facts, figures and photos for Gaelic learners who want to learn a little about the language and about the Scottish Parliament – Pàrlamaid na h-Alba. This week we are looking at British Sign language.

Sign Language Week will be taking place from 15th-21st of March so this week we are going to be learning to say British Sign Language in Gaelic – Cànan Soidhnidh Bhreatainn.

Scotland – Alba has four national languages – Beurla – English, Cànan Soidhnidh Bhreatainn, – BSL, Gàidhlig, and Scots.

So what is Cànan Soidhnidh Bhreatainn?

BSL Alphabet – Aibideil Cànan Soidhidh Bhreatainn

A Sign Language – cànan soidhnidh – is a visual means of communicating using gestures, facial expression, and body language. Sign Language – cànan soidhnidh – is used mainly by people who are Deaf – Bodhar – or with hearing loss.

There are a number of sign languages – cànan soidhnidh – across the world, including American, French and Irish sign languages – cànanan soidhnidh Amerieagaidh, na Frainge agus na h-Èireann. The main sign language – cànan soidhnidh – used in Scotland – Alba – is British Sign Language – Cànan Soidhnidh Bhreatainn. It has around 13,000 users in Scotland – Alba.

It is important to note that BSL is a full language – cànan – in its own right. It is not dependant on or strongly related to English – Beurla – and has existed and evolved for hundreds of years.

BSL speakers, like Gaelic speakers, are a language community – coimhearsnachd – with their own culture, traditions and institutions.

In many ways, the history of BSL is similar to the history of Gaelic – being at one time seen as a disadvantage to people which should be discouraged and kept out of education, but now more appreciated and supported by public authorities and the public in general. You can read more in this article about the history of BSL from the BSL Scotland Act 2015 website.

Like Gàidhlig, Cànan Soidhnidh Bhreatainn now has a measure of official status in Scotland – Alba. The Scottish Parliament – Pàrlamaid na h-Alba –  passed the British Sign Language (Scotland) Act in 2015, ten years after the Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005. You can learn more about the history of the act in this documentary

The Act aims to promote the use of British Sign Language by producing a national plan for Cànan Soidhidh Bhreatainn and by requiring certain public bodies to make their own BSL Language Plans, such as the Scottish Government – Riaghaltas na h-Alba and Scottish Parliament – Pàrlamaid na h-Alba.

You can read our BSL plan and see our BSL videos on our website.

Our BSL plan is managed by Mark McMillan, our BSL development officer, who works to make Cànan Soidhnidh Bhreatainn more visible in the Parliament and to make the Parliament more accessible to BSL users. You’ve probably seen his work on our Twitter feed already!

Our BSL Plan has 29 actions which aim to integrate BSL into the fabric of the Parliament’s work, and some of the things that help to achieve this goal include provision of parliamentary business in BSL, BSL interpreted tours, running a BSL Facebook group to share BSL accessible resources and information, promoting BSL within our staff, making Call for Views BSL accessible and much more.

You can read an interview with Mark in Gaelic here on our Gaelic blog.

Mark Mac a’ Mhaoilein, Oifigear BSL Pàrlamaid na h-Alba

This week’s Gaelic WoW is British Sign Language – Cànan Soidhnidh Bhreatainn.

Cànan Soidhnidh Bhreatainn This week’s Gaelic Word of the Week has been read by Alasdair MacCaluim, Gaelic Development Officer who is interested in all of Scotland’s languages and works closely with our BSL officer.

Alasdair MacCaluim

alasdair.maccaluim@parliament.scot