Having read our previous article on how to learn languages let’s have a look at some useful ideas for learning British Sign Language (BSL). In English you would say something like;
“I made some pancakes”
But in BSL it would be more like;
“Pancakes I made”
In a language, the sentences (clauses) have a specific structure, but compare languages to each other and differences in structure emerge.
In English, for example, we have SVO, the Subject then Verb then Object
“I(S) made(V) some pancakes(O)”
Hindi has SOV, The Subject then Object then Verb.
“I(S) some pancakes(O) made(V)”
BSL uses a different concept, of Time-frame then Topic then Action or a Comment;
“Yesterday(time frame) pancakes (topic) made (action/comment)”
Why time-frame? The time-frame is important because the signs in sign language do not change whether they are referring to the past, present or future compared to English where you show the time-frame using a variation of a word e.g. made, make, making.
If you want to learn BSL well you have to internalise this sentence order and put your brain in a BSL type time-frame state. Every time you lift your hands into signing position use this physical position to signal your brain “hey it’s time to think BSL!”.
As you progress further you will learn more grammar structure. Your understanding of BSL word order will then extend to a more sophisticated structure. But get the three stages mentioned above and you will be perfectly set up.