Location: Northern Ireland
British Sign Language (BSL) is to be recognised as a modern foreign language (MFL) by a UK university for the first time.
University College London (UCL) is the only university in the country that requires all of its students to know a language other than their mother tongue and it has announced that BSL will be included in this in the future.
Statistics show that around 150,000 people in the UK currently use BSL to communicate and it is the preferred or first language of some 70,000 deaf or hard-of-hearing individuals.
With sign language set to be recognised under the MFL umbrella for the first time, there may be an increase in the number of people wanting to learn it ahead of applying for university - something that audiologists could find themselves with opportunities to help out with.
What's more, UCL hopes that this move will lead to more people making an effort to understand the communication challenges that people with hearing loss can face, subsequently improving accessibility for them.
The university believes encouraging more people to learn BSL will make it easier for them to understand deaf signers in future situations, such as at lectures, so they can get the same from an experience as those with hearing loss.
It could also help them to prepare for their future careers too, or if they have to care for a loved one whose hearing function declines in old age.
Dr Mairead MacSweeney, centre director at DCAL, commented: "I'm delighted that UCL has recognised BSL as a language that meets its modern foreign language requirement.
"Students will be able to use pre-existing sign language qualifications to meet the MFL requirement. In addition, a whole new cohort of students will be exposed to the BSL teaching on offer at UCL."
UCL hopes that more organisations will follow suit. In the US, sign language has been regarded as a modern foreign language for several years and is now widely accepted as such by a variety of institutions.
Written by James Puckle
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