More People Want To Learn Sign Language Than French and German

12.7 million people in the UK would like to learn sign language, a new survey by the National Deaf Children’s Society reveals – with more Brits wanting to be able to communicate in sign language than in French and German.

In fact, research shows two thirds of adults think sign language is more impressive than speaking a foreign language.

British Sign language is a language in its own right and uses handshapes, facial expressions, gestures and body language to convey meaning. It is the first language of some deaf people and is used in addition to spoken English by others.

The survey found that:

  • a quarter (24.50%) of people in Britain say they want to learn sign language;

  • the top three languages respondents would like to learn are Spanish (28.80%), British Sign Language (24.50%) and French (23.20%);

  • sixty-one percent of people feel embarrassed they can’t communicate well with deaf people and wish they could do better;

  • two thirds (66.80%) of people think that sign language is more impressive than speaking a foreign language; and

  • proving that British etiquette is alive and well, “thank you” is the phrase people would most like to learn in sign language, closely followed by “can I help” and “sorry”.

The survey results will be welcomed by deaf children and young people who use sign language either as their first language or as a support to spoken English.  A lack of deaf awareness can be a problem for all deaf children, whether they use sign language or not, often leading to isolation and loneliness at school.  Nearly 80% of deaf children in England attend mainstream schools where they may be the only deaf child enrolled - without good deaf awareness they can miss out on important social development like conversations with classmates and playground games. 

To kick-start the nation’s introduction to sign language and deaf awareness, the National Deaf Children’s Society is today launching the ‘Fingerspellathon’ challenge, which calls on people to learn to sign the alphabet and get sponsored to fingerspell certain key words.

Commenting on the findings, National Deaf Children’s Society Chief Executive, Susan Daniels, said:

“It is so important that deaf children and young people do not miss out on conversations, activities and opportunities to make new friends.  Raising deaf awareness is key to this and the Fingerspellathon is an excellent way of showing support, learning a new skill and raising vital funds to support deaf children and their families.”


For more information on the Fingerspellathon or to sign up to the challenge, please visit:



For more information, please contact:

Charlotte Lewis, Media Relations Officer


Tel: 020 7014 1178

Priya Manek, Head of Media and PR


Tel: 020 7014 1146


Notes to editors:

  • The National Deaf Children’s Society is the leading charity dedicated to creating a world without barriers for deaf children and their families.

  • The top ten phrases Brits would most like to learn in sign language are:

    Thank you (57.90%)

    Can I help (42.40%)

    Sorry (32.80%)

    Please (32.60%)

    I don’t understand (30.30%)

    Their own name (29.90%)

    Excuse me (19.60%)

    I love you (18.10%)

    Happy Birthday (11.20%)

    Where are you from (9.90%)

  • There are more than 45,000 deaf children in the UK. The National Deaf Children’s Society helps deaf children and young people thrive by providing impartial, practical and emotional support to them and their families, and by challenging governments and society to meet their needs.

  • For more information visit  For further support, parents can contact the National Deaf Children’s Society Freephone Helpline on 0808 800 8880 (voice and text), email, or chat online at


The research was conducted by Censuswide, with 1,155 respondents aged 16-55+ between 25.08.15 and 27.08.15.  The survey was conducted from a random sample of UK adults.

Censuswide abide by and employ members of the Market Research Society which is based on the ESOMAR principles.