Sign your name and have your say

Two students are lobbying popular language app Duolingo to include British Sign Language on it after it was recognised as an official language in the UK earlier this year. Eileen Leahy finds out more about Agatha O’Neill and Sarah Lisgo’s ‘Give Duolingo a Hand’ campaign…

Two students are campaigning for Duolingo to introduce British Sign Language (BSL) lessons. School of Communication Arts (SCA) students Agatha O’Neill and Sarah Lisgo have started a new campaign called ‘Give Duolingo a Hand’, which is asking the general public to sign their name in BSL in order to show their support for the introduction of the BSL language on the popular app.

“British Sign Language became a legally-recognised language in the UK in April 2022, but the number of people who know how to sign is very limited,” explain Agatha and Sarah who met at SCA in 2021.

‘Give Duolingo a Hand is calling for the general public to sign their name in BSL so it can be included as a language on the popular app’

“With a population of 11 million deaf or hard of hearing people in the UK, and just 151,000 people knowing the language, there is currently a huge communication gap between the Deaf community and the wider population,” they add.

“The idea first came to us in 2022 when we were doing research and discovered that BSL had only just become a legally-recognised language! We were shocked that it wasn’t already considered a real language.”

Agatha reveals she had taken BSL lessons a while ago but these classes were in-person. The pair say they feel that in today’s digital age, a system that helps people learn a new language – as Duolingo encourages – needs to be convenient and at your fingertips. Which is why they thought the app would be such a perfect vehicle.

Duolingo, which was founded in 2011 by Luis von Ahn and Severin Hacker and has over 40 million users around the world, teaches 41 languages for free, but Agatha and Sarah quickly discovered that BSL isn’t currently an option on it.

To address this issue they have created a video asking viewers to join in the cause, with hopes of getting Duolingo’s attention.

Alongside their social media activity, they have also taken to the streets of London and Tunbridge Wells, putting up posters with the hashtag #GiveDuolingoAHand to raise awareness.

The campaign, which is so far receiving a positive response, asks people to visit a dedicated website and sign the pledge. Instead of a written signature, however, the duo has provided instructions for how to sign every letter of the alphabet and invites users to record themselves signing their own name.

Those who sign the pledge are then encouraged to share the info on their own social media platforms in order to spread the message far and wide.


For further information about Duolingo and Agatha and Sarah’s campaign visit


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