There are many free resources available on the web that will give you a flavour of BSL and you will find local groups that provide introductory, face-to-face sessions. But if you have a real interest in BSL (whether that interest is recreational or vocational) and want to begin the process of developing a new, exciting and relevant skill, you really need to give yourself a solid foundation.
There is a series of qualifications that you can gain in BSL and beginning to learn BSL does not mean you are obliged to study for every qualification. Each qualification is widely recognised in its own right, regardless of whether you decide to pursue higher qualifications.
Qualifications vary in terms of the level of commitment that you need to give and they are structured to enable you to build your knowledge over time. At the end of each stage, you will have achieved a recognised qualification that has real value, whether that value to you is purely in the satisfaction of having developed a new skill or because your qualification has relevance to a current or future employer and is the stepping stone to a new career opportunity or career path.
You can learn more about the qualifications below.
Qualifications in BSL are categorised as Level 1 to Level 6 and will take you from a basic knowledge and competence in communicating in BSL through the equivalent to GCSE and A-Level standard qualifications and beyond these through to degree level.
Level 1 Award in British Sign Language
This qualification teaches learners to communicate using British Sign Language (BSL) on a range of topics that involve simple, everyday language use.
The total time commitment to achieve this qualification is approximately 64 hours of tuition and 26 hours of learning in your own time, giving a total of 90 hours.
Courses are delivered at lots of different locations around the country; these locations are often referred to as ‘centres'. There are in excess of 500 colleges, universities, schools, deaf clubs and community establishments throughout the UK and Ireland that teach BSL qualifications. And there is a lot of flexibility about when you can do your learning, whether that is during the day or in the evening. To find a location that best meets your needs, use our Centre Search.
Level 2 Certificate in British Sign Language
This qualification is designed to enable you to develop an ability to communicate with Deaf people using BSL in a range of familiar environments. You'll be able to take part in lengthy and open-ended exchanges.
The course develops effective communication in BSL about a range of real life, routine and daily experiences. You will be able to deal with most routine language tasks and have enough of a grasp of grammar to cope with more complex and less familiar tasks. You will also learn a number of regional variations in sign language.
The total time commitment to achieve this qualification is approximately 100 hours of tuition and 50 hours of learning and practice in your own time, giving a total of 150 hours.
Courses are delivered at different location around the country and there is a lot of flexibility about when you can do your learning, whether that is during the day or in the evening. To find a location near you, use our Centre Search.
Level 6 NVQ Certificate in British Sign Language
If you are looking to work with Deaf people in a professional capacity (for example teachers and lecturers in BSL, social workers, teachers of the Deaf, trainee interpreters, voluntary workers, workers within Deaf organisations, schools, etc), then achievement of this qualification will equip you for your role.
The total time commitment to achieve this qualification is approximately 180 hours of tuition and 180 hours of learning and practice in your own time, giving a total of 360 hours.
Courses are delivered at different locations around the country and there is a lot of flexibility about when you can do your learning, whether that is during the day or in the evening. To find a location near you, use our Centre Search.
If you're returning to study after a period away from it or are in any way nervous about embarking on your studies, there's no need to be concerned. Most of the locations where you'll be studying have extensive support in place for students to ensure that your experience is comfortable, enjoyable and fulfilling.
All courses are delivered by qualified and experienced teachers, many of whom will themselves be Deaf and will have been using BSL as their preferred method of communication since childhood.
Classroom teaching is lots of fun and typically involves plenty of interaction with your classmates as you are faced with new challenges and support each other in overcoming these. Formal teaching is complemented by study in your own time and there are many valuable resources to support you, including the ability to subscribe to the BSL Homework website.
BSL is taught at locations across the UK and different locations deliver their teaching at different times of the day, accommodating people who are in a position to study full-time, those who are studying on a day-release basis supported by their employer and those who are studying independently on an evening.
Find a place to learn BSL near you now.
Individual centres set their own fees, so the question of costs needs to be answered directly by your chosen centre. If you are studying independently, many centres offer payment plans to allow you to spread the costs of your fees over the period of your study. And if you are studying with an eye on career progression, many banks and building societies are happy to offer loans to support you through your studies.
There are four key benefits that will result from the achievement of your chosen qualification: