Below is our summary of the different BSL courses that are on offer across the UK. You can click on the course links below for more detailed content. You can also learn more about each BSL course depending on your preferred learning method. Some tutors offer online courses, some offer classroom courses and some offer both. Further details such as costs, start dates, venues and payment methods are available on the specific course pages.
How many British Sign Language levels are there?
There are currently five accredited course levels – BSL Level 1,2,3,4 and 6. Level 6 is the highest BSL qualification you can achieve. It is equivalent to an honours degree and conforms to the National Occupational Standards for working with languages.
For all BSL courses, including intermediate and higher level accredited courses (BSL Level 2 and above), we have provided curriculum comparison information so you can see the difference between iBSL and Signature.
Be aware that qualified BSL tutors will usually ask you to book an appointment to discuss attending their course. This is normal practice as it allows tutors to check you have the necessary skills needed to complete the higher course.
BSL courses near me:
Basic BSL Courses
There are numerous online courses that offer anything from basic BSL for beginners up to and including the higher levels. Most of the online courses are pretty much the same in terms of content (as do spoken language courses), although they are marketed differently. These courses are often advertised as Level 1 with the option to get bundles i.e. ‘buy Level 1 – 5 BSL’. Be aware that the content of these courses is basic. Most content is taken from the Level 1 or Level 2 curriculum (and Level 5 BSL doesn’t actually exist!). Most online BSL courses include topics such as:
- Alphabet & fingerspelling
- Everyday greetings
- Basic conversation phrases
- Numbers (in different contexts)
- People (and how to describe them)
- Food and Drink
- Deaf Awareness
Take a look at our list of recommended basic and introductory courses that are currently available:
BSL Level 1 Courses
Recognised Level 1 courses are accredited by Signature. Be aware that there may be a slight variation in how the curriculum and exams are organised.
Most course providers teach the full curriculum and then offer the option to complete the exams at the end of the course. Other providers teach a module then give you the option to do the bsl level 1 exam for that module.
It makes no difference in the quality of the course whether you sit all exams in a block or after each module (as all registered course providers must maintain high standards). We are letting you know the difference, in case you have one preference over the other. This information may help you decide which course provider is best for you.
The Signature curriculum is split into 3 modules:
- Module 101 focuses on greetings and is a gentle introduction to BSL
- Module 102 focuses on widening your vocabulary so you can use BSL in conversations
- Module 103 focuses on improving your fluency so you can communicate in BSL about everyday Life
You will cover the following topics:
People, time, money, transport, directions, weather, food and drink, animals and objects, hobbies and many more.
In order to achieve Signature’s Level 1 Award in BSL, you need to complete 60 hours of tutor guided learning and 20 hours of personal study. You can choose to complete your BSL Level 1 online or face to face in a classroom. If you decide to attend classroom sessions, ask your course provider if they provide resources to help you achieve the personal study hours.
Signature is registered with Ofqual so you achieve nationally recognised qualifications matched against national language standards. The qualification you do will depend on your local course provider, although you can choose your preferred qualification by visiting Signature’s website.
BSL Level 1 courses near me.
Check out our list of registered course providers that run BSL Level 1 courses:
BSL Level 2 Courses
The British Sign Language (BSL) Level 2 course is designed to enhance what you have already learned for BSL level 1. The course develops your signing skills and increases your vocabulary so you are able to participate in longer, more detailed everyday conversations.
Signature’s BSL course is split into 4 themes:
- Basic conversation skills
- eating and drinking
- shopping and spending
- travel and holidays
To achieve BSL Level 2, you need to complete 3 assessments which are designed to test skills needed to sign in everyday situations:
- 201: multiple choice assessment designed to test your receptive skills (your understanding of signed BSL)
- 202: presentation skills assessment tests of you can present information in BSL
- 203: conversation skills test assesses your ability to have a conversation on an everyday topic
You need to complete 100 hours of tutor guided learning and 50 hours of personal study to achieve Signature’s Level 2 qualification. Some providers offer online courses (via Zoom) or face to face in a classroom. Be aware that assessments usually take place face to face.
Check out our list of course providers offering Level 2 online and classroom courses.
BSL Level 3 Courses
This course is for learners who are considering a career working with Deaf and hard of hearing people. If you already work with deaf people, BSL Level 3 will enhance your understanding of Deaf Culture. There is an expectation that you will be interacting with members of your local Deaf Community.
The BSL Level 3 course covers a comprehensive range of topics. However, it primarily focuses on BSL fluency so you can develop your signing skills to communicate confidently with native sign language users.
The course topics for Level 3 are more in-depth and will include topics such as:
- BSL linguistics
- Deaf culture and history
- Education & employment
There are 3 assessments for Signature’s BSL Level 3 curriculum:
- BSL presentation skills assessment (a presentation to your tutor)
- Informal conversation skills assessment
- BSL receptive skills assessment (translation of a signed video clip)
You need to complete 130 hours of tutor-guided learning plus 120 hours of personal study time
Check out our list of current BSL Level 3 course providers.
BSL Level 4 courses
We have chosen not to publicise BSL Level 4 courses. Most Level 4 courses cover similar linguistics topics that are taught at BSL Level 3. Level 4 courses obviously delves much deeper into linguistics. However, it is perfectly possible to ‘leapfrog’ to BSL Level 6 with the linguistic knowledge gained at BSL Level 3. You can find out more about the Level 4 course content by clicking the button below:
BSL Level 6 Courses
This course is for learners who are aiming to use BSL at a professional level.
The BSL Level 6 course enables you to develop and understand complex language when using BSL. This is an advanced course so you will need to have regular contact with native sign language users or Level 6 BSL users to complete the course. Students need to complete BSL Level 6 before embarking on an interpreting qualification, although some courses allow you to do both at the same time.
Signature offers BSL Level 6 as an assessment qualification and as an NVQ. If you do the assessment qualification, you will be expected to cover a variety of topics listed on the Level 6 curriculum such as medicine, education, finance, politics, law, science and technology.
Your skills will be assessed in various ways and you will be expected to participate in a range of activities such as presentations, discussions and group debates. You will also take part in discussions with Deaf community members.
If you choose the NVQ Level 6 route, you will need to complete a portfolio that provides evidence of your ability to understand and use complex BSL in a range of contexts. Be aware that at level 6 it is your responsibility to collect evidence for your portfolio.
The awarding body suggests 180 hours of guided learning with 180 hours of personal study time.
Most courses start at the beginning of the academic year. However, some providers offer courses in January and March. Of course, online courses can be accessed at any time of the year.
Check out our list of Level 6 course providers here:
Becoming a BSL Interpreter
Once you complete your BSL Level 6 language qualification, you can register on an interpreting course to do your BSL interpreter training. When you start your journey to becoming an interpreter, you will need to find sources of information to continue your learning. Our guides help you develop your linguistic and cultural understanding of BSL.
Did you know that as an interpreter, you are also expected to continue learning? When you register as an interpreter you agree to complete 24 hours of continual professional development (CPD) every year to maintain your skills. The National Registers of Communication Professionals working with Deaf and Deafblind people (NRCPD) website explains why interpreters need to register every year and what you need to do to maintain your registration as a qualified interpreter.
If you don’t want to be an interpreter, there are plenty of other careers that need people who can sign.
Learning BSL is a journey. Like all languages, there is always something new to learn! Check out our guides for resources that will help you learn BSL.
Accredited bSL courses online – free?
Is such a course likely to exist? The easy answer is, no. Please be wary of any course provider offering ‘accredited’ BSL courses for free. There are free online video courses such as the Doncaster Deaf trust BSL course but ‘accreditation’ is only awarded by the Ofqual regulated body, Signature. The awarding body charge fees to take exams so any accreditation that is being offered for free needs to be taken with a large pinch of salt!
How long does it take to learn BSL?
It depends! You can learn the basics like ‘hello’ name’ how are you’ and so on in a few minutes. But to be fluent, takes years. Fluency in understanding as well as producing clear sign language can take up to 10 years for some learners. Most learners will be proficient within 1 – 2 years depending on how many deaf people they meet and whether they attend proper BSL classes or not. Consistent effort will help you achieve fluency sooner. Relying on cheap online courses will hinder your progress.