Below is our summary of the different BSL courses that are on offer. 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.
For the intermediate and higher level accredited courses (BSL Level 2 and above), we have provided course comparison information. However, be aware that qualified BSL tutors will 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
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, 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 although some content is taken from the Level 1 or Level 2 curriculum. (The giveaway hint is that Level 5 BSL doesn’t actually exist!) Completing an online course like this does not give you a recognised qualification but they are great if you want to learn some introductory signs.
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
- Home Signs
- Deaf Awareness
Take a look at the list of basic and introductory courses currently available.
BSL Level 1 Courses
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.
IBSL’s BSL Level 1 syllabus is similar to Signature’s curriculum in that it is split into 3 modules:
- 1A1 focuses on your receptive skills
- 1A2 focuses on being able to describe a topic in BSL
- 1A3 focuses on conversation skills
You cover similar topics such as greetings, time, money and so on. However, there is more focus on the building blocks of sign language. For example, your tutor will spend time teaching you about handshapes, placement and other elements of BSL.
In order to achieve iBSL’s Level 1 qualification, you need to complete 66 hours of tutor-guided learning and 24 hours of personal learning.
Both awarding bodies are registered with Ofqual so both qualifications are recognised because they match the national language standards. The qualification you do will depend on your local course provider, although you can choose your preferred qualification by visiting iBSL or Signature’s website. Both awarding bodies publicise the centres that are registered to run their courses.
Check out our list of 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
IBSL’s curriculum is split into similar themes with more emphasis on learning the linguistics of BSL. There are 4 assessments, one of which is an assessment by an external examiner (EE):
- 2A1: multiple choice assessment to test your understanding of BSL
- 2A2: BSL presentation skills assessment
- 2A3: conversation skills test assesses your ability to discuss an everyday topic
- 2A4: conversation skills assessment when participating in a group conversation (EE assessment)
You need to complete 100 hours of tutor guided learning and 50 hours of personal study to achieve Signature or iBSL’s Level 3 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. However, due to Covid 19, course providers are allowed to complete assessments online.
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 the Deaf Community, this course 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
- Informal conversation skills assessment
- Receptive skills assessment
You need to complete 130 hours of tutor-guided learning plus 120 hours of personal study time
IBSL’s Level 3 covers similar topics. However, the iBSL course is more in-depth as you need to complete 150 hours of guided learning time and 130 extra study hours. There are also more assessments to complete. You are assessed in six areas of language skill. However, one assessment is a combined assessment in that your productive and receptive skills are assessed together:
There are 5 assessments for the iBSL Level 3 course are:
- BSL receptive skills test (translation of a signed video clip)
- Deaf Culture paper (written paper testing your Deaf Culture knowledge)
- Productive skills test (presentation to your tutor)
- Conversation skills test (2 assessments in 1)
- Group conversation assessment test (assessment with an external examiner)
Check out our list of current BSL Level 3 course providers.
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.
IBSL’s Level 6 qualification includes eight assessments:
- Receptive skills
- Linguistics knowledge essay
- Relay information BSL to voice
- Linguistic Observation
- Live observation by external examiner
Both awarding bodies suggest 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.
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.