What is the best BSL course?
British sign language (BSL) is the United Kingdom’s most commonly used sign language, with 120,000 deaf adults using it as a native language and a further 250,000 using it as a second language. It uses different forms of hand and body movement in order to communicate with other speakers, and it’s a necessity for many types of social workers who work with deaf people. BSL is incredibly useful for anyone with deaf acquaintances, as it allows them to freely communicate with each other despite any auditory problems. It’s incredibly uplifting to finally be able to freely communicate with a deaf family member or friend after years of silence.
If you’re looking for ways to learn BSL online, then doing so through an online BSL course is one of the easiest and most time-effective methods to get started. The benefits of online learning are numerous, and BSL benefits from e-learning just as much as any other learning topic. In this article, I will try to give budding BSL “speakers” some recommendations on the best BSL courses on the Internet. Hopefully, these recommendations will help you master the beauty of sign language in no time.
These are the best BSL courses of 2020.
Best British Sign Language Courses
Best Overall BSL Course: Breakthrough BSL (Udemy)
New customer offer! Top courses from $14.99 when you first visit Udemy (expires 28 February 2023).
Get Certified! IT Certification courses starting from $12.99. (expires 28 February 2023).
Who it’s for: As a beginner-oriented BSL course, it’s best suited for students who have no prior knowledge in sign language. With the short length, students going into the course should not expect to fully master the language. Instead, it’s best suited for those who want to develop a foundational understanding of BSL to start speaking on a basic level.
What you’ll learn: Although this is a short course at 1 hour of video material, it still manages to pack a surprisingly large amount of content into such a small timeframe.
Some of the topics which this BSL course touches on include:
- Learning the BSL alphabet & fingerspelling
- Initial conversations & dialogues
- Building a vocabulary (colours, animals, household items, verbs, telling the time)
This course does not give you a specific level of BSL. Instead, it aims to teach you some useful real-life phrases which you can use in daily practice.
Verdict: Despite the short course material, “Breakthrough BSL” on Udemy manages to cover many crucial topics a first-time BSL learner needs to be familiar with. While this course will not help you achieve certain competency levels and accreditation in BSL, it still fills a sweet spot for those people who have hearing impaired family members and want to learn some of the basics of BSL quickly and efficiently, without caring for certifications or language levels. That is why it earned our spot for the best overall BSL course.
Best BSL Course for Advanced Users: BSL Training (bslcourses)
Who it’s for: The bslcourses.co.uk platform offers online BSL courses for all experience levels. They are, however, priced considerably higher than other courses on this list. This makes bslcourses.co.uk’s courses best suited for students who want to become BSL certified and who want to use sign language in professional context.
What you’ll learn: Depending on the BSL level chosen, the topics covered in the courses can be either very basic or very advanced. The Level 1 BSL Training Course contains the usual topics such as fingerspelling and basic vocabulary. However, students who take the Level 3 or Level 6 BSL courses on the platform will be introduced advanced topics such as interpretation, metaphors, role shifting, and regional dialects.
Verdict: This is likely the best BSL online course available for those who wish to become professionally certified in BSL. It’s the only course that provides advanced BSL Levels 3 and 6, and it also offers some of the most advanced BSL certificates. However, with a price tag of more than £1700 for some of the higher-level certifications, it’s certainly not a suitable pick for everyone. If you’re not planning to use BSL in your work, then you likely have no need for spending such a large amount of money on BSL training and certification.
Great Crash Course: British Sign Language (BSL) Level 1 & 2 (John Academy)
Who it’s for: This BSL course will be helpful for anyone wishing to communicate freely with BSL users. The course material is primarily intended for beginners, as it teaches the first two fluency levels of British Sign Language. As such, it’s not enough by itself to achieve full fluency in BSL, but it’s an excellent starting point for anyone wishing to achieve higher levels of BSL fluency later on.
What you’ll learn: The course curriculum covers a very wide range of topics, from basic lessons on the BSL alphabet all the way to storytelling and dialogues. As one would expect, it starts off with a basic introduction into BSL. After this, students start building a foundation of vocabulary in order to be able to freely communicate in BSL during various real-life scenarios. Instead of focusing on teaching individual words one-by-one, the course seems more oriented on teaching whole sentences and dialogues that are commonly used in day-to-day scenarios.
Once students reach the Level 2 British Sign Language section of this course, they start to learn vocabulary related to school, work, home life, leisure, and more. Once the first two levels have been mastered, students will already have a solid foundation of language skills in BSL. They will be able to hold simple but complete dialogues with other users of sign language, and they will be able to start developing level 3 BSL knowledge (through other courses or trainings).
Verdict: If you want to develop a strong basic understanding of BSL in order to start communicating with other users, then this 9-hour intensive BSL course is one of the easiest ways to go about doing so. Through video lectures and quizzes, John Academy managed to create a BSL learning tool that is very effective, even if it’s not exactly innovative. If you’re looking for one of the best BSL course for beginners, then this is an excellent course to go for.
British Sign Language (BSL) Level 1 & 2 (Reed)
Who it’s for: This is another BSL course targeted towards those who have no experience in any sign languages. It has no prerequisites, and it’s suitable for everyone who wants to develop a basic understanding of British Sign Language.
What you’ll learn: This BSL course comes from OfCourse, a UK-based e-learning provider. It contains the usual topics one would expect from a BSL course, such as alphabet, fingerspelling, vocabulary (calendar, verbs, family terms). It has 2 hours of total course material, making it shorter than many others. Naturally, this also makes the syllabus less content-rich. However, it’s worth noting that due to the good pacing of the course, it still managed to pack a very good amount of well-chosen topics into such a short package.
Verdict: It does not go as deep into BSL as the similarly structured Level 1 & 2 course from John Academy, but it’s still an excellent pick for those students who prefer a shorter “crash-course” type of training. The video-based lectures are easy to follow, and the material is easy to digest even for a complete beginner.
Let's Learn BSL (YouTube)
This BSL course is one of the best I’ve come across on YouTube. The instructor has good articulation and he has structured his 10 lessons in an easy-to-follow manner. Those who don’t want to spend any money on learning BSL online will find his lessons very useful, as the lectures are all freely accessible to anyone. From what I’ve seen, this is the best BSL course that is accessible for free. However, it does not contain any assessments or certification, which makes it somewhat limited as a learning tool.
Tips: How to Learn BSL Online Effectively
In order to aid your BSL learning process, there are numerous excellent paid and free resources available to help you learn BSL online more effectively. If you combine these resources with some of the beforementioned best BSL courses, you will have all the tools necessary to become a fluent speaker in British Sign Language.
Starting off, I would recommend you get used to the many BSL dictionaries available online, such as Sign BSL, BritishSignLanguage, and the BSL signbank. They work differently from traditional dictionaries, but they aren’t any more difficult to use. All the words in BSL dictionaries contain illustrated examples of the gestures needed to express the word, which make using them very effortless. If you ever find yourself lacking enough vocabulary to communicate freely in British Sign Language, then consulting a BSL dictionary should be one of your first go-to resources.
The only downside to using BSL dictionaries is when you want to use it to translate text from BSL to English. While you may remember the hand or body gestures the sign user showed, finding it from the dictionary is another story. Despite this, using BSL dictionaries effectively is a habit which you definitely need to develop as a potential BSL user.
In addition to dictionaries, there are a growing number of BSL apps available which are meant for learning BSL on-the-go.
Android / iOS
The creators of this app are also behind the Sign BSL dictionary which I highlighted earlier. The app functions similarly to their dictionary. You search for words in English, and you will get an illustration which shows you the equivalent gesture in BSL. The app does not have any advanced features – it just acts as a portable dictionary. However, despite its simplicity, it’s a highly useful mobile application to have in your arsenal of BSL learning tools.
Learn BSL Fingerspelling
This is the second BSL app on android which is worth having a look at. Through the app, you can learn fingerspelling individual letters in British Sign Language. You can also test your BSL fingerspelling knowledge through sign, letter and name tests on the app. While nothing groundbreaking, the app is a useful self-testing platform for anyone interested in mastering British Sign Language.