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Learn British Sign Language: Best Way to BSL for Beginners

Imagine a scenario, you have a deaf kid or a friend and one day he comes up to you crying. 

You asked him, “what happened?”

He starts to describe a grave situation but you can’t figure out what’s the issue or what should be done. Here’s a dedicated guide for the best way to learn British Sign Language for you, also as a bonus, I’ll share with you some great resources to learn from.

You are dumbfounded and just sitting there wondering and having no words to comfort him.

If you are interested in learning sign language as a primary or supplementary language, or just want to learn the everyday basics to help you communicate better with a friend or relative. Either way, you need to understand the basics and different aspects of sign language. 

Table of Contents

Why should you learn a sign language?

Language has been the key to our relationships and it becomes a barrier to communicate with your loved ones who have to rely on lip-reading/visual access and guessing games to understand you.

Sign language is generally meant for hearing disabled people and the people they interact with, a way to express their feelings by making physical gestures. 

Even if you don’t fall into the above two categories, learning sign language can be a fun experience and help you interact better with the hearing disabled community. You should know that there are professionals who made a rewarding career out of teaching sign language or as an interpreter. 

Boost Your Career with British Sign Language Teacher Training Course
Boost Your Career with British Sign Language Teacher Training Course

Which sign language should you learn? Must-Know Basics

The first question that would generally pop up in your mind is, which sign language should I pursue?

Well, that’s understandable, since there is around 138 to 300 sign language being used around the globe with numerous more with no status yet, it can confuse you.

Even though similarities between different sign languages can be noticed, Sign Languages are not universal, they vary region to region and culture to culture. 

Even if you go after the popular ones, i.e. ASL, BSL, ISL, there are significant differences and unique user base for these languages.

Myth Busting: Sign Language Doesn’t Come Naturally to Hearing Disabled Persons!

Why should you learn British Sign Language?

Since the traditional spoken language influences sign language in any particular community, you should focus on the sign language based on your geographical location and the verbal language practised in your locality. 

Assuming you are Brit or been living in the UK, it’s only logical to learn British Sign Language.

Users of British Sign Language

According to the British Deaf Association, in 2016, there are around 151,056 British Sign Language users in the UK and 86,700 of them are hearing disabled by official statistics. These stats don’t include the translators, interpreters, and other professionals unless they are using BSL as part of their daily interactions.

Let Sign Shine

In June 2014, a teenager, Jade Chapman from Dereham, Norfolk started a campaign “Let Sign Shine” to get signed a petition for sign languages to be taught by the government and in British Schools. British Sign Language was already an official language recognized in 2003, but there were no facilities in place from the government to introduce it at the school level. 

As Jade saw her younger sibling, a 13-year-old Laura struggle through her everyday life, being deaf and having verbal dyspraxia, she realized the importance of learning British Sign Language for mass to create that comforting and understanding environment for the sufferer. Her petition to the Parliament of the United Kingdom has attracted thousands and earned her several recognitions.

So why learn British Sign Language? It is an elaborate, fun and effective language in conveying the right message and emotions. It provides complete visual access to deaf people of different hearing levels.

British Sign Language is a beautiful language on its own and learning itself is an initiative to create a bond between the disabled and the hearings to make them more included in society. 

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How easy is it to learn British Sign Language?

A common misconception about sign language is that it is easy to learn. To tell you the truth, learning any sign language is just as difficult as learning a traditional language, and it takes the same amount of sincere effort. 

British Sign Language consists of finger spelling, hand movements, and shapes just like traditional spoken languages, facial expressions, and lip movements are important too.

This whole package makes the language to learn comparatively easier as the signs and alphabets are more defined. You can learn BSL easily with conscious effort and time but to be a professional, you have to train and practice on another level to obtain the qualifications.

You have to make meaning of the learnings as you would be contributing to the mental and social well-being of the less fortunate. 

British Sign Language (BSL) Finger spelling Alphabet

Finger spelling is the method to spell out names and places using hand signals and finger adjustments. A specific gesture is developed for different alphabets. It is also used to spell words that may not have a sign for or if the other person is not familiar with the sign. 


There are different movement or gestures used for different alphabet, these manual alphabets play an important role in every sign language. 

Some sign language like American Sign Language uses one-handed spelling while British Sign Language and Australian Sign Language use two-handed gestures to spell words.

British Sign Language (BSL) Finger spelling Alphabets

How To Learn British Sign Language: Beginners Guide

As the BSL is a three-dimensional language in the sense that it uses hand gestures, facial expressions, and existing spoken language textures, it can be overwhelming to learn just by an app, book or through articles. 

Proper planning with a workable routine developed by qualified professionals is the way to go. But these resources will help you to practice, memorize and understand the basic terms and trades.

Learn from Books, App, and Videos

There are some notable books and applications from where you can get comprehensible knowledge on learning BSL.  

For kids and beginners, British Sign Language for Dummies is an exemplary book, beautifully written and illustrated by the Faculty of Deaf Education and Learning Support at City Lit., a London-based adult education centre. 

LET’S SIGN series of BSL materials, published by DeafBooks offers published materials for both kids and adults on everyday topics.

Although there are not many quality BSL apps out there, you can keep sign bsl on your devices, this BSL dictionary can assist you as a beginner. 

Learn from Youtube

For beginners, there are a bunch of Youtube channels dedicated to teaching British Sign Language. For instance, LSLSoniaHollis , The Deaf Academy and Commanding Hands have some rich tutorials in British Sign Language for beginners. 

There are also fantastic deaf vloggers who create content in BSL, from home routines to television series.  

Singing “I Love You” in 60 Sign Languages

Take an Online course

An online course can be a good source for learning British Sign Language. You can learn at your own pace from anywhere since they are accessible from any devices. There are also tutor support to assist with your learning and you will be certified upon completion by a recognised accreditation body. 

British Sign Language (BSL) Level 1 & 2
This course will also help you to build your BSL vocabulary and will take you through the grammatical structures and features of BSL.
British Sign Language (BSL) Level 1 & 2
This course will also help you to build your BSL vocabulary and will take you through the grammatical structures and features of BSL.

Join a sign language club or get help from a BSL tutor

The books, videos and courses will help you learn the fundamentals of BSL and but to use the knowledge and practice, there is no better way than face to face learning. You will get instant feedback and gain the confidence to use the language. 

You can check your locality for educational institutes or community services with language club where they offer personal assistance to sign language learners.

Practice with your deaf family or friend

There is no better way to learn a language than practising. The benefits of learning with a family member or friend is that you will be more self-aware and become more confident.

Utilise Social Media

There are lots of British Sign Language learners and enthusiasts who created groups and pages in social media to learn and practice more. They are very welcoming and generous to help to learn the language. You can search for such groups or check out BSL – British Sign Language (20K members) or British Sign Language Interpreters (BSL) Group for suggestions. 

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Yes, it is your choice to learn a sign language, but it should be heartfelt responsibility to help the hearing disabled ones cope better with life with a sincere effort to understand them better.

Learning a sign language has never been so easier with rapid development of the web, quality materials and training is much more convenient and affordable. All you need is genuine interest and empathy to learn a sign language.

Related: Why You Should Learn British Sign Language (BSL)

October 14, 2021

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