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How Long Does it Take to Learn Sign Language?


Lead Academy

14 Mins Read

Learning sign language is easy and can be super fun all you have to do is choose the learning resources vigilantly. However, how long does it take to learn sign language, depends on your goal, where you’re learning it, and how much time you’re willing to invest in it.

Whichever way you choose to learn sign language and however much time it takes, it’s totally worth every effort you put into it. Learning any language can be satisfying, but BSL (British Sign Language) especially can be both beneficial and well worth it for you.

Moreover about, how to learn BSL or British Sign Language? There are many ways of learning BSL but some ways are simply better than others. In no particular order, the most effective ones are-

  1. Taking sign language classes
  2. Learn sign language online by watching videos or taking an online course
  3. Hiring a private, qualified sign language tutor

So let’s get into our first discussion: what are the best ways to learn BSL?

3 Best Way to Learn BSL

In the modern age of smartphones, you can learn just about anything with the touch of a finger. The same goes for learning BSL. You can use an app or read an ebook.

But there’s a catch.

None of these will teach you the language effectively. Just like spoken language, there’s a method that you need to follow and then practice. The more you practice, the more fluent you become. So among the three best ways to learn BSL, the first one is-

A female sign language teacher teaching sign language to a student

1. Taking sign language classes

Taking sign language classes is one of the most effective ways to learn BSL. There should be local colleges, charities, voluntary groups around you that offer BSL classes.

blog-star How Long Does It Take To Learn Sign Language?

Are you interested in learning sign language at your own pace? You are at the right place. You can learn sign language faster and from the comfort of your home by enrolling with Lead Academy’s British Sign language course. So what are you waiting for? Sign up today!

Physical classes, for any language learner, offer immense benefits. Not only will you learn in a formal setting, but you’ll also have lots of co-learners with whom you can practice.

Practice makes a man perfect. If you’re a woman, don’t worry. The idiom applies to you too! Since the whole classroom is filled with students of BSL, you’ll never feel alienated if you make a mistake.

You’ll also save some time as you won’t need to practice as much at home.

But like everything else in life, this option comes with cons too. Given the current situation in 2020-21, it’s going to be challenging to enrol for sign language courses that offers physical classes. Plus, personal risk also comes as a factor.

What’s more, is that these courses tend to be pricey. You have to factor in the instructors, the overhead of the institution and the cost of the educational materials that they have to provide you.

A student is learning sign language through online classes

2. Learn BSL online by watching videos or taking an online course

The cons of taking sign language classes in a physical setting bring us modestly to our next point. You can also learn BSL online by taking an online course for sign language UK or by watching videos.

Needless to say that I’d much prefer a video course than looking around in Google for free stuff. You can certainly learn some BSL words, phrases by looking up “Basic BSL words and sentences” on YouTube, but that won’t take you far. If you’re up for some light reading, even blogs can help you a little bit here, like you can learn BSL Alphabets here.

But, like I said- blogs, YouTube videos, or a search in Google won’t take you far. E-learning courses tend to be much cheaper than physical classrooms because of the nature of online sign language classes. If you’re just looking for some basic understanding of BSL, then there are plenty of options for you. Lead Academy offers one of the high-quality ones.

Steve Hurley is the instructor in British Sign Language (BSL) at QLS Level 1 & 2 on Lead Academy.  He is a qualified BSL teacher with over 19 years of experience.

Now, there are some reasons behind my recommendation.

Firstly, our BSL course on Lead Academy is CPD accredited. This means that you will earn a certificate on BSL, which you can use in a professional setting. It will count towards your professional development.

Businesses are one of the most likely places where you will feel the need to know sign language to communicate with a client or a customer. Banks, restaurants, retail stores like clothing, drugs, grocery, and convenience stores see many people who communicate in sign language. The same goes for sectors like health and social care.

You simply can’t deny service to a person whose only means of communication is signing. Firstly, it’s a gross violation of human rights. Secondly, it’s against the law in most countries, including the UK.

So knowing sign language yourself or having an employee that can communicate in signs is immensely useful in these instances. Good communication makes people feel valued, cared for and puts them at ease.

It’s understandable why businesses and services want to keep employees who can sign in addition to their core skills. So you can take this opportunity to learn a new language and earn more than your colleagues because of your skills.

Some businesses even offer employees training on basic sign language and deaf awareness. Deaf Awareness Training trains employees on working with deaf people. You’ll do the training under organisations like Lead Academy, but your office will pay for it.

Secondly, it’s a BSL level 1 and level 2 course. This means that you’ll gain plenty of proficiency to converse in a casual setting. If you have a friend, a colleague or even a family member who is deaf or has hearing impairments, you can easily communicate with them once you finish sign language courses. It’s a win-win either way!

Before I wrap up here, I think you should be aware of a few more benefits of an online course.

  1. You can learn at your own pace.
  2. Most of these online courses, including ours, will only take you a few hours to complete.
  3. If you are careful to select a high-quality British sign language course like ours, it will be just as beneficial as doing a course in a physical classroom. The only thing you may miss is your classmates!

A private online tutor is teaching sign language to a student

3. Hiring a private, qualified sign language tutor

The third option that you have is hiring a qualified sign language tutor. This option is just like taking a course in a physical classroom but a little more expensive. However, it all depends on the instructor of your liking.

So, why should you opt for an instructor?

Because if you’re willing to take the hit of the expense, then an instructor is an excellent option. You have most of the benefits of taking a course in a physical classroom and a one-to-one interaction with the instructor. But you also have to keep the time the instructor is willing to invest in you. Professional instructors have a fixed schedule on a given budget, so you’ll have to stick to it.

Taking an instruction class in a classroom would be more expensive than taking a live class in Zoom or Skype. If you don’t have the budget, you can go for a live course. However, if the instructor is the same, there is not a whole lot of difference between attending a class physically or taking a live class.

If you want to be a BSL interpreter, you must opt for a live class or attend a physical class. Leading awarding bodies like Signature, who offer BSL qualification certificates that Ofqual recognises, require you to attend a live or a physical classroom to learn BSL.

It’s for a good reason. By the time you get to the higher levels like Level 3 BSL that can get you a job like Communication Support Worker, you’re getting into a serious professional level. At this level, your BSL proficiency and vocabulary matters a lot.

Take, for example- interpreters. They need to pass the Level 6 BSL qualification because they work in critical fields like health and news, where even the slightest miscommunication can have massive ramifications.

So, if you’re looking to get a job like an interpreter or a sign language teacher, you should look up the official qualifications that your job requires and how to earn it.

Lead Academy can help you with that too. We offer multiple BSL courses, from Level 1 all the way to Level 6, that are recognised by Signature. All you need to do is get to Lead Academy’s website, click on the live chat button and contact our customer support. Tell them why you’re contacting them, and they’ll swiftly answer your query and arrange a suitable course for you.

Our customer support is live during regular office hours in the UK from Monday to Friday. You can also reach us by email at any time, and you’ll get an answer quickly.

Now let’s get into our next topic: how long does it take to learn BSL?

How Long Does it Take to Learn Sign Language?

Although this is a very common question asked by almost every sign language student, the answer is still- it depends. There is no definitive answer to this.


Because BSL is a language! Just like any other language, the time it takes for a person to gain fluency in BSL depends mainly on that person. Some people are fast learners, some are busy, some have attention deficit, some don’t have the luxury of practising, and some are just lazy- all these factors can affect the learner of any language.

But I can give a general guideline.

Learn British Sign Language at your own pace

In the case of courses accredited by CPD, they usually run around a few hours long. You can just complete the whole thing in two or three days if you want. But since they are just videos, you can learn them at your own pace.

One other benefit of these kinds of courses is that the videos can be rewind however many times as you want. If you’re a slow learner, if you have a hard time paying attention, or if you’re busy with so many other things, then courses like ours are perfect for you. Since they don’t expire until after a year, you have plenty of time to take it slow and learn the language at your own pace.

Learn British Sign Language for a job

However, if you’re learning BSL to become an interpreter, a communication support worker or a sign language teacher- then you can’t control the pace of your BSL education. It will primarily be dictated by the qualification awarding body like Signature. As stated before, Signature is the most recognised accreditation body on BSL. In their case, you’ve to attend a class for a fixed amount of hours before you can attend the exam.

In their assessment system, live or physical classes are called Guided Learning Hours or GLH. GLH also includes the time you spend on assessment. Then there are Additional Study Hours that include private study, homework, practices, etc.

So from Level 1 BSL to Level 6 BSL, the GLH and the Additional Study Hours change a lot. Let me show it to you on a table so that you can take a look at the whole thing at a glimpse.

BSL Level & Total Qualification Time in Hours Guided Learning Hours Additional Study Hours Equivalent to
BSL Level 1 (90) 64 26
BSL Level 2 (150) 100 50
BSL Level 3 (250) 130 120 A-level
BSL Level 4  (300) 180 120
BSL Level 6 (360) 180 180 Degree level

As you can see from the table, the time it’ll take for you largely depends on how the classes are arranged for you. BSL Level 1 and 2 will not take much time for you to complete. But BSL Level 3 will generally take an academic year. After you complete Level 3 BSL, you can work on jobs like Communication Support Worker.

You can jump straight to BSL Level 6 from BSL Level 3. But it isn’t recommended. Take the BSL Level 4 course to bridge the gap in your knowledge.

After you complete BSL Level 6, you’ll earn a degree level qualification. This will enable you to work in professions like sign language teaching or interpreting. BSL Level 6 also takes about one to one and a half academic years to complete.

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Is it Hard to Learn Sign Language?

Understandably, people want to know if sign language is hard to grasp. But it still doesn’t take away from the fact that the question is irrational. The reason this question is asked largely stems from the lack of knowledge about sign languages.

Sign languages are mostly visual that includes hand movement and facial expression instead of auditory and vocal. That’s why people think that they are different. While sign languages are different, they still follow all the essential functions of any language.

These functions can include communication, the expression of identity, imaginative expression, and emotional release. Like any other language, sign languages have their own grammar, syntax, and morphology.

So, regardless of whether a language is signed or voiced, all languages take some time to learn. It will take practice to reach a certain level of fluency.

But some languages are indeed more challenging to master than others. The same goes for sign languages. BSL is a relatively more accessible sign language. Let me explain.

According to statistical data from the British Deaf Association, there are 151,000 BSL users in the UK, and 87,000 of them are deaf. This number has only increased from there. People are requesting more and more content on BSL to help them master the language.  So many great resources have emerged due to this demand, courses like this one from Lead Academy.

It doesn’t matter how easy a language is. If you can’t find qualified instructors or resources that can help you learn the language, you’ll progress at a snail’s pace. BSL doesn’t have this problem, as you can see.

This brings us to our subsequent discussion on whether you can learn American Sign Language (ASL) and BSL together, which is more complex and which one you should learn.


Of the ways discussed to learn BSL, taking an online course would be the best one to choose if you’re just starting out. A high-quality course like BSL Level 1 and 2 from Lead Academy will help you kickstart your mastery of BSL. Once you have mastered BSL Level 1 and 2, you can move on to Level 3. Level 3 BSL will help you land jobs like Communication Support Worker.

As for how long it will take you to learn BSL, as we discussed, it’ll depend largely on you. If you want to learn BSL as professional development, it won’t take you long. CPD accredits the course that I highlighted above. You’ll earn a certificate that’ll count towards your professional development.

But if you want a formal qualification on BSL, you’ll want a certificate from Signature. Contact Lead Academy’s customer support, and they’ll hook you up with a course accredited by Signature. It’ll take you significantly more time to earn a qualification, which is understandable.

So, that wraps up our discussion here. Today, we’ve discussed two topics: how to learn BSL and how long it takes to learn sign language.

I hope this blog has given you the information that you were looking for. If you have any more questions, feel free to go to and contact our customer support team.

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