How quickly can you learn sign language?

Published 28 September 2022  | Updated 16 May 2024  | 2 mins read

Learning sign language as part of a group

Would you like to learn sign language to communicate with a loved one? Here’s what you need to know to get started.

It’s a common misconception that sign language is the same everywhere in the world. There are actually many different sign languages and styles of signing.

The most common in the UK is BSL (British Sign Language), which is a recognised minority language and the primary language of around 150,000 people across the country.

Another common form of signing is SSE, or Sign Supported English. This is similar to BSL using the same signs, but follows the speech patterns of spoken English.

What’s the fastest way to learn?

Probably the easiest place to start is by fingerspelling. This is essentially learning the BSL alphabet and spelling out the letters in each word. It’s a slow way to communicate, but it’s a great start. You can download a PDF of the alphabet from the RNID here.

There are also some simple phrases you can learn, such as greetings and other common interactions. Our top tip: make lip reading easier with a little bit of research.

What if I want to learn more?

Much like learning any language, there are a variety of courses you can take from qualified BSL tutors. These courses are best taken in person rather than online, since BSL is a kind of ‘3D’ language.

These courses help you learn everything from the beginner’s basics all the way up to getting a full certified qualification in BSL. If you want to find out more, you can go to the websites of Signature and the Institute of British Sign Language.

Whichever route you take, good luck – and enjoy your new skills!