At Dot Sign Language we are asked this a lot. There is no set answer as it depends on a person’s situation and how much they use BSL in their daily life between classes. Like any language, the more you are immersed in it and practise, the faster you will learn.
If someone was to start a Level 1 course with Dot Sign Language with no prior knowledge of BSL, the courses are usually run over an academic year from September – June, but we sometimes run more condensed courses.
Level 2 and Level 3 are also both taught over an academic year. Level 3 is equivalent to A-Level standard and also includes BSL linguistics, so by this time students have a good standard of conversational BSL. Students are also expected to find out about ‘Deaf Topics’ such as Deaf education, technology, history, Access to Work etc.
If someone wanted to study further, Level 6 is the standard required to then go on and train further to be a BSL interpreter. Level 6 is equivalent to degree level. (It is very important that interpreters are a very highly qualified because of the responsibilities they have, for example working in medical or legal situations. ) We offer the new Signature BSL Level 6 qualification. Some candidates jump from Level 3 to Level 6, for others it is better to do a Level 4 course in between. Your teacher can advise you.
We use the examination board ‘Signature’; their rules are that you do not have to start from Level 1. For example if a Deaf person or a hearing CODA (Child of Deaf Adults) already had a good standard or conversational BSL, it might be more appropriate for them to start at Level 2 or 3. This is at the teacher’s discretion.
While studying, students are expected to do independent study. Ideally this means having Deaf family or friends too practice with regularly, or be working with Deaf people. We realise many students struggle to find fluent BSL users to practice with, so we encourage them to meet up and practise together between classes – we are currently creating a DOT Homework Group!
You can see that is can take time to become fluent in British Sign Language, this is because it is as full and rich as any spoken language.
We will be starting ‘Introduction to BSL’ courses in February in both Woking and Guildford, which offer the option of continuing and studying a full Level 1. Other Levels will start in September 2020.