Browser does not support script.

Short course

An Introduction to British Sign Language

Learn the basics of British Sign Language (BSL) in this 9 week course.

Hands signing B - S - L

Over the course of 9 weeks you will learn the basics of British Sign Language, including fingerspelling, lip reading, and the semiotic structure of BSL. Alongside the practical aspects of BSL you will learn about Deaf awareness and discover Deaf history and culture, including education, significant historical figures, and events. The course is facilitated by multi award winning Associate Professor of British Sign Language Amanda Smith. According to the British Deaf Association there are 151,000 individuals in the United Kingdom who use BSL. BSL users can experience communication barriers everyday. This introductory course will help you understand and support BSL users.

York campus

  • Duration – 9 weeks
  • Start date – 7 February 2023
  • Time – Tuesdays, 5.30pm to 7.30pm
  • Facilitator - Amanda Smith

Course Fees

    £200 (£100 for York St John students)

Course information

About the course

This course is open to York St John staff and students, and members of the public.

Contact for more information.

Course outcome

Upon successfully completing the course you will receive a certificate (Pass or Pass with Distinction).


You will be assessed through:

  • A poster presentation on Deaf Awareness
  • Continuous assessment in BSL

Course leader

Amanda Smith, Associate Professor in British Sign Language

Amanda Smith is a Deaf British Sign Language (BSL) user, with experience teaching BSL for 22 years, 18 of which have been at York St John University.

As an Associate Professor at York St John, she teaches on all levels of British Sign Language modules, facilitating learning for students who may never have signed a word as well as those who have some fluency in BSL. She  includes aspects of the deaf lived experience into her teaching, to help raise awareness of deaf people as a cultural as well as linguistic minority.

In 2011, she was awarded National Teacher of the Year by Signature and, in 2012, York Adult Tutor of the Year by City of York Council’s 'York 800'. In 2019 she was nominated for the 'inspirational teaching' and 'most supportive staff member of the year' awards by York St John Students' Union.

Course structure

How you will study

The course runs for 9 weeks and each week you will attend a 2 hour session.

You will study a different topic each week. You can see a breakdown of each week in the drop down menu.

An introduction to the course and a chance to meet and get to know other people on the course.

Deaf awareness is the focus of Week 2. Discover key statistics and learn about lip reading.

Learn the key features of BSL:

  • Handshapes
  • Hand orientation
  • Movement
  • Non manual features
  • Role shift

You'll also explore the grammar and structures of BSL.

Find out about life as a deaf person. You'll cover topics such as:

  • Technological and audiological aids
  • Access to work, including interpreters and organisations

As you continue to develop your awareness of BSL, this week will focus on deaf culture. You will consider:

  • Accessibility (events, theatre, deaf Olympics/football)
  • Deaf programmes (BSL Zone, See Hear)

Review the BSL learned so far. We will also introduce you to classifiers.

Explore deaf history, focusing on education and significant deaf people in history.

Discover BSL e-learning and test your learning with a quiz.

Assesment week.

You will share your poster presentation, focusing on deaf awareness.

Need more information?

Fill out our form below and we'll get back to you as soon as possible.

Cookie Settings