Online sign language learning has been around for a while. There is a stockpile of online courses teaching sign language around the world.
There’s them Baby Sign language classes. I am not going to get into the politics of whether these are “authentic” sign language courses. Let’s take the tack that sign language exposure is good, period.
But are there any courses for children?
I found one! Primary Sign, a company based in the North West of England. Knowing that it was difficult to send BSL teachers to every school, these guys came up with an online BSL e-learning kit for both deaf and hearing children aged 5-11.
Children can go through 13 modules at their own pace, learning signs about the weather, animals, emotions and other topics.
But what makes online courses work is not just creating beautiful resources. It is about putting processes in place so that the technology DOES improve learning.
For Primary Sign, there are over 30 games and quizzes. The child can check their understanding on the spot, and the teachers can print worksheets and certificates.
Hearing children can now learn BSL online
Pssst, here’s a scoop. For a limited time, Primary Sign have made their kits available for £19 on Group On* so you might want to get shopping or encourage your child’s school to subscribe. (The fees are different for schools.) It could be a great way to get classmates interested in learning sign language.
We all know that BSL is not yet part of the school curriculum. According to Signature’s communication manager, Signature is still in negotiations with the Department of Education to find a place for BSL as a GCSE subject, potentially as a modern foreign language. Other organisations are having their say too.
Even if BSL becomes part of the framework, we will need to think about the number of BSL teachers, quality standards and training.
The second hurdle is getting schools to agree to include BSL in their own programme. Language learning is optional, and with student numbers in German and French dropping almost 50% in the last decade, who’s to say BSL as a GCSE subject will be popular?
What to do? Get schools to warm to the idea first. Online learning can potentially be a way to do this. For four years in a row, Sign2Sing has taught children and adults songs online. Last year, about 115,000 people broke a Guinness World Record by singing and signing the same song at the same time, because of online learning.
Signing the wrong thing or bad singing may be beside the point because these people now know that sign language exists. Last week, these people tried again. We wait with baited breath to see whether another record was broken.
Some say online courses are a poor substitute for the real teaching in the classroom.
Maybe. But if done well, just perhaps, perhaps it will boost interest in sign language…
*The £19 Primary Sign deal on Groupon is available in certain cities: Manchester, Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Derby, Sheffield, Liverpool, Bristol and Bath. Check out the deals here.
By Amanda Everitt – views are her own. To read more about sign language, literacy and technology check out Amanda’s blog here or follow @playbyeye
Check out what Limping Chicken’s supporters provide:
- Phonak: innovative technology and products in hearing acoustics.
- Bellman: hearing loss solutions
- Ai-Live: Live captions and transcripts.
- Deaf Umbrella: sign language interpreting and communications support.
- 121 Captions: captioning and speech-to-text services.
- Signworld: online BSL learning and teaching materials.
- STAGETEXT: theatre captioning.
- Krazy Kat: visual theatre with BSL.
- SignHealth: healthcare support for Deaf people.
- Deafinitely Theatre: theatre from a Deaf perspective.
- Lipspeaker UK: specialist lipspeaking support.
- SDHH: Deaf television programmes online.
- Sign Solutions:, language and learning.
- Lexicon Signstream: BSL interpreting and communication services.
- Action Deafness Communications: sign language and Red Dot online video interpreting.
- Hamilton Lodge School in Brighton: education for Deaf children.
- RAD Deaf Law Centre: legal advice for Deaf people.
The Limping Chicken is the UK’s deaf blogs and news website, and is the world’s most popular deaf blog. It is edited by Deaf journalist and filmmaker Charlie Swinbourne.
Please note that the views of the writers are their own, and not necessarily the views of the Editor or site as a whole. Read our disclaimer here.
- Ai-Media: Remote captioning. How to make Live Automated Captions with Apple’s Latest 'Clips' App
- Bellman & Symfon: home alerting solutions
- Deaf Umbrella: sign language interpreting and communications support
- Appa: Communication services for Deaf, Deafblind and hard of hearing people
- SignLive: Online video interpreting for Deaf people
- SignVideo: Instant BSL video interpreting online
- 121 Captions: captioning and speech-to-text services
- Hearing Direct: Online hearing aids
- Signature: Leading awarding body for BSL qualifications
- Signworld: Learn BSL online!
- Cast Theatre, Doncaster: The UK's the UK’s first fully BSL integrated pantomime
- The National Theatre: Captioned and BSL accessible theatre in London
- Doncaster School for the Deaf: education for Deaf children
- Hamilton Lodge School in Brighton: education for Deaf children
- Lipspeaker UK: specialist lipspeaking support
- Ozen: Australian hearing aid specialists
- Elmfield School, Bristol: Inclusive education for Deaf pupils
- deafPLUS: BSL advice helpline
- Exeter Deaf Academy: education for Deaf children
- Royal Shakespeare Company: Captioned and BSL interpreted performances (see dates here)
- Royal School for the Deaf, Derby: Residential education for deaf children
- RAD Tax Advice: Tax and Tax Credit info for Deaf people
- Deaf Independent: Deaf care and support services
- Performance Interpreting: BSL interpreting at concerts
- National Deaf Children's Society: The leading charity for deaf children
- cSeeker: Deaf-led educational communication support service
- Signed Culture: Advocating for BSL access to arts and culture
- SignHealth: healthcare charity for Deaf people
- CJ Interpreting: communication support in BSL
- Sign Solutions:, language and learning
- Action Deafness Communications: sign language and Red Dot online video interpreting
- BSLcourses.co.uk: Provider of online BSL courses
- British Society for Mental Health and Deafness: Promoting positive mental health for deaf people