The Level 1 Award in BSL (British Sign Language) otherwise known as BSL level 1 is an Ofqual-regulated qualification administered by Signature. Many providers offer both online and classroom courses to suit students’ needs. Level 1 BSL is one of many deaf communication qualifications that aims to help you confidently use BSL in conversations. The qualification is useful as it gives you confidence communicating with deaf people in social environments as well as at work.
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What happens at the first session with your BSL tutor?
Booking on to a tutor-led level 1 course can be an exciting experience. Like most students, you’ll be nervous meeting your tutor and other students for the first time. Most students wonder “how will we communicate in the first session?”, “will the tutor understand me?” and “will I understand the tutor?”
Tutors are used to learners being nervous so most will write instructions on the board or have a PowerPoint presentation to explain what is going to be covered in your first session.
What does BSL level 1 cover?
The Level 1 Award in BSL course is usually split into 3 modules:
- Module 101 focuses on greetings and is a gentle introduction to BSL
- Module 102 focuses on widening your vocabulary so you can use BSL in conversations
- Module 103 focuses on improving your fluency so you can communicate in BSL about everyday Life.
The modules are designed to help you gain the basic skills and confidence in signing and understanding the signing of others.
- Greetings, fingerspelling
- Deaf Awareness
- Numbers (people, time, money and dates)
- Transport and directions
- How to ask/answer questions
- Using facial expressions in BSL
- use the correct grammatical structure
- Describing people, animals and objects
- Hobbies and activities
- Food and Drink signs
- Numbers (age, time, money and calendars)
- Work and school signs
- Handshapes and placement of signs
- Conversation skills
- Check your understanding (known as receptive skills)
- Assessment practice
Accredited or Regulated?
Be aware that in order to achieve the Level 1 Award in BSL, your course needs to be regulated by Ofqual. That means you need to complete the recommended 60+ hours of tutor-guided hours plus 20+ hours of personal study. It doesn’t matter if you do your course online or face-to-face in a classroom, the key takeaway is that you need to complete tutor-guided hours. However, there is nothing stopping you from completing an online course and then contacting a centre to complete your assessments.
BSL Level 1 Courses near me:
Here is a list of bona fide British Sign Language course providers that offer the Level 1 Award in BSL. Please note some providers will offer the Signature BSL Level 1 as an online course:
- BID Services, Birmingham are all classroom courses
- Bristol College, College Green Centre
- BSL Courses are all run online.
- Blanche Neville School offers classroom courses
- B.S.L Training classroom courses in Chatham or Maidstone. An online course (via Zoom) is also offered.
- City Lit, London runs classroom courses
- Deaf Action provides a classroom course, in Edinburgh. An online course (via Zoom) is also offered.
- Deaf Solutions have online and classroom courses
- Deaf Active provides a classroom course, in Liverpool
- Fletch BSL online via Zoom
- Fylde Coast BSL Centre online via Zoom
- Heathlands School this is a classroom course, St Albans
- Hi Kent provides classroom courses
- Me Sign provides a classroom course, Stockton-on Tees
- Remark provides a classroom course, in London
- Seashell Trust provide classroom courses
- Sh BSL provides a classroom course in Norwich. Online courses are also offered.
- Sign Confident, London runs online courses (via Zoom) and classroom courses
- SignSay online via Zoom
- Simply Signed this is classroom courses, Harlow. Online courses (via Zoom) are also offered.
- Teachmesign provides a classroom course, in London
Is BSL Easy to learn?
Yes, BSL is easy to learn if you are taught correctly from the start. British Sign Language has a grammatical structure and vocabulary, just like any other language. How you learn Sign language and who you learn from can make learning BSL easy.
What makes BSL Hard to Learn?
We usually learn languages based on sound. BSL differs in that it is a visual language, and no sound is used. Lots of people find this difficult to understand.
BSL is a three-dimensional language, which means you need to understand how to use hand gestures, facial expressions, and a different grammatical structure (than English) to convey meaning. This can make it challenging to learn by yourself from an app, book or YouTube clips. This is why it’s important to learn in a structured way with a qualified professional.
Secondly, as BSL is a visual language, you need to immerse yourself in the language as much as possible – for example, by attending BSL classes or events and by meeting deaf people. By keeping these things in mind, you can become a proficient BSL user. The Level 1 award in BSL is intended to be a stepping stone for complete beginners. Even if you don’t want a qualification, an accredited course will give you the skills you need to communicate with native Sign Language users.
How long does it take to learn BSL?
Classroom-based BSL courses can run for up to 32 weeks and usually follow the academic calendar, so start in September and finish the following May or June. This is particularly useful for parents as sessions do not normally run during school holidays.
Online courses, where you have live weekly sessions will be shorter so theoretically you could complete a regulated BSL course and gain your Level 1 Award in BSL in less than 6 months. All regulated language courses teach you signs used as part of everyday language.
A few course providers run a BSL level 1 ‘intensive course’ where you learn for 4 – 5 hours per day over a couple of weeks. While this might seem a great idea, one downside is that you may forget signs from the Level 1 curriculum, (there are a lot of signs to learn on Level 1). Ultimately, you need to give yourself time and allow for your muscle memory to develop so you can sign competently.
Many non-regulated course providers prey on the fact that many new learners think learning BSL is really easy. They encourage you to pay for courses with the option to purchase a certificate at the end. While it is easy to learn how to fingerspell or how to sign your name, students need to go through the four levels of competency in order to be competent at signing, even at a basic level.
What can I do with BSL Level 1?
Achieving a Level 1 award in BSL qualification is the equivalent of achieving a pass at GCSE. Under the new grading system, that means achieving a grade of 4 or above. Level 1 is a gateway qualification, so it enables you to go on and do the higher qualifications for roles such as: a Communication Support Worker (usually BSL Level 3), a Teacher for the Deaf (usually Level 3) or an interpreter (Level 6). Formal qualifications are essential if you want to work with deaf children or with deaf people in the community.
If you are not ready to commit to a lengthy course you can learn sign language by completing a BSL Basics course instead! There are plenty of online providers that provide content in bite-size manageable chunks. Alternatively, you can check out our study guides and tips.
Is there a GCSE in BSL?
There will be, in 2025. The UK government have finally agreed the subject content for the new BSL GCSE. At this stage, it is unclear how this will affect the Level 1 Award in BSL or BSL Level 2 as the GCSE curriculum is likely to cover topics from both levels. This is an exciting time for the BSL community!