American Sign Language (ASL) is one the most common forms of communication among the nearly 15% of Americans who are deaf or hard of hearing. The deaf community is a very vibrant and accomplished community. You too can be a part of it just by learning a few basic signs. Learning a new language is never easy, but it can be fun. Here are a few tips to start picking up some sign language.
There are many websites dedicated to sign language. Handspeak.com provides short video clips that exhibit the proper way to perform signs. However, it’s important to remember that you can’t just learn the signs and slip them into everyday conversation. If you were learning Spanish, you would have to learn the appropriate grammatical rules that accompany it, or you won’t make any sense. ASL is exactly the same: it has grammatical and structural rules all its own. Handspeak provides a series of grammar tutorials along with a dictionary and lists of the most common words used in conversation.
There are also many videos on YouTube geared toward helping you learn sign language. Depending on your goals for learning ASL, different lessons may be appropriate for you. The “Learn ASL in 31 Days” series works through various important aspects of ASL to help you get a basic understanding in as little as a month.
If you’re trying to learn sign language in your spare time, downloading an app for your phone will make it easier to learn sign language wherever and whenever you want. ASL Coach, Marlee Signs, and Sign Language for Beginners are highly-rated free options recommended by Healthy Hearing. ASL American Sign Language, which offers categories you can work through for basic signs and body language, is also a free app with decent ratings. If you want to work on your fingerspelling, learn signs to help your infant communicate earlier, or simply need a few basic signs to help communicate with customers, there are hundreds of ASL apps available.
Buy A Book
It’s old fashioned, but effective! If you’re willing to shell out the cash, there are many textbooks for ASL classes available. Some of these are going to teach basic signs and grammar, while also providing you with helpful exercises. Additionally, less expensive books like Learn American Sign Language: Everything You Need to Start Signing by James W. Guido are highly rated. Check your local library for similar books.
Find A Friend
It’s difficult to learn any language (no matter what you use as a tutor) if you don’t have someone to practice with. Learning together with a friend gives you someone to work on your signing speed and efficacy with. In addition to having a study buddy, finding someone who already knows sign language is another great option. Once you have a basic understanding of how to sign, you’ll be able to get better at reading others’ signs—just like speaking another language is easier than hearing it, signing yourself is much different than understanding someone else’s signs.