By: Ashley Thomaz
Have you ever wanted to learn a new language? Well, learning American Sign Language (ASL) is easier than ever thanks to a world of possibilities—aka the internet.
ASL is an expressive language that allows you to communicate with a whole demographic of people (and looks good on a resume). Rockia Ricketts, an ASL professor who teaches sign language at MSMC says, “People should learn because studying sign language promotes better awareness of and sensitivity to the Deaf community.” If you want to learn sign language and don’t know where to begin, there are places to start:
Apps like ASL Fingerspelling or ASL Coach are great for learning and they’re free. These apps are easily accessible since they are on your phone, so you can practice at any time you wish. Having on-the-go lessons can help you stay refreshed and are convenient when you need to look something up.
The internet offers an excessive amount of resources for those looking to learn sign language from quizzes to courses to diaphragm photos. Here are two starting options: Start ASL is a website that allows you to sign up and take courses. SignASL is an online ASL dictionary where you can search for words or phrases and learn their corresponding signs.
YouTube is a great source for learning sign language. The site offers videos of teachers who give free lessons on how to sign the alphabet, common phrases, numbers and more. Dr. Bill Vicars is a great place to begin. Dr. Vicars has a degree in deaf-centric studies and offers a wide variety of ASL videos.
There are many books that can be purchased to help your learning experience, like “American Sign Language: For Beginners” by Rochelle Barlow or “Learning American Sign Language” by Carol Padden and Tom Humphries, which is a series of books that come in levels. Believe it or not, even children’s ASL books can be useful for learning basic sign language.
Tutors or Classes
Hire an ASL tutor or attend a class offered at a college or university. If you want to learn sign language quickly, taking classes or having a tutor may be the best way. Find qualified sign language tutors in your area or check in with your local college/university to see if they have any classes.
It’s important to note that facial expressions are key and you should practice fingerspelling any time you can. Remember to have fun while learning, you may not get it all at once, but over time it will begin to come naturally to you. Ricketts says learning how to communicate using sign language will help you to “be able to develop a strong appreciation and connection for Deaf culture, and you can promote understanding and appearance of the language among others.”