The focus of this week’s post is an important one: American Sign Language apps and other learning resources for ASL students. Once you’ve made the decision to learn ASL so that you can communicate with Deaf customers, coworkers, friends, or family, you’ll probably turn to Google or the app store on your mobile device looking for assistance.
A quick search of ‘ASL,’ ‘American Sign Language,’ or ‘sign language’ will populate a plethora of apps, videos, and websites. Unfortunately, it can be tough to figure out which resources will work best for you, and getting started can be overwhelming.
No need to fret! Here’s a run down of a few resources that might work for your learning style.
Best American Sign Language Apps & Resources
THE ASL APP was an easy choice for favorite app. It is hands down, or should I say ‘hands up,’ the number one most useful resource for beginners learning ASL.
The app was created by three Deaf siblings and their friend; all four graduates of Gallaudet University. This app is easy to navigate and it’s fun to use. It was designed to be more than a simple sign dictionary. This app has several categories of videos (i.e., Know Your ABC’s, Know Your Numbers, Universal Gestures, Handshape Exercises, and The Basics) that can be downloaded for free.
This is a great start for someone who is interested in learning, but not sure how much of an investment they want to make. For learners committed to continuing their ASL development, more videos are available for purchase for a flat rate, one-time payment of $9.99.
These additional videos (i.e., More Basic Signs, Looking Good Today, Mood Swings, Life of the Party, Dining & Signing, Foodies Rejoice, The Wilderness Beckons, Great Timing, Dollar & Signs, Country Name Signs, Colors, Nyle’s Sampler, Sign That! with Nyle, Celebrations, Family Signs, Family Milestones & Life Events, Pop Culture & Social Media, Sign & Vote, All About Sports, Education, Higher Education, and LGBT & Pride Signs) provide learners with more than ASL basics at a low price.
This app includes a diagram of the ASL alphabet and numbers 1-10. It also provides a slow motion function, and the option to tag favorite videos. Further, there is a great search function that will guide you to the videos that include the terms you are interested in learning. When you use THE ASL APP, you are learning from native users and supporting the Deaf community.
This app is an animated sign dictionary with an incredibly high rating. As a dictionary, this app will provide you with a sign (for most words). All you have to do is type single words into the ‘type here to translate’ box. The speed of the animation has three settings: slow, normal, and max. The slow speed might be helpful for beginners. You can spin the animation 360 degrees. This allows you to view the signs from the sides and rear. The user can choose between two animated characters, Hugo or Maya. There is also the option of paying for credits to buy different backgrounds and clothing for the animated characters, an interactive and motivational function for young learners.
Unfortunately, animation is not equal to the human experience; especially that of a native Deaf signer. The animation does not hold his hand still or in the correct position in front of the body when fingerspelling, which can mislead beginners. For example, the images below demonstrate the variation in hand position when fingerspelling.
There are also times when the animation doesn’t know the sign, in which case it fingerspells the word. For example, the word ‘medication’ was translated to M-E-D-I-C-A-T-I-O-N rather than the actual sign. When signing phrases or sentences, the animation sometimes has errors in grammar and sign choice. Also, this app has short ads.
Overall, the app claims to be for social purposes and not necessarily language learning, which could be beneficial in some social settings. The website for Hand Talk has a blog with information and videos about being a Deaf ally, digital accessibility, inclusion, and helpful tips. If you choose to use this app, use it with caution. Keep in mind that it is not perfect, but can be helpful and fun.
This website is simple and has one purpose: to test your receptive ASL fingerspelling skills. If you’ve learned the ASL alphabet and are ready to work on your receptive skills, this is the site for you. The user chooses the number of letters per word and speed. The website also keeps score as you submit answers.
There are links to other websites with more activities as well, which makes this a great resource. The extra links found on this page are: (1) Common Letter Combinations, (2) Spell This to Me, (3) ABC Slideshow, (4) Sign Language Charts (Fingerspelling), (5) American Sign Language (ASL), and (6) Fingerspelling Font. The American Sign Language (ASL) link takes you to a site with an ASL dictionary, videos, ASL lessons, and more! The fingerspelling font can be downloaded in a ttf file and looks like the image below, which says “This is an example of Gallaudet type font.” If you’d like to type a message in the fingerspelling font, this will be of interest to you.
Like the creators of THE ASL APP, Dr. Bill Vicars is also Deaf, so you can rest easy knowing that the material was created by a native ASL user.
This post could rattle on summarizing and reviewing the various and infinite ASL resources for learning ASL, but the three mentioned already are a great place to start. Those resources should keep you busy for at least a month.
The Hand Talk Translator is fun for young learners, even if imperfect. THE ASL APP and the American Sign Language (ASL) website include helpful practice tips, tutorials, videos for ASL students. So what’s stopping you? Start exploring these resources!