Are you excited about learning American Sign Language? Have you been wondering how to learn ASL fast, so you can communicate in this non-verbal language, speak with your Deaf community, or maybe even pursue a career as an ASL interpreter?
If you’re looking to skip the countless hours it takes to learn a new language, you’re in luck. While in most cases, learning a new language does take a lot of work and time on your behalf, there are strategies you can use to expedite your time to fluency.
Tips to Help You Learn ASL Fast
Learn From a Fluent ASL Speaker
Study with someone who is fluent in American Sign Language. If you teach yourself by watching videos, reading books, or looking up signs, it’ll only teach you up to a certain degree and it might take you longer to become fluent. While language learning apps are a great tool – they won’t get you to fluency. As one article in the NY Times puts it, “the reality is a lot more nuanced – and more disappointing.”
You need a teacher to teach you, to explain the rules, to help you overcome roadblocks, give you feedback, and correct your mistakes.
For those who want to learn ASL fast, it’s also best to learn on an individual, one-on-one basis. Many places offer group classes, and yes, they are great for practice – but that’s all, just for practice. You cannot get the same 1-on-1 attention and focus that you can receive from having a teacher or a tutor. The easiest place to find a teacher is online (websites like TakeLessons are perfect for this). Some people might prefer to look for classes in person as well, which can be helpful too.
Frequency is Key: Practice ALL the Time
Now, your classes or lessons will vary depending on who your teacher is. If you want to learn ASL fast, it also depends on how often and how long you are committed to having the classes. Typically, once a week can be helpful, twice a week is also great. If you learn ASL twice a week for about an hour or so, you can really expedite your fluency. Along with the time you dedicate for the lessons, you should also focus on practicing what you learn each time.
The curriculum, the homework, the assignments, depends on every teacher. Needless to say, repetition and practice of the signs is key. Literally, repeat them again and again and again, until the signs are firmly memorized.
Beside any homework or extra practice your tutor gives you, you can also look at videos on your own time. By watching different videos online, you can sharpen your receptive skills – these are perhaps the hardest to acquire but not impossible.
Sometimes, you may even find some movies that have ASL. By watching these, you will continue to further deepen your knowledge of ASL and you get to see other people use this language and learn from their different signing styles.
Real World Practice
Here’s another tip for you: put it into practice! Yes, use any bit of ASL you’ve learned and sign with other people. You can either sign with others who are also learning ASL, or even with the Deaf.
Many towns have local clubs or group meetings in which Deaf, students, and tutors will all come together and practice signing. In my town, there used to be a small group that would meet together every Friday at a local Starbucks and just sign together. A mix of interpreters, Deaf people, and students would all sign together playing games or watching videos.
By interacting with other people – especially the Deaf – you can increase your knowledge and your skills. That is something I regret. I took too long! I chickened out! As soon as I interacted with the Deaf, I noticed the difference! Both my receptive and signing skills were sharpened.
In this current time of the pandemic, it may be harder to find any groups that meet in person. But don’t let this discourage you! Look for groups online, maybe through social media. Sometimes even local schools or colleges may have an online group meet that you can join as well. Again don’t give up! Look for these avenues that can greatly help you learn ASL much faster.
Refer to Books
In order to learn ASL fast, many people have also purchased several books about Sign Language. These can be a great tool for you, but again, you need someone to guide you, and to explain things about ASL as you learn. Not just that, but it can be difficult to learn signs from a book because of the various motions you do with the signs.
For example, it can be hard to determine which motion your hand or your finger moves as you’re learning a sign. Is it an upward motion? Forward? To your left or right? Sometimes it’s too difficult, that you’ll feel like you are reading hieroglyphics! Therefore, save yourself the struggle of deciphering those puzzling pictures of ASL signs, and learn with a tutor/teacher!
The Hard Work of Learning ASL Fast Will Pay Off
Learning ASL fast will require a lot of work and dedication on your behalf. It’s not impossible though! Follow these tips, persevere in learning ASL, and you will succeed!