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? Then you’ve come to the right place!
If you’re wondering how to learn ASL quickly, we’re here to help. 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. Our guide on how to learn ASL fast includes all the top tips and tricks for mastering this language. Follow our advice, practice daily, and you will be fluent before you know it!
Tips to Help You Learn ASL Fast
1) Start With the Basics
The fastest way to learn ASL involves starting with the basics. As much as you may want to go from zero to a hundred, it’s best to take baby steps. Begin by learning about the different types of sign languages and figuring out the alphabet. ASL uses one-handed signs for each and every letter of the alphabet. Once you know the ASL letters, you can essentially spell out any word you like, even if you do not know the appropriate sign for the actual word itself.
2) 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 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.”
3) Sign Up to Learn ASL With a Private Tutor
You need a teacher to teach you, explain the rules, 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.
4) Practice ALL the Time
You won’t learn ASL fast without putting in the effort. This means you need to be committed to practicing and studying every day. There are all kinds of ways to practice daily, from communicating with Deaf members in your community to studying ASL flashcards. Just don’t make it a chore, have fun with it. The more you practice, the more likely you will retain information.
5) Get Real-World Practice
If you’re a beginner student, the best way to learn American Sign Language fast is to 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 or through social media. Sometimes even local schools or colleges may have an online group you can join as well. Again, don’t give up! Look for these avenues that can greatly help you learn ASL much faster.
6) Refer to Books
In order to learn ASL fast, many people have also purchased several books about Sign Language. In fact, there are countless ASL books for beginners that can help you make sense of this 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 so 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!
7) Look for ASL Apps
These days, it seems like there is an app for everything! Believe it or not, there are a ton of ASL apps available that can help you learn ASL fast. You’ll find some that help with fingerspelling and others that provide animated sign dictionaries. Perhaps the best part of these learning apps is that they’re available 24/7 so long as you have your smartphone or tablet. Explore an app while riding the metro to work or play a memory game while standing in the line at the grocery store. Frequently using these apps is a great way to learn American Sign Language quickly.
8) Keep a Notebook on Hand
One of the fastest ways to learn ASL is to keep a notebook handy. Every time you learn a new sign, jot it down in your notebook. Maybe you can draw a picture of the hand movements or write out the instructions. Writing it down will help you commit it to memory, but it will also provide you with a resource to flip through periodically. Make it a habit to review all of your entries on a daily basis so that these signs become a part of your vocabulary.
9) Don’t Be Afraid to Make Mistakes
When learning a new language, you will make mistakes. And that’s ok! Just think about it; you probably make mistakes all the time in your own native language, so why would learning a new language be any different? Don’t worry about being perfect when it comes to learning American Sign Language. Be open to making mistakes and receiving feedback. Every time you correct an error, the better you will become.
10) Search for Videos
If you want to learn fluent sign language quickly, look for additional opportunities to watch and explore ASL. Because ASL is such a visual language, it’s helpful to see it in action. Search the internet for speeches that feature interpreters or tune into programs that do the same.
Sometimes, you may even find movies that have ASL. By watching them, you will get the opportunity to see other people use this language and learn from their different signing styles, further deepening your knowledge of ASL. This can also sharpen your receptive skills, which can be the hardest to acquire.
The Hard Work of Learning ASL Fast Will Pay Off
Learning ASL fast will require a lot of hard work and dedication on your behalf. But fear not, it’s not impossible! Simply follow these tips, persevere in learning ASL, and you will succeed! And remember, regardless of how long it takes to learn ASL, be sure to enjoy the journey.