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Everything You Need To Learn American Sign Language

American Sign Language, or ASL, is a unique language that is growing in popularity among English speakers. There are many uses of this visual language, made up of hand and body movements, but becoming apart of the diverse deaf culture is one of its many perks.

Keep reading to find answers to some frequently asked questions when starting to learn American Sign Language. We’ll share how long it takes to learn ASL, how to put your signing skills to good use, and more!

Who uses sign language?

Sign language is the main method of communication for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. It’s also becoming more and more popular among parents of infants and toddlers who are still developing the ability to speak.

Certain professions, from police officers to scuba divers, also speak in sign language as a useful and discreet communication tool.

Is sign language universal?

No; there isn’t one form of sign language that is used and understood around the

world. Different regions have their own versions of sign language. In the United States, for example, American Sign Language is used. There are about 300 different versions of sign language in use today.

How hard is it to learn sign language?

As with learning any new language, the level of difficulty experienced by the student will largely depend on that student’s learning style. But for a motivated and committed student with the right teacher, mastering sign language isn’t any more difficult than mastering a spoken language.

Keep in mind that learning advanced sign language will have more challenges than picking up basic, beginners sign language. Some challenges faced by English speaking students are the grammar and sentence structure of ASL.

How long does it take to learn sign language?

It can take anywhere from three months to three years to learn sign language - it all depends on your end goal. If your goal is to become fluent, you can expect to be studying a sign language like ASL for several years.

If you just want to pick up some basic signs though, it should only take a few months. It’s important to remember that individual students have different learning rates, so don’t be too hard on yourself if you find that it’s taking you longer.  

What are the benefits of learning sign language?

There are dozens of benefits of learning sign language, from professional to social. Here are just a few of the reasons why taking online sign language classes is a great idea.

Professional benefits
  • Speaking a second language is an added bonus on any resume and will further qualify you for customer service roles.
  • Take advantage of the exciting career opportunities that are available for those fluent in sign language, such as concert interpreters and speech pathologists.
Physical and mental benefits
  • Improve your brain power! Learning any language, including ASL, has been found to enhance cognitive processes such as problem solving and memorization.  
  • Using signs helps young children more quickly develop fine motor skills and muscle memory.
Social benefits
  • Gain a better understanding of the rich and diverse deaf culture, which includes art, music, and poetry.
  • Open the door to countless opportunities to develop new friendships with the large deaf community. If you like making new friends and crossing cultural barriers, ASL is an excellent option for you!
  • Speaking sign language makes many recreational activities much more fun. You can use sign language while on a nature walk to avoid disturbing the wildlife, or while camping to make long distance conversations possible using binoculars.

Where can I learn sign language?

There are a few different options for where to learn sign language. Many people choose to take classes at a community college, however this is a more expensive route. Others visit local organizations or clubs that offer more budget-friendly classes.

Another option is to take online sign language classes, such as the ones we offer at TakeLessons Live. Online classes are convenient and affordable, with the added bonus of learning in a group where you can quickly advance your conversation skills.

Lastly, students looking for a challenge can choose to immerse themselves in their local deaf community. This might not be the fastest method but it’s definitely an exciting option if you’re outgoing and eager to learn!

How much does it cost to learn sign language?

The cost of learning sign language all depends on your method of learning. An ASL course at a community college typically costs around $300.

Here at TakeLessons, you can access free sign language classes for a whole month. Get a taste of the language and get to know your teacher before committing. After that, the cost of continuing classes is only $19.95 per month for new students.

If you prefer having a one-on-one experience with a professional tutor, private lessons range from $15 to $35 per half hour at TakeLessons.

What’s the best way to learn ASL?

Although there are many apps and YouTube videos available that can help you learn ASL, it’s best to have an experienced and qualified instructor who can provide direction and feedback on your way to fluency.

A teacher will be able to work with your unique learning style, ensuring that you’re studying sign language in the right ways to advance quicker. He or she will also be able to easily identify mistakes you’re making and help you correct them.

To learn American Sign Language with the help of an expert instructor, check out our selection of online sign language classes today!

How can I practice ASL?

The more you practice ASL, the better you’ll become and the faster you’ll improve. There are countless fun and efficient ways to practice your signing skills. We’ll list 10 of them here!

  • Get involved in your local deaf community and attend a public gathering to immerse yourself in the language and get valuable conversation practice.
  • Schedule weekly coffee dates with someone who is fluent in ASL and tell him or her how your week went. You can use Deaf Chat Coffee if you need help finding a language partner near you.
  • Find a curious friend or relative to teach American Sign Language to. Even teaching the basic skills that you’ve learned so far will help reinforce the concepts in your memory.
  • Take advantage of video text messaging apps such as Glide to conveniently chat with other friends who use ASL.
  • Listen to your favorite songs and challenge yourself to sign the lyrics. You can even slow down the song on YouTube if you have to.
  • Join an ASL discussion group on Facebook, such as ASL That! which has over 50,000 members. Facebook’s video feature makes it easy to dive into deaf culture and be apart of a larger conversation.
  • YouTube can be a great resource for videos that help you memorize the alphabet, numbers, and more in ASL. Simply watching others use ASL makes for good practice too, so try looking up videos of interpreters at work.
  • Websites like ASLPro feature dozens of interactive games and quizzes to test your knowledge of sign language as you progress.
  • Study a sign language dictionary to expand your vocabulary when you’re unsure of how to sign something.
  • Take free sign language classes to meet other students you can practice with. Here at TakeLessons, we offer a variety of online sign language classes to improve your skills.

Are there any American Sign Language apps?

There are some very helpful American Sign Language apps available to supplement your learning. Although these apps are excellent resources for students, we don’t recommend using an app as your sole method of learning ASL.

ASL is best learned with the personal guidance of a teacher and immersion in the language. With that in mind, here are seven of the best apps for practicing your ASL skills!

  • ASL Coach is a free app for iPhones that will help any beginner quickly master the ASL alphabet.
  • Sign Language for Beginners teaches the basics of American Sign Language using images that display numbers, colors, greetings, and more.
  • ASL: Fingerspelling helps you practice fingerspelling to improve the speed and accuracy of your comprehension.
  • 3Strike American Sign Language Fingerspelling is a fun and interactive game that quizzes you on the letters of the alphabet. It’s free and designed for iPhones.
  • ASL Dictionary is the perfect companion when you need to look up a new word in ASL. It features video clips of more than 5,000 different words and phrases.   
  • ASL Translator is an app for iPhones that instantly translates full English sentences into videos displaying the ASL signs. You can translate up to 50 words at a time!
  • Signily allows you to add an ASL keyboard to your iPhone or Android phone. If you forget a letter, you can easily switch back and forth to your normal keyboard.

When was ASL created?

It’s widely believed that ASL was created in 1817 at the American School for the Deaf in Hartford, Connecticut. The school was founded by a Yale graduate named Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet.

How many people speak ASL?

The exact number of ASL users in the United States is unknown, mainly due to the fact that the U.S. Census Bureau counts ASL speakers among English speakers.

However, there are approximately one million deaf people in the United States, and it can be assumed that a majority of them use some form of sign language as their main method of communication.

What is baby sign language?

Baby sign language is a form of signing that helps parents communicate with their young children who haven’t yet developed speaking abilities. With baby sign language, infants and toddlers are able to better express their emotions and desires.

Here are some differences between baby sign language and other types of sign language, like ASL:

  • Both hearing children and their parents use baby sign language, whereas ASL exists primarily for the deaf community
  • Baby sign language is used in conjunction with spoken words
  • Baby sign language uses simplified signs rather than the complex grammar and sentence structure of a language like ASL

When can babies learn sign language?

Most children are able to use simple signs between the ages of 6 and 9 months, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start signing to your baby before then. The earlier you start signing to your baby, the more familiar he or she will get with the signs and it will be easier to learn down the road.  

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