Best Online Sign Language Courses
Learning sign language can introduce a hearing person to a whole new community—and it can change the life of someone who is deaf or hard of hearing. Unfortunately, not every community in the United States has the local resources to educate their population in American Sign Language (ASL). However, the age of technology gives everyone the opportunity to learn. Here’s a look at some great online courses for learning ASL.
Free Online Sign Language Courses
Sign Language 101 is a website and youtube channel run by Dr. Byron W. Bridges, who grew up in a deaf family. It is a series of videos providing key concepts, vocabulary, and body language of ASL. Access to the website and videos is absolutely free, but they offer donation opportunities.
HandSpeak is another great free option. In addition to their ASL dictionary, HandSpeak provides tutorials and courses to work through on your own time, fingerspelling activities, and translation. It also provides a place for donations and is a “labor of love and passion” by a group of primarily ASL speakers.
Free With Optional Paid Online Sign Language Courses
The deaf community is a very vibrant, tight knit group of folks who are more than happy to welcome others into their “club.” With that in mind, many resources for the deaf offer online beginning courses for anyone who wants to learn sign language.
Start ASL offers a variety of different types of courses, depending upon what your goal is. This site offers free classes, along with premium paid classes. Their free courses come with a workbook and activity videos to help you learn by completing exercises along the way. The site also offers a dictionary and courses geared towards everything from learning ASL through a homeschool program to easy signs for infants. There is a variety of resources on the site for learning more about the deaf culture and history or how to become more involved.
Life Print is a website run by Dr. Bill Vicars, who holds a doctorate in deaf studies and deaf education, through ASL University. The website is intended to be an ASL resource center. The classes are free and were started as a way for the hard of hearing without access to ASL resources to learn to communicate. While ASLU is not accredited and the courses are free, you can pay for testing and certification through their organization. Additionally, they will help you get what you need to get credit for a second language and learning ASL for a school you currently attend.
Paid Online Sign Language Courses
Gallaudet is one of the leading deaf colleges in the country. They offer online courses to the public to learn ASL. While this can get pricey, they have an option for testing your level of advancement in ASL to place you in the appropriate class—this means you can take a few lessons for free online to get a basic understanding and then join in with Gallaudet professors to take your signing to a whole new level.
DeafEd.org also offers paid classes. The biggest advantageous differences, they claim, in their online courses and the free ones offered all over the place are: 1. You get one on one time with ASL experts, and 2. You receive feedback regarding your performance. These might not seem like big things, but they really are. If you are practicing in your bedroom in the dark, you can completely miss out on a lot of important nuances of the language—for example, the way a furrowed brow can change the meaning of a word, turning “here” to “where” by indicating a question.
SigningOnline is another website designed for those who have no access to ASL resources. The courses can be used as continued education credits or (through special arrangement) as high school credits. You can choose the level of ASL you feel comfortable with, and the site offers a sample course to ensure signing up online is for you.