How to Learn Sign Language Online
Learning sign language is very different from learning any other language—you’re activating not only the language centers of your brain, but also muscle memory. While it is completely possible to learn from a book, the interactivity of videos and online classes make it much easier to ensure you’ve got your signs right. Here are a few ways to learn American Sign Language online.
Websites & Tutorials
Start ASL is a great website dedicated to the dissemination of American Sign Language (ASL) and other aspects of deaf culture. At start-american-sign-language.com, you can begin ASL classes for free! Free classes start with fingerspelling and basic signs, move on to sentence structure and other grammatical aspects, and then move on to communication and storytelling. Each class comes with instructional videos and practice activities in an accompanying workbook. If the free classes aren’t sufficient to quench your need to learn ASL, premium classes are available for a fee.
Handspeak.com is another great website. They offer a range of tutorials instructing you in grammar, sentence structure, and fingerspelling. Additionally, handspeak.com provides videos of hundreds of common words and a dictionary. Alternatively, they have a set of classes to work through at your own pace. Note: Some sign language websites focus strictly on ASL, but others provide alternative spoken language signs if English is not your chosen language.
Several youtube users have uploaded videos offering tutorials in ASL. These videos vary from fingerspelling to quick-learn options. “Learn ASL in 31 Days” focuses on gaining a quick understanding of basic signs. “Sign Language 101” focuses on categories of vocabulary as well as understanding body language and grammar. The best option might be to combine multiple video courses. In any case, it is important to choose one that explains the sentence structure and other important linguistic aspects of ASL—ASL has its own grammatical rules separate from the spoken English language.
Many colleges and programs offer ASL classes for their students, but some offer online courses. These can be pricey, but you are buying a full understanding of the language rather than just picking up a few words here and there. A few words may be efficient for getting through the occasional situation or to teach your baby how to communicate before they can vocally speak. But if your goal is to be able to completely conversate in ASL, to prepare yourself for interpreting, or otherwise focus your future towards sign language, these programs are going to work better than other options.
Lifeprint.com is “an online American Sign Language curriculum resource center.” This website is run by Dr. Bill Vicars, who has been teaching ASL for 15 years. It not only teaches the vocabulary and grammar necessary to use ASL, but it provides information about deaf culture as well. There are free classes, “as well as fee-based instructor-guided courses.” You can receive testing and certification through this website as well. However, it is important to note this is not an accredited institution (nor do they intend to become one).