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Best Way to Learn Sign Language

By October 1, 2006

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I am frequently asked what the best way to learn sign language is - video? classes? books? The answer is, the best way to learn and practice sign language is by socialization. That means getting away from the computer or television and going out to actually meet deaf people.

Sign language and interpreting teachers know this. That is why they often refer the students in their classes to local deaf events in their area such as asl or silent dinners. I benefit also - going to local deaf events lets me make friends, meet interesting people, and practice my sign language and conversational skills. The last thing is particularly important for me because I work with hearing people who do not know sign language.

October 6, 2006 at 9:52 pm
(1) Kim says:

That answer did not help. First before you can actually go out and meet deaf people you need to know sign language. What is the best way to “start” learning sign language. I have a daughter who is 6 years old and they teach her sign language in school and I am oblivious as to what she is signing. I need a way to learn to sign so I can communicate with my daughter. Where do you actually go to get material to learn how to sign first?

October 6, 2006 at 10:13 pm
(2) Linnie says:

This is a comment for kim who has the 6 year old daughter. There are books called Signing naturally one two and three(there could be more) but these are the ones that I have actually used. They have the book and the video that you follow with the book. This is a good way to learn. There are videos at the bookstore and computer programs that can teach you simple things. Hope this help!


October 6, 2006 at 10:47 pm
(3) Melodie says:

Response to Kim w/6 year old daughter. There are many, many signing opportunities right here online – where there is a video of a specific word. It would be great for you to learn ‘with’ your daughter by having ere tell you what the sign means – and then look it up online. Try this site: http://commtechlab.msu.edu/sites/aslweb/browser.htm, and have fun learning with your daughter! Good luck!

October 7, 2006 at 12:05 am
(4) Tammy says:

I found from my own experience and those I meet that a start with someone you can comunicate with to a stablish a base and then fellowship with the deaf seems to work the best. Books often are not clear. And if you don’t understand something a video will not answer your question.

October 7, 2006 at 1:13 am
(5) Terry Bonn says:

I’m one of those people that doesn’t fit in either world. I’m totally deaf
on the right side. I have about 30%
hearing on the left. The only people
I know are hearing and it’s such a problem for all of us that I avoid most
gatherings. I would love to meet people
and start learning to sign and lip reading. I’m at a loss where to start.
Where are the resources, clubs, support
groups etc. Any help out there ?

October 7, 2006 at 1:58 am
(6) Lu says:

I wanted to introduce myself first in this matters as I’m a Deaf person myself, I really wanted to share my experiences with this and of course, I learned some different sign languages from these Deaf people in the world and even from my Deaf grandparents, my Deaf parents, my Deaf teachers and I also have my own Deaf children and I raised them all by myself as I’m a Deaf single mother. I learned a lot more by socialization myself with others in both Deaf world and hearing world.
The best answer for “What the best way to learn sign language” is by socialization because sometimes, you can just watch how the way Deaf people communicate in their own sign languages and their body languages at their own events or in their own locations and where they came from, too. Of course, I admitted myself honestly that I sometimes stared on some Deaf people who had their differently sign language and body language which I wanted to learn how to communicate with them myself in their events or in their locations. You will be able to meet some deaf people and be able to understand and to learn how to use these right signs for communication and body language from some Deaf people since some differently Deaf people do have their own levels of education as it is all depends on how a Deaf person can really understand in the hearing world as how they really can cope. Sometimes, it’s pretty difficult to understand since I know ASL = America Sign Language itself does not means that all states in USA have their all same sign language because I learned some new sign languages from those Deaf people in these each states while I traveled and I lived in another state to states.
I really wanted to make “ASL” more clear without any misunderstand to any of the hearing world myself because I felt it’s very important for all of you to be more aware of this more clearly as it’s only slag language and body language that Deaf people are using to communicate for their own understandable.
It’s best to socialization among with these Deaf people in their events or locations which would help you to learn some more how to communicate with some different Deaf people because here again from where Deaf people came from and where the location Deaf people live.
I know the ASL means only that it’s just the slag language and body language that Deaf people are using. I know English Sign Language and America Sign Language are much differently and even Spanish Sign Language. I bet you that some hearing people do have their different ways of speeches as how they communication in their own hearing world from their own levels of education which is such simply be almost about the same as what “ASL” is and how sign language and body language that Deaf people are using the most.
I know most Deaf people are using their own slag “ASL” sign language because they feel more bond and more comfortable the way of how they could communication. For example: I know there’s a hearing “ASL” interpreter who had a Deaf parents who called me to be the Deaf “ASL” secondary interpreter in the court matters since this hearing interpreter who know a lot ASL but still this hearing “ASL” interpreter did not feel any right because whereabouts the Deaf bond inner feelings for the Deaf people to understand more deeply clear while they are in courts because of their overwhelems and fears which effected some Deaf person just nodded without any understandable in this matters. The hearing “ASL” interpreter who took me as the Deaf “ASL” secondary interpreter in the court and helped Deaf people to understand more clear that they need to feel more bond and comfortable with who they can really communicate more understandable than just continually noodle their face with such overlook or fears in them while the ASL interpreter was trying to explain the Deaf person what the judge stated which effected some hearing “ASL” Interpreter thought that the Deaf person understood this hearing “ASL” interpreter during the court issues were processing which was really conflicted or just that some hearing “ASL” interpreters who would not admitted themselves honestly that the Deaf person really understood about what the judge stated for some reasons. I caught several ASL interpreters myself who just thought some Deaf people would really understood while Deaf person was overwhelm or did not really understand as some Deaf person won’t admit honestly if he/she can really understand the hearing “ASL” interpreter that well enough for some major reasons, it’s the major reason best to have a hearing “ASL” interpreter and Deaf “ASL” secondary interpreter both in any court issues as possible. This way would help both the judge or the lawyer and the Deaf person understand much better through hearing “ASL” interpreter and Deaf “ASL” secondary interpreter both.
I would believe in this if the hearing “ASL” interpreter who would socialization in the Deaf world more then this would help all hearing “ASL” interpreters to understand in Deaf people much more how to resolve these problems during the court issues are processing as this would just depends on how individually Deaf person would understand in the court issues due to the level of education.
I hope this would help any of you to understand how very important it is to socialization than isolated to learn how to use any of these sign language from any books or any pictures or from the TV. It’s very important to be particularly in the Deaf world if you really want to learn how to use sign language for any reasons.

October 7, 2006 at 2:13 am
(7) RJ says:

You actually waited until your daughter was 6 years old to think about learning sign language? Why not ask her teachers where and how to learn sign? Or maybe stay at the school for a day or so just to get the hang of it. There are browsers online that teach words in sign. That’s a good start. Some deaf will help you along by finger spelling a word you don’t know in sign. One way to ask is to learn to sign “Can you spell the word?” or “Word, spell please?” to a deaf person. Always carry a notebook and pen. You could try to meet lots of deaf people to get an idea of the world that your daughter will likely be a part of. You have a really good reason to become fluent in sign.

October 7, 2006 at 3:03 am
(8) PG says:

Immerse yourself into Deaf Culture. You can check out most states that have Commissions on Deaf and Hard of Hearing websites that give a calendar of Deaf events you can attend. A good start would be to read, “Inside Deaf Culture,” by Carol Padden and Tom Humphries. Order a catalog from http://www.dawnsign.com They have anything and everything imaginable about Deaf Studies. Children’s books & videos, Students and even Teacher’s have reference materials there. And also, most Community Colleges offer Sign Language courses from the basic 101 classes to Interpreting Preparation Programs or in some states, ITP’s-Interpreter Training Programs. But no matter what you learn in class, you have to go out and not be afraid to sign. My husband is loosing his hearing. And, he denied his hearing loss for along time. Now he is finding out by starting off with baby signs, that he can communicate. The Deaf Community has accepted him with open arms and if he ever needs help with signing or needs to have someone fingerspell something over again, people are more than helpful in accomodating him. And when you go out and meet Deaf people you pick up more signs and learn more.

October 7, 2006 at 10:56 am
(9) Tania in SC says:

Kim,I’m curious when it was discovered your 6 year old daughter was hearing impaired. My 5 year old daughter was diagnosed immediately after birth. Where we live, children under the age of 3 years get free assistance so we actually had someone come into our home that taught us sign language. Despite my daughter having a moderate hearing loss, I wanted to make sure it was her decision how she wanted to communicate, she does lip read, she does sign but her preferred communication is speech. Her speech at times is difficult to understand which is where the signing comes in to play. As a parent you should utilize all resources to not only help your daughter but yourself as well. Go to the library, search the web(there are thousands of sites that can help you) find other parents in your area that have children around the same age that have hearing impaired children seeking the same (I did this too and it really helped a lot!), your daughters school can offer you information, get video tapes do what ever means necessary. I can only imagine what the two of you are missing together. I hope this is helpful and I certain wish you both the best!

October 7, 2006 at 10:56 am
(10) Lena says:

There are many ideas listed here, some good, and some bad. As a hearing person currently enrolled in an ITP at the local college, I disagree with the idea of starting trying to learn out of Signing Naturally book. They are wonderful books, when you have someone to explain them to you. If you are not assisted by someone familiar with ASL you will not get it. I do not reccomend people learning from a book, at least not until you are very familiar with the language and how to read the book. There are free classes given in most cities to learn sign language. Ther eare churches have people who teach sign language. There are colleges teaching sign language. You should find a Deaf Club or silent dinner somewhere and go regularly, WITH your daughter. You will find someone there that will be able to help you. Take a notebook and if you don’t understand write it down. Many Deaf people are thrilled that people want to learn their language. You have waited long enough, get on board the fast train to communication with you daughter, before it is too late. You need to find a Deaf Mentor to help you make choices for your daughter. Don’t depend on the “Professionals.” Listen to both sides of the story and then make the decission for your daughter. Good luck and may God bless you and help you make the right choice.

October 7, 2006 at 5:55 pm
(11) Jamie says:

Here are a few resourses to find out more about Deaf related things. http://www.alldeaf.com

October 9, 2006 at 10:13 pm
(12) Chris in NY says:

If she is 6yrs old, now is a great time! But don’t drag your feet, her language is about to take off, so jump on board. Yes, see if the teachers have any ideas, ask them and your school district if they have any services you can make use of (my niece is deaf and my sister got free lessons-as many as she wants from the school/state program). Do some research; community colleges, park and recs, churches, regional education organizations(in NY it’s called BOCES, in CA I think it is ROC) all of these types of groups start ASL classes. Start with an in-person class, but after you get some basic vocabulary – get out and meet the Deaf community. As soon as you feel comfortable having your daughter with you there, take her too. SHE needs to see adults communicating in sign too! There are also lots of videos that involve sign you can watch WITH your daughter (Blues Clues, Signingtime,… ) you will both learn and have a great time together. Look in your library system for books and videos. The library might be a good place to ask about sign classes or anyone that you might beable to practice with. Good luck!

October 10, 2006 at 1:38 am
(13) Alana Hearie says:

You’re on the right track now! You WANT to do all you can not only FOR your child, but WITH her too! Books are a great reminder of how to make a sign, but nothing beats seeing it in person! If you’re nervous, that’s okay! There are so many kind and supportive Deaf who can help you! For yourself, learn the alphabet first and then a few sentences (“My name….”). You can learn some through DVDs from the library (SigningTime Videos can also be found @ http://www.signingtime.com). Check out http://www.lifeprint.com and maybe also http://www.aslpah.com to learn more ASL signs and some culture. Look into http://www.DeafChatCoffee.com or find a local Deaf Club in your area (phone book) to introduce yourself to other Deaf. You will find a great group of people to help you support your child and maybe gain some insight into how she might feel at times in her life. Because you care, you will learn. If you take time to socialize with your daughter and other Deaf, you will strengthen your relationship so well. Good Luck!

October 16, 2006 at 6:32 am
(14) Cydrina says:

A reply to Kim who sent the first post. Your local community college should offer basic ASL courses and from there, you can start socializing with the Deaf community.

The Deaf community in my area meets every Friday evening at the mall Food Court for chat and it is a wonderful way to keep up your signing. Most of them will correct you when you make a mistake and I find visualization the best way to remember. If I see a sign in a book, I am not likely to remember as well as if someone signs it to me, specially when it was a mistake I made. I seem to remember better.

I strongly encourage you to take your Level 1 in ASL and go out there to meet with the Deaf community, because even with just the basic, they will be so glad to see you took the time to learn. And remember, when you don’t know a sign, you can always fingerspell it, and they, in turn, will sign it to you!

here’s a site to help you practive your fingerspelling.


Best of luck!


July 18, 2010 at 7:25 pm
(15) Lovel says:

i actually taught myself asl when i was around 10 and now at 22 i am deaf go figure but honestly you dont really have to know sign language to meet and be friend someone in the deaf community just go to the events you will find someone who will be willing to teach you…remember most basic gestures are actually sign language so you should do just fine

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