If you or someone you know is deaf or hard of hearing, you understand how hard it can be trying to have a conversation. Straining to hear is frustrating to say the last, and lip reading can be a difficult task that takes years to master. Luckily, there is a solution – sign language!
Sign language is a non-verbal method of communication, which uses sequences of hand gestures to convey messages from person to person. It is just as much of a language as English, French, Italian, or any other language, and even has its own slang words, dictionary, and dialectal (regional) variations.
If you’re looking to learn sign language at home, you’re in luck! We’re here to tell you about some of the best places to learn sign language online. Before we get into that, let’s cover some of the more traditional methods of sign language learning, so you can get an idea of how it would normally be taught.
Traditional ways to learn sign language
Books – You can find books on pretty much anything, and sign language is no exception. There are books with diagrams and pictures of various sign language gestures and their meanings, but these can be hard to fully grasp or understand when you can’t see them truly in action.
Tutors – Some people offer sign language tutoring to those who want to learn, or for children who need to learn sign language but have no other resources to do so in their everyday life. These kinds of services can be costly, though.
School teachers – If a child is lucky enough to attend a school with a teacher who is knowledgeable and proficient in sign language, they may be able to acquire some sign language vocabulary at school.
Parents – Parents who are hard of hearing or have children with hearing or speech impairments may be able to teach their children how sign language works. This can be useful knowledge, even for a child who does not have any hearing issues, as there is a good chance that one day they could come in contact with someone who does.
Okay, so how can I learn sign language for myself at home? We’ll tell you about our favourite websites and apps for learning sign language, to make it as easy as possible for you.
Best sites and apps for learning sign language
SignLaguage101.com is the first sign language teaching website we would recommend. Dr. Byron Bridges teaches sign languages with awesome video tutorials. You can learn everything from the ASL alphabet, to everyday words and phrases, to signs about sports and games – and more. The site is completely free to use, but they do accept donations if you’d like to contribute.
Second is StartASL.com. This site also offers courses to learn sign language free online. There are over 40 free lessons available, as well as workbooks to track your learning. They make it easy to learn the basics of sign language communication at home. If you want to advance your learning even further, they also offer advanced classes at three different levels if you’re willing to pay for them. The Bronze course is $9.95 per month, Silver for $19.95 per month, or Gold for $49.95 per month.
3. Marlee Signs
Next up we have Marlee Signs, which is a great app to learn American sign language for free. This app allows you to learn sign language and finger spelling from deaf actress Marlee Matlin. The app is free to download and use, but also offers additional lessons for $1.99 each. Download the app for free for your iOS device (iPhone/iPad). Unfortunately the app is not currently available for Android devices.
Another awesome website to learn ASL is LessonTutor.com. On their website, you can find awesome educational tools like lesson plans, worksheets, and more. They offer lessons on a variety of subjects, including an ASL series. They have over 30 free sign language lessons, as well as articles on body language and sign language culture. You can even find simple sign language tools to use for children and babies.
5. Expert Village
Expert Village is a YouTube channel with tons of helpful tutorial videos on everything from photography to naturopathic medicine. They also have playlists of sign language lesson videos available on their channel to learn for free. Learn the basics, common phrases, and more to help you express yourself with sign language.
Another resource to learn sign language is ASLPro.com. The website is pretty basic looking, but it does have lots of great information, sign language dictionaries, quizzes, and educational games. They also have sections on ASL for babies, religious signs, and singing. The site is free to use, but accepts donations from users who want to help financially support their site and services.
LifePrint.com is the host of the ASLU (American Sign Language University) and offers tons of lessons on sign language fingerspelling, words, and phrases. You can use the website to learn sign language for free, or check out their paid courses if you want more advanced learning with a structured course – with attendance and a set schedule.
Next we have SchoolOfSignLanguage.com. This site teaches BSL (British Sign Language) so it’s a little different than the other websites and apps we have mentioned so far. On their website, you can find videos explaining how the BSL alphabet works, how to communicate with someone who is deaf, as well as signs for specific words and phrases.
9. The ASL App
The ASL App is a mobile app for iOS that allows you to learn over 1000 gestures for words and phrases for free. There are several different signers that to demonstration videos on the app, so you can learn from multiple teachers. The app makes it easy to learn sign language and communicate with someone who is hard of hearing. Download the app for free on your iOS device!
Those are the best nine websites and apps to learn sign language. Hopefully they help you on your journey to learning ASL, but if you’re brand new to sign language and need some tips, check out our list of the four things you need to know when learning sign language yourself.
4 things to know about learning sign language
1. Different regions have their own unique sign variations.
One of the most widely-used variations of sign language is ASL (American Sign Language), but there are others, such as Australian, British, and New Zealand, as well as over 20 sign languages in Africa. Look into your own area and figure out which variation is used where you live, or where you think you would most likely be communicating with others.
2. There are slang signs in ASL the same way spoken languages have slang words.
The same as how spoken languages have slang words, sign languages have their own slang. ASL even has signs for words like “emoji” and “selfie.” Some people consider these signs to not be “proper” signs, just as how some people would argue that slang words aren’t proper language. If you’re using sign language to have a casual conversation, you may want to try adding a few slang signs to your sign language vocabulary as well.
3. Sign language is acquired and learned the same way as other new languages are learned.
Some people may think that learning sign language will either be easier or harder than learning a spoken language. However, sign language is learned just the same way as any other language, regardless of the fact that it uses hand gestures rather than spoken word.
4. Finding someone to practice with can really help with your success.
Though it’s possible to learn sign language on your own by using one of the websites or apps we’ve recommended, it’s a good idea to find someone else who knows sign language to practice with them and test your learning.
Hopefully we’ve helped provide you with the resources and tops you need for learning sign language. We hope these websites and apps help you in your journey to learning sign language. Check out the rest of our website to find courses and helpful articles on other great things you can learn yourself.