American Sign Language is considered a natural and true language. A person who is able to speak ASL in addition to another natural true language such as English, Spanish, French, etc. is considered to be bilingual, just like any other person who speaks two languages. ASL classes are relatively easy to find. They are taught at many schools and universities across the country. Classes are also frequently found at community centers, churches and in some workplaces.
For people not able to attend sign language courses, there are many tools available to help them learn ASL on their own. Books and DVDs are great initial resources for anyone interested in learning sign language. Books that teach about ASL contain step-by-step photographs or illustrations detailing how to complete each sign. There are reference dictionaries with a multitude of hand signs, books written to help beginners learn to sign for the first time, as well as more advanced books for teachers and interpreters who are familiar with signing but want to stay abreast of the most current teaching methods. Signing Illustrated, by Mickey Flodin, is a popular book of beginning sign language. Unlike a dictionary of hand signs, this book is formatted by subject, not alphabetically. The idea is that it is simpler to learn new signs by category rather than learning them in alphabetical order. The index at the back of the book can be used to guide the reader to specific words as necessary.
Children often learn sign language more easily than adults. There are many books written specifically for children. These books typically contain finger signs for the alphabet and hand signs for everyday objects that are easily recognizable by the young reader. In addition to the many books directed towards children, there is an entire market of DVDs designed to help kids learn to sign in fun, interactive ways. A series titled, Signing Time, consists of thirty-minute DVD programs focused on a central theme. Children learn to sign while watching an engaging program on television.
Technological advances have thrust ASL learning opportunities into the Internet spotlight. Online websites offer free video dictionaries with models demonstrating each sign. Many sites offer teaching resources such as downloadable guides and worksheets and the ability to create personalized quizzes for students, all of which can be printed for use in the classroom. Some websites offer complete printable workbooks, lessons plans, and practice cards. as well as downloadable PowerPoint presentations. There are online communities with the goal of helping people studying ASL to find mentors to guide them. These sites have forums where people can discuss ASL learning methods, post information about local classes being offered, and look for support.
Each of the resources mentioned above can be easily obtained and utilized to help you learn to communicate using ASL. A superb supplement to these resources is a set of flash cards. Homemade or store bought, flash cards are one more useful tool to further your ASL skills. Flash cards can be used to help people of all ages become more familiar with hand signs. Cards typically have a photo of a person demonstrating an ASL sign on one side and the meaning and description of the hand and arm motions on the reverse side. Practicing with flash cards is an excellent method to help commit signs to memory.
For the tools you need to learn ASL, browse through our online sign language resources, and begin or continue your journey through the wonderful world of ASL.