When you ask people what languages they want to learn, you can expect to hear the more popular options: French, Spanish, Korean, Japanese, and maybe Mandarin Chinese. People usually study languages as a hobby or as preparation for traveling to a different country. But learning one language may help you better communicate with people you already know, in the workplace, in your social circles, or even at home. And that’s sign language.
If you know somebody who is deaf or is hard of hearing, then you understand how frustrating it is when you want to connect and communicate with them but are unable to because you don’t know any of the expressions in sign language.
But thanks to the internet, learning sign language is easier than ever, at no extra cost. Check out these 6 free resources that you can use to teach yourself sign language online today.
Table of Contents
- ASL University
- The ASL App
- Tips when learning sign language online
ASL University is a fantastic starting point when learning American Sign Language (ASL), the most widely used sign language around the world. ASL University has 60 lessons divided across four free courses, as well as handy resources like a dictionary, workbooks, and other learning tools.
The sign language courses are specially programmed and arranged not by topic, but by frequency of use. The first few lessons are designed to teach you the essentials and most frequently used signs in daily conversation. And the signs get more advanced or specific as you move along the course.
Another great resource for free sign language courses is SignSchool. SignSchool aims to cater to ASL learners of all stages, so the courses can be adjusted to Beginner, Intermediate, or Advanced, depending on what suits the learner best. Each lesson includes a video guide, example usage, and interactive exercises.
SignSchool also has its own app available on both iOS and Android, so you can bring your ASL learning wherever you go.
If you are fully committed to an extensive ASL education, you may consider signing up for StartASL, a more premium platform with a complete ASL curriculum. While it offers paid and credited courses, StartASL also provides several free courses that are enough to give you a beginner-level understanding of sign language. The lessons come with free workbooks and study sheets to supplement your learning throughout the short course.
The paid online ASL course at StartASL gives you access to three years worth of ASL lessons, which can be used as foreign language credit. You also get live support and feedback from professional ASL instructors.
The SignASL website hosts the American Sign Language Dictionary, which is the largest collection of video signs online. More advanced words like “supernatural” or “vice president” are usually not taught in beginner-level courses, but you can easily search for their respective signs using ASL Sign Dictionary. This dictionary is a handy resource to have while going through your ASL lessons.
ASLMeredith is a YouTube channel dedicated to complementing your online courses with helpful videos on ASL grammar and vocabulary, as well as culture and history. ASLMeredith has over 100 videos made for learning commonly used words in topics like emotions, expressions, and numbers. The channel also has short-form videos made for more specific but highly requested topics, such as holidays and relationships.
Aside from sign language tutorial videos, ASLMeredith also shares tips and pointers to help students practice and improve their ASL.
The ASL App
For ASL on the go, The ASL App is a helpful tool to have in your pocket so you can continue learning conversational ASL no matter where you are. With over 1,800 videos ranging from simple phrases to niche words, The ASL App is a great way to review the signs you already know, as well as learn new signs throughout the day.
Several video bundles are free and readily available to use, but The ASL App also offers paid bundles for more specific topics like celebrations and pop culture. You also have the option to purchase the entire collection, which gives you access to all of The ASL App’s current bundles and future releases.
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Tips when learning sign language online
Master the basics
It can be tempting to get ahead and want to learn all the signs for a topic you’re passionate about, like food or technology. But before you study these more specific words, it’s important that you first be familiar with the signs most frequently used in daily life.
By focusing on the most common signs, you can initiate a beginner conversation with somebody much earlier. In fact, learning just 250 of the most common signs is already enough to understand at least half of the meaning in a daily conversation.
Check out the dialectical sign language variations in your region
While American Sign Language (ASL) is the most widely used sign language worldwide and shares several similarities with other sign languages, it’s still recommended to study the dialectical variation of sign language in your region. Doing so teaches you words that are differently signed by the local deaf communities, as well as culture-specific words that ASL may not have a corresponding sign for.
Find someone to practice sign language with
Like with all languages, the best way to learn sign language is through immersion and conversation. If you’re studying sign language in order to talk with a deaf friend or relative, they will often be more than happy to teach and guide you with your signing.
There may be a deaf community or sign language interest group in your area that you can participate in for a more immersive experience. Even just one fellow sign language learner as a practice buddy is enough to drastically improve your sign language skills.
Don’t forget about your facial expressions
Sign language is a visual language, and facial expressions are a vital part of conveying your desired meaning. Just like how little inflections in our voice can change the whole meaning of a sentence, so do our subtle facial expressions, which give a lot of nuance and character to our signing. Don’t be afraid to be expressive when signing; in fact, it is desired.
Learning sign language online can be fun, easy, and most importantly, free. Take your first step into the beautiful world of sign language with these free resources today.