Sign language is the primary medium of communication for speech-impaired and hard of hearing individuals, however, the use of sign language is more common than you would imagine.
All sign languages worldwide utilize the visual-manual modality to get the message across and are naturally developing with their own grammar and lexicon.
Types of Sign Language
Contrary to popular belief there is no universal sign language and it differs greatly by regions and countries. In the US and Canada alone, around 500,000 people use American Sign Language (ASL) as their natural language and primary mode of communication. In Britain and Scotland, British Sign Language (BSL) is used, while AUSLAN is used in Australia. Other popular sign languages are Irish Sign Language (ISL), Japanese Sign Language (JSL), Chinese Sign Language (CSL) and Spanish Sign Language (SSL).
Is Sign Language Easy to Learn?
Like everything else in today’s world, learning sign language has also become more accessible. There are all kinds of resources at our disposal now that you don’t even need to walk up to a classroom anymore. On a difficulty level, sign language is a relatively easy language to learn (with consistent practice). Learning sign language will open a world of communication methods for you and help you connect with more people worldwide.
Here are some of the most effective ways on how to learn sign language;
1. Go to ASL and Deaf Community Meetups
ASL and Deaf community meetups and events are an amazing place to meet new people and practice the language. It provides the much-needed environment as well as the social support required. It opens the doors for sign language practitioners that would otherwise not be possible through instructional material alone.
2. Take an Online Course
If you’re a busy individual and would like to learn sign language at your own pace, in small breaks, and around your regular routine, then online courses are the way to go. The best part about taking a self-study online course is you can do it at your own time. You can be sitting in a station waiting for the train, just plug in the earphones and start your lesson. Our American Sign Language (ASL) course is comprehensive and created by experienced and qualified instructors. It is interactive, easy to follow and available for levels beginner to advanced. Once you purchase the course, you get lifetime access – so you can always refer back to what you learned.
Another reason to take an online course is that not only do you get a structured, step by step approach of learning but also that you can replay and revise your lessons as many times as you like. You don’t get to do that in a classroom setting, do you?
3. Watching YouTube Video Tutorials
Learning online is the most convenient resort because YouTube is with you as long as your phone is with you. There are plenty of channels on YouTube that teach sign language. The best part is they are free to watch! The downside is that its unstructured learning and it’s easy to get lost and distracted on YouTube. We would instead recommend using this channel as a complementary tool.
4. Mimic Interpreters
Languages can always be acquired and Ameican Sign Language is no exception. You can acquire it by watching and mimicking interpreters. You can watch videos, including live events, of interpreters using sign language. There are some online TV shows that utilize sign language, which could be of great help too.
5. Use A Mobile Application
You probably already have tons of apps on your phone. Each of it makes your life handy in some way, doesn’t it? There are a few apps available on your phone’s store to learn sign language.
These apps accommodate learners of different levels. They include learning how to read the alphabet as well. Also, these apps would teach you character-based language systems. Apps are available that can even let you search for a particular word that you need in sign language at the moment you need it. Some more advanced apps can also gamify the experience to enhance learning.
6. Read Online Books
If you’re good at self-learning, online books might be a good resource too. There are books and gifs that can help you with illustrations of different signs, etc. However, it can be much harder for most to learn through books compared to online courses and videos. This is largely due to the fact that the movements for the signs won’t be too obvious to see.
A Few Tips to Refine Your Communication
Once you decide the platform for your sign language learning, here are a few tips to further refine your communication.
Facial expressions are very important in sign language. They essentially help in determining the tone of the conversation since it cannot be discerned by voice. Hence, for effective communication in sign language, be as expressive as you can be and consistently work on your expressions.
Practice, Practice, Practice
No matter how you choose to learn sign language, practice is mandatory. If you only learn ASL at home and don’t have any real-life exchanges with actual people you won’t be able to level up and progress. Without regular practice, you’ll quickly get rusty. And if you aim to use sign language professionally, then interaction with other people is vital for proficiency.
With so many resources at your disposal, the only thing to keep you from learning American Sign Language (ASL) is your inner motivation. Choose the method that suits you best, learn and practice with dedication and soon you’ll be communicating using ASL in no time.