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FAQs: How to Learn Sign Language

Is it hard to learn American Sign Language?

American Sign Language (ASL) is a visual language made up of hand and body movements, that is quickly growing in popularity among English speakers. There are many benefits when you learn sign language online, and becoming a part of the diverse Deaf culture is one of them! As with mastering any new language, the level of difficulty experienced by the student will largely depend on that student’s learning style and type of sign language lessons. But for a motivated and committed student, learning sign language isn’t any more difficult than learning a spoken language. Keep in mind that intermediate to advanced ASL classes will have more challenges than basic, beginner classes. Some challenges faced by intermediate students are the grammar and sentence structure of ASL.

How long does it take to learn sign language?

It can take anywhere from three months to three years to learn ASL - it all depends on your end goal. If your goal is to become fluent, you can expect to be taking American Sign Language classes for several years. If you just want to pick up some basic signs, it should only take a few months with online sign language classes. It’s important to remember that individual students have different learning rates, so don’t be discouraged if you find that it’s taking longer.

Who are ASL classes for?

ASL is the main method of communication for the Deaf and hard-of-hearing, so many people choose to learn sign language because they have Deaf or hard-of-hearing friends and family. If you’re interested in becoming an interpreter, our online classes are a great place to start your training. Sign language is also becoming more popular among parents of infants and toddlers who are still developing the ability to speak. Additionally, certain professions from police officers to scuba divers use sign language as a discreet communication tool.

What’s the best way to learn sign language?

Although there are many apps and YouTube videos available that can help you learn ASL, it’s best to have an experienced and qualified instructor who can provide direction and feedback. A teacher will be able to work with your unique learning style, ensuring that you’re studying sign language in the right ways to advance quicker. He or she will also be able to easily identify mistakes you’re making and help you correct them. To learn with the guidance of an expert instructor, check out our selection of live group sign language lessons today.

Where can I take ASL classes?

There are a few different options for where to take American Sign Language classes. Many people choose to take classes at a community college, however this is a more expensive route. Others visit local organizations or clubs that offer more budget-friendly classes. Another option is to take online sign language classes, such as the ones we offer at TakeLessons Live. Our online classes are convenient and affordable, with the added bonus of learning in a group where you can quickly advance your conversation skills. Lastly, students looking for a challenge can choose to immerse themselves in their local Deaf community. This might not be the fastest method but it’s an exciting option if you’re outgoing and eager to learn sign language!

How much does it cost to learn sign language?

Here at TakeLessons, you can take online ASL classes for free with our basic membership, or you can pay a little extra for a premium membership. If you prefer having a one-on-one experience with a tutor, private ASL lessons range from $15 to $35 per half hour. The cost of learning ASL all depends on your method of learning. For example, an ASL course at a community college typically costs around $300.

Is sign language universal?

No, there isn’t one form of sign language that is understood around the world. There are actually about 300 different versions in use today. Although different regions have their own versions of sign language, in our online classes you will learn the ASL in use in the United States.

How many people speak ASL?

The exact number of ASL users in the United States is unknown, mainly due to the fact that the U.S. Census Bureau counts ASL speakers among English speakers. However, there are approximately one million Deaf people in the United States, and it can be assumed that a majority use some form of sign language as their main method of communication.

When was ASL created?

It’s widely believed that ASL was created in 1817 at the American School for the Deaf in Hartford, Connecticut. The school was founded by a Yale graduate named Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet.

What is baby sign language?

Baby sign language is a form of signing that helps parents communicate with their young children who haven’t yet developed speaking abilities. With baby sign language, infants and toddlers are able to better express their emotions and desires. Most children are able to use simple signs between the ages of six and nine months, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start signing to your baby before then. The earlier you start signing to your baby, the more familiar he or she will get with the signs and it will be easier to learn down the road. There are some key differences between baby sign language and other types of sign language, like ASL. First, both hearing children and their parents use baby sign language, whereas ASL exists primarily for the Deaf community. Baby sign language is used in conjunction with spoken words. Additionally, baby sign language uses simplified signs rather than the complex grammar and sentence structure of ASL

More American Sign Language Resources

The Benefits of Learning ASL

There are dozens of benefits of learning ASL, from professional to social. Here are just a few of the reasons why it’s a great idea to learn sign language online.

Professional benefits
  • Knowing a second language is an added bonus on any resume and will further qualify you for customer service roles.
  • Take advantage of the exciting career opportunities that are available for those fluent in sign language, such as concert interpreters and speech pathologists.
Physical and mental benefits
  • Increase your brain power! Learning any language, including ASL, has been found to enhance cognitive processes such as problem solving and memorization.
  • Using signs helps young children develop fine motor skills and muscle memory more quickly.
Social benefits
  • Gain a better understanding of the rich and diverse Deaf culture, which includes art, music, and poetry.
  • Open the door to countless opportunities for new friendships within the Deaf community. If you like making friends and crossing cultural barriers, American Sign Language classes are an excellent choice!
  • Speaking sign language makes many recreational activities much more fun. You can use sign language while on a nature walk to avoid disturbing the wildlife, or while camping to have long distance conversations using binoculars.

Tips for Practicing ASL

The more you practice ASL, the better you’ll become and the faster you’ll improve. There are countless fun and effective ways to practice your signing skills. Here are 10 ideas to increase the learning impact of your online sign language classes.

  • Get involved in your local Deaf community or attend a public gathering to immerse yourself in the language and get valuable conversation practice.
  • Schedule weekly coffee dates with someone who is fluent in ASL and tell them how your week went. You can use Deaf Chat Coffee if you need help finding a language partner near you.
  • Find a curious friend or relative to teach American Sign Language to. Even teaching the basic skills you’ve learned so far will help reinforce the concepts in your memory.
  • Take advantage of video text messaging apps such as Glide to conveniently chat with other friends who use ASL.
  • Listen to your favorite songs and challenge yourself to sign the lyrics. You can even slow down the song on YouTube if you’d like.
  • Join an ASL discussion group on Facebook, such as ASL That! which has over 50,000 members. Facebook’s video feature makes it easy to dive into Deaf culture and be a part of the conversation.
  • YouTube has several American Sign Language lessons online, and these video resources help you memorize the alphabet, numbers, and more. Check out the playlist linked above for starters. Also, watching others use ASL makes for good practice, so try looking up videos of interpreters at work!
  • Websites like ASLPro feature dozens of interactive games and quizzes to test your knowledge of sign language as you progress.
  • Study a sign language dictionary to expand your vocabulary when you’re unsure of how to sign something. ASL Dictionary is the perfect companion with video clips of more than 5,000 words and phrases.
  • Add an ASL keyboard like Signily to your iPhone or Android for even more practice. If you forget a letter, you can easily switch back and forth to your normal keyboard.