How to learn sign language online for free

So you want Learn sign language on a budget. They may be motivated by a desire to better understand deaf friends, to communicate with relatives who are hard of hearing, or to express themselves after hearing loss. No matter what sparks your interest in American Sign Language (ASL), attending face-to-face classes is the fastest, most reliable way to master the language.

But many people just don’t have the time or financial means to take sign language classes. Although studying ASL online cannot replicate the nuanced experience of face-to-face communication, curious students who are willing to put in the time don’t have to pay money for introductory classes. All of the learning options on our list are either completely free or offer a generous amount of content in front of their paywalls.

Gallaudet University’s free online program ASL for Free is not included due to temporary unavailability due to curriculum reorganization – ASL for Free may be added in a future update. For more information on ASL and deaf culture and history visit the resourceful website of the Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center in Gallaudet.

ASL University

When inquiring about free sign language resources, Bill Vicars’ ASL University is often recommended. It stood out from several websites as the most comprehensive and organized option. With 60 lessons available, ASL University covers commonly used topics such as food, clothing and emotions. Each lesson is accompanied by a 40 minute video showing a two person conversation using the vocabulary. If you click on the linked vocabulary, a short video demonstrating the sign language will appear.

According to his website, Vicars is deaf and taught ASL at California State University in Sacramento for years. While not a real school, ASL University is a phenomenal site with informative, engaging lessons that are ideal for beginners looking for a reliable starting point.

StartASL

Not all of the content on StartASL is free, but you can access a significant amount of helpful information without paying a dime. The free lessons focus on practicing conversations and understanding the structure of ASL, but don’t go particularly deep. You must sign up with an email address to receive the three lesson workbooks.

The workbooks are great for learners who have access to a printer and want to practice ASL by writing down information. As the name suggests, this option is not for advanced learners. If ASL University is too detailed for your liking, StartASL may feel less overwhelming and further arouse your interest in sign language.

The ASL app

Many sign language resources are designed to be used on a desktop or laptop computer. If you want the flexibility to learn sign language on your smartphone, the ASL app (for iPhone and Android) is worth trying. While not as interactive as other options, the ASL app is easy to use and accessible to younger learners.

Numbers, ABC and some other basic lessons are free. Bundles covering specific themes can be unlocked for $1 each, or you can buy everything for $10. Famed model and activist Nyle DiMarco is one of the sign language protesters. The free content is decent, and the expansion packs include topics not often covered in other resources, like the great outdoors and LGBT Pride Month.

sign school

Depending on how much ASL you already know, the level of difficulty of the signing school can be adjusted between beginner, intermediate and advanced. Lessons include watching a person sign and taking quizzes on what they communicated. This resource offers more than traditional lessons, with tools to learn your name and a game to practice fingerwriting.

Some of the webpages didn’t load properly when tested, but overall SignSchool is a good platform to complement your language learning. The site asks for your email address to create an account, but it’s free to use. You can choose to have a token of the day sent to your email inbox for extra practice. iPhone and Android apps are available so you can take lessons on the go.

tick tock

Following social media accounts that post content in sign language can be a fantastic way to experience ASL in a casual setting, but the last two recommendations on our list come with a disclaimer. While amateur videos are often made with good intentions, you should verify what you learn with outside sources for accuracy.

Searching TikTok using keywords or hashtags is a solid way to discover new accounts that match your interests. #LearnASL, #LearnToSign, and #SignLanguage all have millions of views and are good starting points. To differentiate their content, creators often compile instructional videos into a playlist that appears at the top of their profile page.

Jon Urquhart’s (@drunkcrier) playlist, titled Worst Mistakes in ASL, is a hilarious way to discover characters with PG-13 meanings. Zoey Hendrix (@zoeysensei) is an ASL teacher who creates videos on how to sign up for everything from diabetes to astrology. Phelan Conheady (@signinngwolf) doesn’t primarily post educational content on TikTok, but her videos offer valuable insight from a young member of the deaf community.

youtube

Sign language is a visual method of communication and many ASL teachers host their videos on YouTube. You can subscribe directly to Bill Vicar’s YouTube channel if you want to watch longer lessons from ASL University on your Smart TV. Several documentaries that delve into the history of ASL and the deaf community such as Commit Black in America and Through the deaf eyes, can be streamed on YouTube.

With an engaging presence and in-depth knowledge of sign language, ASLMeredith is one of my favorite YouTube channels for sign practice. The Learn How to Sign channel has informative getting started videos like 150 Essential ASL Signs. Travel across the pond? The Commanding Hands channel introduces you to some elements of British Sign Language.


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