So you want learn sign language on a shoestring budget. You might be motivated by a desire to better understand your deaf friends, to communicate with hearing-impaired loved ones, or to express yourself after experiencing hearing loss. No matter what sparks your interest in American Sign Language (ASL), taking in-person classes is the fastest and most reliable way to master the language.
But many people simply don’t have the time or the financial resources to take sign language classes. While studying ASL online can’t replicate the nuanced experience of in-person communication, curious students who are willing to invest the time don’t need to pay for beginner classes. All of the learning options on our list are completely free or offer a generous amount of content in front of their paywalls.
The online ASL for free The Gallaudet University program is not included as it is temporarily unavailable due to curriculum restructuring – ASL for Free may be added in a future update. For more information on ASL and Deaf culture and history, visit the resourceful site for the Laurent Clerc National Center for the Education of the Deaf in Gallaudet.
If you ask around for free sign language resources, ASL University by Bill Vicars is often recommended. It stood out from several websites as the most comprehensive and organized option. With 60 lessons available, ASL University covers frequently used topics, such as food, clothing, and emotions. Each lesson is accompanied by a 40-minute video that presents a conversation for two using the vocabulary. When you click on the hyperlinked vocabulary words, a short video showing sign language will appear.
According to his website, Vicars is deaf and taught ASL for years at California State University, Sacramento. Even though ASL University isn’t a real school, it is a phenomenal website with informative and engaging lessons that are ideal for beginners looking for a reliable place to start.
Not all content on StartASL is free, but you can access a significant amount of useful information without paying a penny. The free lessons focus on practicing conversations and understanding the structure of ASL, but don’t go particularly in-depth. You must register with an email address to receive the three workbooks that accompany the lessons.
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 intended for more advanced learners. If University ASL is too detailed for your liking, StartASL may feel less overwhelming and spark your interest in sign language more.
The ASL App
Many sign language resources are designed to be used on a desktop or laptop computer. If you want the flexibility of learning sign language on your smartphone, The ASL App (for iPhone and Android) is worth a try. Although not as interactive as other options, the ASL app is easy to use and accessible to young learners.
Numbers, ABCs and a few other basic lessons are free. Bundles that cover specific topics can be unlocked for $1 each, or you can buy everything for $10. Famous model and activist Nyle DiMarco is one of the sign language demonstrators. The free content is decent, and the expansion packs include topics that aren’t often covered in other resources, like the great outdoors and LGBT Pride Month.
Depending on the level of ASL you already know, the level of difficulty of school of signs can be adjusted between Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced. Lessons consist of watching a person sign and taking quizzes about what they have communicated. This resource offers more than traditional lessons, with tools to learn your name and a game to practice finger spelling.
A few web pages didn’t load properly in the test, but SignSchool is a good platform overall that can complement your language learning. The website asks for your email address to create an account, but it’s free to use. You can choose to have a sign of the day sent to your inbox for added convenience. iPhone and Android apps are available so you can take lessons wherever you are.
Following social media accounts that post sign language content can be a fantastic way to experience ASL in a casual environment, but the last two recommendations on our list come with a disclaimer. Even though amateur videos are often created with good intentions, you should check what you learn from outside sources for accuracy.
Searching TikTok using keywords or hashtags is a solid way to discover new accounts related to your interests. #LearnASL, #LearnToSign and #SignLanguage all have millions of views and are good starting points. To differentiate their content, creators often compile educational videos into a playlist featured at the top of their profile page.
by Jon Urquhart (@drunkcrier) The playlist titled “The Worst Mistakes in ASL” is a hilarious way to discover signs with PG-13 meanings. Zoey Hendrix (@zoeysensei) is an ASL teacher who creates videos on how to sign for everything from diabetes to astrology. Phelan Conheady (@signinngwolf) do not primarily post educational content on TikTok, but their videos provide valuable insights from a young member of the deaf community.
Sign language is a method of visual 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 ASL University lectures on your smart TV. Multiple documentaries that delve into the history of ASL and the deaf community, such as Sign Black in America and Through the deaf eyesare available for streaming on YouTube.
With an engaging presence and in-depth knowledge of sign language, ASLMeredith is one of my favorite YouTube channels for practicing the signs. the Learn to sign The channel offers entry-level informative videos such as “150 Essential ASL Signs.” Traveling across the pond? the authoritative hands will introduce you to some elements of British Sign Language.
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