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This post is about the best sites to learn ASL online. It is meant to serve as a resource to others who would like to learn ASL but may not have access to physical classes.

My interest in learning American  Sign Language (ASL) was a long time coming. Although I am myself deaf, I tried to “pass” as hearing and focused on lip reading to get by. This is exhausting, and with my profound hearing loss, I would like to be able to relax and communicate with others.

As we live in a very isolated area when we are in the United States, and on the road in Mexico when we are not, I need to learn ASL online. Here are some sites that I have found useful to learn ASL:

(note: the links are in the headings)

Lifeprint

Super awesome site. Free lessons, fingerspelling, dictionary, the whole shebang. Oh, and my favorite, Deaf Jokes page!!

Two Deaf men are signing to each other.
The first man asks, “What did your wife say when you got home late last night?
The second man replies, “She swore a blue streak”
And the first man asks, “What did you do then?”
And the second man replies, “I turned out the light.”

ASL Pro

This site kind of overwhelmed me with all the ads and stuff for sale. So far it seems like a lot of dictionaries, including “religious” ones (- if you are wanting to teach your child Bible signs, this is probably your stop).

Apps

There are a lot of fantastic apps for learning ASL online – here are some of the best:

  1. ASL Dictionary: comprehensive ASL dictionary with videos of more than 5,000 signs
  2. The ASL App: a hip app designed by Deaf ASL users to teach ASL (the one that Nyle is in!)
  3. Signing Savvy: learn ASL and join in conversations and more with the membership site
  4. SignSchool: vocabulary builder, dictionary
  5. YouTube: subscribe to Deaf YouTubers, search for classes. Download them through YouTube Red.
  6. Marlee Signs: learn ASL with Marlee Matlin
  7. ASL Translator: type in the English and get the ASL translation
  8. ASL Dictionary: over 5,000 signs, multiple ways to sign the same word and does not require internet

Described and Captioned Media Program

You are able to “check out” videos, DVD’s and books, a’la netflix.

They even give you a postage paid mailer to send them back. In addition to the DVD’s, they have streaming online videos and offer all kinds of things for ASL instruction, deaf culture and children – really, really cool site.

Check out the lessons available for ASL instruction hereSweeeeeet!

 Start ASL

This has a ton of online ASL classes here – both free and paid courses with homework and everything. I love that they have a section for homeschoolers, they have tutors and an online practice community too!

Babies and Sign Language

This is primarily a site for baby sign – which I am not looking for. But they are some cool links to places to learn other languages – Latvian sign, anyone?

Signing Savvy

It’s an app (see above) and also a site. It’s a brilliant video-based signing dictionary. Very easy to use and free.

Deaf Read

This is the Deaf blogging community. It’s awesome because there are a lot of vlogs – video blogs – a great way to interact with real people, virtually.

Signing Time

If you haven’t already tapped into this truly astonishing system of catchy music + signs, well, here’s your introduction now – it is the easiest possible way to teach babies and kids basic ASL, both online and with DVD’s.

They have a slightly more advanced system with sentences and grammar, etc, but it does not go much beyond basic functioning ASL (“what’s your name?” and so forth.

YouTube

YouTube has a lot of kick-ass d/Deaf vloggers now. Here’s a post on some of the best vloggers to check out.

I am deaf and I don’t sign beyond a basic level.

My interest in learning sign language was a long time coming. For years, trying to “pass”, I totally resisted it – in fact, I feel bad thinking back to all of the times people, once they learned that I’m deaf, started signing, they were sooooooooooo excited to practice with me or whatever. I usually snarled them into hand silence. I didn’t want to be anything other than “normal”, I wouldn’t be caught dead signing or showing my hearing aids.

Then I had Micah, my typically developing first born. He learned to talk in own sweet time, so much on his own time frame that the pediatrician was worried. We never were, because it was clear to us that he could understand, he just wasn’t into talking yet. But we needed a way to communicate with him, so we tapped into Baby Signing Time and it was awesome; it really helped us bridge that span of time between when he was ready to talk and wasn’t.

Moxie came next, and since we knew she was coming with an extra chromosome, I researched and found that people with Down syndrome tend to be excellent communicators with sign language. Okay! So we invested in even more Signing Time and kept with it.

This is where we are now: Moxie is 3 years old and mostly non-verbal. She says a handful of words (mostly “noooooooo!”) but understands pretty much everything we say. If we say, “Moxie, can you go to the sun room and bring Mama the orange block please?”, she will. Or, “Moxie, will you help Mama find the iPhone?” and she’ll go and dig it up from where she last left it. She understands. But she does not talk much.

She is hungry to communicate. She asks me all the time how to sign things; little sister wants to LEARN!

And yet she’s gone beyond me, she’s gone beyond what I know, beyond what we have that Signing Time offers. I’m at the point now where she’s asking how to say “pillow” and I have dig it up in the ASL Signing Savvy dictionary.

I need to learn sign. As I learn, I can teach Moxie; we can also learn together. But we need something that goes beyond single words; we need something that gets into full sentences, into more complex requests, words more sophisticated than “juice”. So I asked the hive mind of both the deaf/non-deaf communities on Facebook for advice on learning ASL online. This is what I got:

1. Lifeprint

Super awesome site. Free lessons, fingerspelling, dictionary, the whole shebang. Oh, and my favorite, Deaf Jokes page!!

Two Deaf men are signing to each other.
The first man asks, “What did your wife say when you got home late last night?
The second man replies, “She swore a blue streak”
And the first man asks, “What did you do then?”
And the second man replies, “I turned out the light.”

2. Healthy Hearing’s Best Apps for Learning Sign Language

  • iASL
  • ASL Pro
  • ASL Dictionary
  • Sign 4 Me

3. ASL Pro

This site kind of overwhelmed me with all the ads and stuff for sale. So far it seems like a lot of dictionaries, including “religious” ones (- if you are wanting to teach your child Bible signs, this is probably your stop).

4. Described and Captioned Media Program

You are able to “check out” videos, DVD’s and books, a’la netflix. They even give you a postage paid mailer to send them back. In addition to the DVD’s, they have streaming online videos and offer all kinds of things for ASL instruction, deaf culture and children – really, really cool site. Check out the lessons available for ASL instruction here. Sweeeeeet!

5. Start ASL

This has a ton of online ASL classes here – both free and paid courses with homework and everything. I love that they have a section for homeschoolers, they have tutors and an online practice community too!

6. Babies and Sign Language

This is primarily a site for baby sign – which I am not looking for. But they are some cool links to places to learn other languages – Latvian sign, anyone?

7. Signing Savvy

I currently already use this on the iPhone. It’s a brilliant video-based signing dictionary. Very easy to use and free.

8. Deaf Read

This is the Deaf blogging community. It’s awesome because there are a lot of vlogs – video blogs – a great way to interact with real people, virtually.

 

If you are wanting to learn ASL or have your kids learn, I hope this helps. All of these are online based which is not as good as learning in person (- it’s only better than not learning at all!). For learning in person, if you are in the San Francisco Bay Area, I can’t recommend the Berkeley City College ASL classes highly enough – or the resources that DCARA provides. If you are not in the Bay Area, try googling “deaf resource center + your location” or thereabouts to start.

If you know of some other system or structure for online learning, I’d love it if you’d comment. Thanks!

asl2

 

****

PS

Signing Time: if you haven’t already tapped into this truly astonishing system of catchy music + signs, well, here’s your introduction now! I always feel like warning parents about this though, something along the lines of, “here you go, you are welcome/I’m sorry: your kid is going to LOVE THIS and you are going to end up with those songs in your head while you are shopping at Trader Joe’s, head-bopping to, “it’s potty time! (shoo bop, bop, bop), POTTTTYYYYYYY TIIIIIIIME!”- your going to look like you’ve got a severe case of mommy-brain but your kid is going to LOVE IT!!!”

Rachel (from Signing Time) has a Deaf daughter (Leah) and a daughter with Cerebral Palsy and Spina Bifida (Lucy). She’s got a great blog, Strong Enough and is just a really cool cat. I’m solidly in her fan camp. Anyway. Signing Time. If you haven’t started yet, you might want to.

 

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