Language, it is the foundation of communication in our world. Without it, there would be chaos and disorder. All over the world, human beings communicate using thousands or different languages. In years past, some languages were used which are lost to us now.
But there are different kinds of languages – spoken, written, and sign language. The latter is used by people who have a hearing or speech impediment or they are prevented from speaking for one reason or another. It is used by millions of people all over the world.
It is the primary way, by which people within the deaf community communicate.
Learning this language is not as hard as many people think. With sufficient practice, you could master this language as you do with others. So, let us explore how to learn sign language.
Beginning the Journey into the World of Sign Language
For whatever reason, many people have a need to learn sign language. This might be because you are hearing impaired, or you might be the friend or family member of someone who communicates using sign language.
Even professionals who interact with the deaf community need to learn it as well.
The Different Types of Sign Language
Sign language will differ depending on where you are in the world. However, within the United States and Canada, the American Sign Language (ASL) is used. It is the primary means of communication for the deaf community in these regions.
This method of communication allows people to use hand gestures or other actions. This can be facial expressions or body postures. It is considered a multi part language and is very comprehensive American Sign Language is also the fourth most popular way to communicate in the United States.
British Sign Language (BSL) is the next form of sign language that is also common around the world. So look out for differences if you are travelling within different countries or regions.
The Difference Between American Sign Language and Spoken Language
In using a verbal language, we tend to incorporate different sounds. This builds the foundation of various words and it also affects your accent or the voice tone.
In the spoken language, you primarily use your voice.
However, it is not the same in sign language. You largely depend on your sight when you communicate using sign language because the words are formed with your hands.
When you are learning this class, even when voice is not used, you must be able to see the different gestures to master how to learn sign language. If not, you will have great difficulty learning the language.
Being able to see allows you to get the full extent of everybody movements, gestures, facial expressions, visual cues, hand shape, hand position, and hand movement used.
If you are serious about learning sign language, understand that it takes commitment, persistence, lots of studying, and plenty of time practicing. With these different components, you will be able to master basic sign language.
Then, you will gradually move through the stages of fully grasping ASL as well.
Learning American Sign Language
There are a great many institutions, which teach ASL lessons. All across the country, ASL schools are listed. Many of which you can sign up for online. You will find that they take you through the ASL alphabet and basic sign language. It is integral that you grasp the basics before moving on to the other aspects of the course.
What Do You Cover In An American Sign Language Course?
One programme offered by My Majors focuses on American Sign Language as a visual and motor medium of communication and discourse for deaf individuals and deaf culture.
This includes instruction in the development of ASL, ASL morphology and syntax, signing technique, English translation of ASL, ASL transcription, and formal and colloquial ASL.”
Where to Go to Study American Sign Language?
Chances are you can access these classes at your local organizations of the deaf, churches, libraries, universities, and community colleges.
So too can you learn from those around you who use this language. You will find that they are patient and willing to teach you because you are showing an interest in learning how to learn sign language.
You can ask them to slow down, repeat gestures, use ‘finger spelling’, and just walk you through the process.
However, try any of these places highlighted below:
- State Chapters of the National Registry of interpreters for the Deaf (RID)
- State Commissions for Deaf and Hard of Hearing
- NAD State Association Affiliates
- Deaf Education programs within Local Schools
- State Schools for the Deaf
- American Sign Language Teachers Association
- Speech and Hearing Centers
- Community Centers for the Deaf
- National Association for the Deaf
Tips for Learning Sign Language
Small steps will get you further than large ones. Here are a few tips on how to learn sign language progressively:
1. Hand Placement
Generally, the hand is held at mid-chest level. Various movements and gestures will be done within the range of your head to your lower torso.
When you begin, you want to be especially careful about how your hands are positioned. Keep in mind that you want to involve facial expressions and other cues, as is the customary way with sign language.
2. Do Not Rush
Be deliberate about your actions.
Imagine if someone were taking a mile a minute, you would not be able to keep upright. And often, you would not be able to understand what is being said.
The same is true in sign language.
But, especially if you are just learning the language or not yet proficient in making the signs or even knowing what they are, you can make mistakes. And you can end up ‘talking gibberish’ or nonsense.
3. Learn the ASL Alphabet First
The alphabet is the first stage of your learning. It will be your default for when you need to finger spell. Plus, as with any language, it is the foundation.
When you find yourself not remembering the signs for whole words or phrases, it will be easier to spell them. And you will find that those who are proficient in the language, will then be able to show you the actual signs for those words, as you correspond.
4. Learn the Greetings
One of the first greetings, which you should learn is hello. It is one of the universal signs.
All you have to do is put your right hand, with the palm facing out, to your forehead. Now bring your hand away from your body, as if you are waving.
You should then learn how to say goodbye.
There are different ways in which this can be done. Some of the casual ways of doing this involves just nodding, using the thumbs up sign, and waving goodbye.
However, you can also use the sign for ‘see you later. You do so by bringing your index and middle finger forming a ‘V’ to your eye. Then point the gesture from your eye to the person.
Be Patient, Learning Sign Language Takes Time
It is great that you are interested in learning a new form of communicating. It will open up your world and bring you into a very tight-knit community.
The deaf community is filled with great people who are patient and willing to help you learn.
Do not get frustrated and quit. Keep at it and practice your sign language as often as you can. If there is no one around to practice with readily, try to go to various organization meetings, events, or places where people from the deaf community will be.
Also, keep in mind, that this is a formal language.
You cannot change the signs for words and statements, which already exist. You run the risk of offending them if you do. Just as with the English language, you could be making grammatical errors in ASL.
It is also not necessary to go fast, just because everyone else is. They are at a proficient level. But, the important thing is to communicate clearly, so that others can understand you. Take note. If people are asking you to repeat, it means you are making mistakes.
It is best to take your time. Do not give up or be embarrassed when this happens. Sometimes, this might mean finger spelling every word, until you becoming more proficient.
We hope you enjoyed this article on how to learn sign language and will use it as a resource.