It may seem evident that acquiring non-verbal communication skills will benefit you and those you care about. So why aren't more of us learning American sign language (ASL)? Though it isn't taught as frequently as spoken languages, knowing ASL, even at a beginner level, could significantly impact your life.
There are plenty of reasons to learn ASL. Perhaps you want to teach your child to communicate before developing speech. Maybe you're interested in better connecting with friends and family who are deaf or hard of hearing (HOH). Or you might suddenly find yourself in need of picking up this method of communication.
That's what happened with Mike Webb of Edinburgh, Scotland. His daughter was diagnosed as "profoundly deaf" at 18 months old, which meant she couldn't hear any sound below 90dB—anything quieter than a leaf blower or concert was out of range.
Webb and his partner didn't have a clue how to learn sign language, but they quickly accessed every resource they could to start, including signing lessons, and were ultimately able to communicate with both of their children, who now have cochlear implants. Currently, Webb raises money for Deaf Action, a charity that provides sign language, deaf awareness, and lip-reading classes for those in need.
In an interview with the Edinburgh Evening News, Webb explained the positives of knowing sign language beyond the necessary: "Being able to communicate with your child just using facial expressions and your hands is quite special. … You can defuse a situation quite quickly, just using your hands and eye contact."
So how can you learn sign language like the Webbs? You could start your education at home with the top-rated 21-course Ultimate Learn American Sign Language Bundle.
Can you teach yourself ASL?
Whether you're learning ASL out of necessity or because you want to teach your child to communicate earlier, you can learn American sign language independently with some help, guided instruction, and lots of practice. And, much like any language, being in charge of the pace of study can make things a bit easier to manage. With online training, you can move as quickly or slowly as desired.
If you're a parent-to-be, you've probably heard that infants can learn to sign up to four months sooner than they say their first word, making those nine months before the baby arrives a great time to get started. Whether they're born with hearing loss or not, you could save yourself a lot of agony wondering why your baby is crying if you teach them to express themselves with sign language. Research has also demonstrated with incredible results that teaching your young child ASL could have them speaking verbally sooner too.
As recently as 2018, roughly 90% of parents with deaf children hadn't learned to sign. It hardly needs to be said, but not being able to communicate with your child can drastically change your relationship with them. We prepare for so many things in life; why shouldn't preparing for the possibility of needing to sign with a child be one of them?
Learning ASL basics
This bundle contains 50+ hours of instruction but starts you off right at the beginning with a course focused on the manual alphabet. The lessons will help you learn how to form each letter through exercises and activities similar to those in a spoken language course. Once you've learned the manual alphabet, you could technically spell your way through a conversation. However, much like verbally spelling your words out, it would take considerably longer and isn't an ideal way to carry on a conversation. After this foundational skill is locked down, you can move on to more advanced classes.
If you're learning ASL so you can talk to a friend, relative, or colleague, you might have a specific vocabulary starting point in mind. With 21 courses and more than half dedicated to vocabulary, you'll have plenty of ways to customize your learning journey. Those categories include food, countries, days, pronouns, emotions, verbs, personality terms, and colors. Is your goal to show your infant how to sign? Then the occupation-based vocabulary ASL course, for example, can wait. If your HOH child has a favorite stuffed animal, you may be eager to learn how to sign that animal's species in ASL: Animal & Number Sentences.
With so much to learn, this endeavor may feel intimidating, but you can relax a bit knowing this bundle was designed for people with no experience signing. It will all get easier as you develop your vocabulary and signing dexterity.
For anyone with a bit of experience already, you can jump right into the Parent and Child Phrases course to learn new signs and how to supplement your signing with facial expressions. You may not have expected to practice smiling when you set out to teach yourself ASL, but facial expressions play a huge role in non-verbal communication.
Every course in the bundle has great student ratings and is taught by TESOL and TEFL certified Michael Honkanen, creator of Able Lingo. Honkanen, who used ASL to communicate with and interpret for witnesses, victims, and persons of interest in his law-enforcement career, started Able Lingo to help open minds and make it easier for those who are not HOH to learn how to speak with a wider range of people.
While you might not be an ASL master by the end of the training in this 1,161-lesson bundle, you'll be left with foundational skills in beginner sign language, a huge vocabulary list to memorize, and the confidence to keep going and get on your way to fluency.
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