In recent years, American Sign Language (ASL) has gained significant attention and popularity. As the primary language for Deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals in the United States, ASL plays an important role in the Deaf community and serves as a bridge for communication between the hearing and the Deaf.
This blog will explore the ease of learning ASL, provide examples of signs and phrases, and offer resources to help you on your journey to learning this unique and essential language.
What is ASL?
The Deaf community in the United States uses ASL, or American Sign Language, which is a rich and expressive language. It is a complete language with its own grammar, syntax, and vocabulary. ASL primarily relies on hand movements, facial expressions, and body language to convey meaning and communicate ideas.
Unlike spoken languages, ASL uses a spatial dimension, or the location of the hands, to express concepts. Each sign represents a specific word or concept, and the combination of signs creates sentences and conversations. It is a highly nuanced and versatile language, allowing for the expression of complex thoughts and emotions.
The Ease of Learning American Sign Language
When considering whether to learn a new language, people often ask about its difficulty level. In the case of ASL, several factors contribute to its ease of learning.
First, ASL is a visual language, meaning that it relies on hand shapes, movements, and facial expressions.
This makes it easier to pick up and understand for many individuals, especially those who have a strong visual learning style. Additionally, ASL has a relatively simple grammar structure compared to spoken languages, which often have complex rules and exceptions.
However, many people mistakenly believe that ASL is simply a signed version of English, which is not the case. While there are some similarities between the two languages, ASL has its own unique grammar and syntax.
Other sign languages are more difficult and much harder to grasp for new learners. ASL has only become the natural language in most of North America and is more established because of the support of the Deaf and hearing communities.
Most Used Sign Language
As the most widely used sign language in the United States, ASL is recognized and accepted as a valid form of communication. This prevalence makes it easier to find resources, classes, and opportunities to practice and learn sign language. The increased visibility of ASL in popular cultures, such as television shows and social media, also contributes to its accessibility and familiarity.
Sign language in Europe and Asia tends to be relatively difficult, as they fit their sign language into their syntax and grammar.
Examples of Sign Languages Used by Other Countries
- British Sign Language
- French Sign Language
- Australian Sign Language
- Chinese Sign Language
Speaking Sign Language
“Speaking” sign language involves more than just signing words and phrases. Facial expressions and body language play a significant role in conveying meaning and emotion in ASL. For example, raising your eyebrows when asking a question or furrowing your brow when expressing confusion can add clarity to your signed communication.
As you learn ASL, it’s essential to develop an awareness of not only the signs themselves but also the accompanying facial expressions and body language that enhance and clarify your message.
Basic Sign Language Phrases
Learning basic phrases in any language is essential for effective communication. Here are some fundamental terms in ASL that beginners can learn and use in their daily lives:
- How are you?: Place both hands with palms facing upward, then raise your eyebrows and tilt your head forward slightly. How Are You? – ASL
- My name is…: Point to yourself with your index finger, then spell out your name using the ASL alphabet. My name is
- Nice to meet you: Sign “nice” by placing your right hand on your left hand with palms touching, then sliding both hands in the opposite directions. Point your two index fingers at the edges of your lips, then point at the person with your right index finger. It is nice to meet you.
- I love you: Extend your thumb, index finger, and pinky while keeping your middle and ring fingers folded down, then point your palm toward the person you’re addressing. American Sign Language ASL – I love you
- Excuse me: Place your left hand and swipe your palm twice forward, like scrolling through your phone with all your fingers. Learn How to Sign the Words Excuse Me
- Good morning: Sign the word good by touching your chin with your right hand and pointing your palm to someone, then placing your right hand in your left forearm and slowly bending your left arm. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Joi3nnSpbO4&pp=ygUUYXNsIGZvciBnb29kIG1vcm5pbmc%3D
By expanding your repertoire of easy phrases in ASL, you’ll be better prepared to engage in a wider range of conversations and interactions with any Deaf person you meet.
Easy Sign Language Sentences
As you become more comfortable with basic signs and phrases, you can start constructing simple sentences in ASL. Here are some examples of easy sentences that you can learn and use in daily communication:
- I am a student: Sign “I” by pointing to yourself, then sign “student” by tapping your forehead with your right hand (in the shape of a flat hand) and then tapping your left hand. Learn ASL: “I’m learning sign language” Learn How to Sign the Word Student
- Where is the restroom?: Sign “where” by holding your hands up with palms facing each other, then wiggle your index fingers. Sign “restroom” by forming a “T” shape with both hands and shaking them side to side. BATHROOM / toilet / restroom
These simple sentences can be easily learned and will facilitate smoother communication with the Deaf community, including in workplace settings.
Resources for Learning ASL
There are numerous resources available to help you learn ASL, including online classes, books, and apps. Each resource has its advantages, and the best one for you will depend on your learning preferences and goals.
Free Online Classes
Many websites and platforms offer online ASL courses, ranging from free tutorials to paid, comprehensive courses. Some popular options include Lifeprint, Start ASL, and SignIt ASL. These courses often include video lessons, quizzes, and opportunities for interaction with instructors and other students.
There are many books available that teach ASL, ranging from beginner-friendly guides to more advanced resources. Some popular titles include “Signing Made Easy” by Rod R. Butterworth and Mickey Flodin, “The American Sign Language Phrase Book” by Barbara Bernstein Fant, and “ASL for Dummies” by Adan R. Penilla II.
Several apps can help you learn ASL on the go, including SignSchool, ASL Dictionary, and The ASL App. These apps often provide video demonstrations, quizzes, and interactive features to support your learning process.
Practice and Engagement with the Deaf Community
Practice is absolutely necessary to advance your abilities in ASL, just as it is with any other language. Learning new material and improving one’s fluency both benefit from consistent practice.
Engaging with the Deaf community can provide invaluable opportunities for real-life practice and immersion. Attending Deaf community events, joining local ASL clubs, or volunteering at Deaf organizations can help you develop your signing skills and deepen your understanding of Deaf culture.
Make Connections Better With Ava
Learning American Sign Language can be an enjoyable and rewarding experience. With its visual nature and simple grammar, ASL is often considered easier to learn than many spoken languages. By familiarizing yourself with basic signs and phrases, utilizing available resources, and engaging with the Deaf community, you can embark on a journey to learn this essential language.
Ava provides captioning services for meetings and face-to-face conversations that bridge communication for Deaf and hard-of-hearing people with others. Communicate with Deaf people through ASL and captioning with Ava.
Frequently Asked Questions
How easy is it to learn American Sign Language?
ASL is often considered easier to learn than many spoken languages due to its visual nature and relatively simple grammar. It’s essential to approach ASL as a distinct language and dedicate the time and effort required to learn it properly.
Is ASL a spoken language?
American Sign Language (ASL) is a fully developed, natural language that shares the same linguistic properties as spoken languages despite having a grammar that is distinct from English. Hand and facial movements are used to express thoughts and ideas in ASL.
How long does it take to learn adequate American Sign Language skills?
The time it takes to learn ASL varies depending on factors such as your learning style, the resources you use, and the amount of time you dedicate to practice. Regular practice and engagement with the Deaf community can help accelerate your learning process.
What resources are available to help me learn American Sign Language?
There are many resources available to help you learn ASL, including online classes, books, and apps. Each resource has its advantages, and the best one for you will depend on your learning preferences and goals.
What are the benefits of learning American Sign Language?
Learning ASL provides numerous benefits, including improved communication with the Deaf community, increased awareness of Deaf culture, potential career opportunities, and personal fulfillment.
Can I learn American Sign Language on my own?
Yes, you can learn ASL on your own using resources such as books, apps, and online courses. However, engaging with the Deaf community and practicing with others can greatly enhance your learning experience.
How do I start learning sign language?
Begin by familiarizing yourself with basic signs and phrases, utilizing available resources, and engaging with the Deaf community to practice your skills and deepen your understanding of Deaf culture.
Are there any apps that can help me learn American Sign Language?
Yes, several apps can help you learn ASL on the go, including SignSchool, ASL Dictionary, and The ASL App. These apps often provide video demonstrations, quizzes, and interactive features to support your learning process.
How much does it cost to learn American Sign Language?
The cost of learning ASL varies depending on the resources you choose. Many online courses and apps are available for free, while others may require a one-time purchase or subscription fee. Books and in-person classes can vary in cost.
What are some basic phrases I should learn in American Sign Language?
Some basic phrases to learn in ASL include “hello,” “thank you,” “please,” “how are you?”, “My name is…,” and “Nice to meet you.” Learning these phrases can help facilitate essential communication with the Deaf community.
How important are facial expressions and body language in American Sign Language?
In ASL, facial expressions and body language play an important role in conveying meaning and emotion. It’s necessary to develop an awareness of not only the signs themselves but also the accompanying facial expressions and body language that enhance and clarify your message as you learn ASL.