I want to learn sign language quickly and easily
October 20, 2005 8:30 PM   Subscribe

What's the best and easiest way (besides classes) to learn sign language?

I have a friend who is hard of hearing, so usually just speaking to him with a higher volume makes it possible to communicate with him. Meetings, labs, and classes however are another thing.

He understands American Sign Language, and I'd like a very basic and quick lesson in it. I don't have time for classes, so that's out of the question. What would be best for this? CD-ROMs? Books?

I'm looking for something simple, meaning using English grammar.
posted by spiderskull to Writing & Language (3 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
This is the student study guide that I used when I took a sign language class: A Basic Course in American Sign Language. It's got the basics. There are a few online dictionaries, but just knowing the signs doesn't help you really use ASL too well. Right now you can start getting used to two things:

1. fingerspelling. When there is an unknown word that does not have a representation in ASL, or when you want to spell out a name/title/brand, you use manual representations for letters. You can learn these and practice starting tonight. Fingerspelling is pretty static [meaning each letter is signed individually and there isn't too much motion involved except for just a few letters, J and Z] so it's a good way to get used to making words with your hands
2. grammar. ASL uses different grammar than English, partly because of the way pronouns work -- pointing at the person you are with indicates "you", pointing at yourself indicates "me/I", pointing at others indicates "they/them" there aren't static signs for the pronouns -- and partly because of verb tenses and agreement, and the way that facial expressions are used as emphasis, particularly for questions. Other things, like classfiers, don't really map onto English at all. If you've seen your friend speak ASL you may already sort of know this.

In any case, it's like learning any other language, you can't learn it overnight. As you're improving your ASL skills you may also want to learn more about communicating with Deaf people so you can learn other ways to interact with your friend. If he lipreads, just directing attention to how you are enunciating and directing yourself towards him will help a lot. I also found this online pamphlet American Sign Language:
Fact and Fancy
which discusses myths about ASL, to be pretty interesting.
posted by jessamyn at 9:17 PM on October 20, 2005

If you don't have time for classes, studying along probably isn't the best way. You'll pick it up much quicker if you practice with other signers. Could you ask your friend to teach you?
posted by londonmark at 1:21 AM on October 21, 2005

Thanks for the responses. I'm working with my friend and his signer to teach me some of the symantics of the language. I'm more interested in the vocabulary, because the most difficulty is with words that aren't terribly common (since he has trouble lip-reading those words).
posted by spiderskull at 6:38 PM on October 21, 2005

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