ASL classes
August 24, 2022 6:17 AM   Subscribe

I am interested in learning ASL. There are no local classes near me. Can anyone point me to online learning classes or apps that could help me get to a point where I am at least proficient?

I work in a field where there is some client interaction and we have some Deaf customers who use ASL. I would like to be able to communicate with these customers more effectively than resorting to writing everything down or assuming they are catching everything said via lip reading. I feel like it's the least I could do to make these interactions a little more comfortable for these customers.

I'm a musician in my non-day job life and I was deeply moved by the films CODA, Sound of Metal, and the short film The Silent Child. Sound of Metal really got to me in particular because despite all warnings I am pretty negligent about wearing earplugs during rehearsals in small spaces and I have noticed some mild hearing loss in the past few years which I am now trying to prevent from getting worse. So in a sense, I do have a personal interest in this aside from just wanting to provide good customer service for Reasons of Capitalism.

Thanks in advance.
posted by nayantara to Writing & Language (9 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
I like Bill Vicars’ online lessons. It’s good to learn from a Deaf / HoH (hard of hearing) instructor who has lived experience of communicating in ASL - and doing so helps avoid cultural appropriation of Deaf culture.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 6:52 AM on August 24 [2 favorites]

What's your budget? Jeremy Lee Stone, who was the ASL coach for Sound of Metal, teaches online classes and is a TERRIFIC teacher, but he seems to be doing mostly one-on-one and small group lessons now which cost a lot more. You probably get much more personal attention and advance faster, though! (Seconding nouvelle-personne—whatever you go with, please look for a Deaf instructor.)
posted by babelfish at 7:07 AM on August 24 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I recently got interested in this myself and I'm considering signing up for an online class with DEAF, Inc.. I don't know if all of the teachers are Deaf but the organization describes itself as being "run by and for Deaf (Deaf, DeafBlind, Hard of Hearing, and Late-Deafened) adults."
posted by mskyle at 7:26 AM on August 24 [1 favorite]

Queer ASL offers really excellent online courses with live instruction 1x/week. I haven't taken one of their courses myself yet, but several of my friends have had great experiences. Their mission is to provide ASL education to queer people, but you don't have to be queer to enroll in a course. All of their instructors are Deaf.
posted by mekily at 7:30 AM on August 24 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Gallaudet University offers ASL Connect virtually as part of their continuing education programs, and it's all taught by Deaf/ASL-native instructors. ASL Connect Business is a program within that.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 10:06 AM on August 24 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm hearing, and I've been fascinated with ASL since middle school. I've also been a "helpful" yet incompetent interpreter firmly schooled by Deaf people.

3D movement is integral to ASL's grammar. The signing space stretches from the top of your head to your waist, and from your shoulder forward at least a forearm's length. While ubiquitous Zoom and VRI are challenging some of these grammatical absolutes, learning ASL via 2D video is like learning to play the grand piano on a two-octave keyboard.

Learning enough ASL to be fluent requires many hundreds of hours. Deaf people are harmed by non-fluent signers who can't precisely communicate important information (banking, medical appointments, municipal bureaucracy, arts, religion, education).

tl;dr: Learning ASL may begin with video instruction, but "proficiency" requires in-person instruction.

bona fides: I trained with Deaf teachers in the community, worked as "communication assistant" (non-certified interpreter) in Wisconsin.
posted by Jesse the K at 10:45 AM on August 24 [5 favorites]

Since you might not recognize the name, I want to point out the Gallaudet University, mentioned upthread, is to Deaf studies what Harvard is to law or Juilliard is to music. They're the first Deaf university in the world, they're still by far the most prestigious one in the US, and they're a huge center of research on ASL linguistics and Deaf culture.

I don't know anyone who's done continuing ed there. I do have hearing friends who did a semester "abroad" there in college and say excellent things about the experience.

Anyway, I can't vouch for that specific program, but the school it's at is tremendously well respected.
posted by nebulawindphone at 12:22 PM on August 24

Best answer: Gallaudet is the mothership, their online program will be the best you can ask for. If you are looking for something more informal post to: Deaf Cooperative ASL Tutors. These are Deaf tutors from around the US who are available for online and/or in person tutoring. Some of the tutors teach classes while others do one-on-one sessions. Whatever you do, make sure you learn ASL from a Deaf person, and make sure you pay them well :)
posted by Toddles at 1:07 PM on August 24 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you all for the suggestions! I spent the first six years of my life in DC and so I'm very familiar with Gallaudet - I had no idea they did continuing ed, so that's definitely intriguing.

Point taken that learning ASL 2D (via online courses) is not going to lead me to a level of comfortable proficiency. I didn't think of that but of course, it makes total sense.

I'm located in Almost Vermont, NY, about an hour from SUNY Albany, 45 minutes from Skidmore, and 30 minutes from Bennington. I was hoping to find in-person instruction at either Skidmore or Bennington but no dice, which is just as well because I do want to learn from a Deaf instructor.

I'll see what I can come up with. Thanks again everyone!
posted by nayantara at 3:09 PM on August 24 [1 favorite]

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