How to Learn Sign Language Online

American Sign Language has an estimated 500 thousand speakers worldwide and is the sixth most used language in the United States. While it’s difficult to master, there are literally hundreds of online resources at your disposal. Although “hands-on” practice with others is crucial, this list of applications, tools, websites and courses will help you reach conversational fluency from the comfort of your own home.




Marlee Signs

Marlee Signs was developed by Academy Award winning deaf actress Marlee Matlin, and is one of the most popular sign language applications available on the iTunes App Store. Lessons are broken down into individual videos, each of which has a very helpful slow motion playback feature. The “Spell” section is also perfect for vocabulary building. All you need to do is type in the word and Matlin with spell it for you using ASL. The basic version is free; however, in app purchases that specialize in specific subjects, such as “Around Town” and “Around the World,” cost an additional $1.99.


ASL Coach

Don’t always judge applications by their reviews. ASL Coach may not receive the critical and commercial acclaim of its peers, but it does exactly what it says on the tin; it’s simple, clear and free. With ASL Coach you start with the alphabet and a few basic phrases. All of the signs are presented using beautiful cell-shaded images. Like most free applications, extra features come at a price, but at only $0.99, it’s one of the cheapest options on the iTunes App Store.


Sign Language with Sammi Signs

Just because it’s for kids doesn’t mean that adults can’t enjoy it too! Sign Language with Sammi Signs is a game-based learning application that makes sign language simple and entertaining. It has been designed for children aged six months to five years and features plenty of colourful pictures and fun-loving characters, rather than a text-based learning system. While the application is free to download, additional study materials that work alongside the app – such as books and flashcards – are available for a small fee.




Expert Village

Expert Village is a YouTube channel that has videos about anything and everything, including sign language. While the videos are short – two to three minutes each – and generally brush over the logistics in any great detail, they are perfect for beginners who want to learn numbers, common phrases and the alphabet. Even if you complete all of the videos, you’ll never reach a state of conversational fluency; however, you will develop a firm understanding of how sign language works.


Signing Savvy

A dictionary is a fundamental tool in your language learning arsenal. Without one you’ll struggle to widen your vocabulary and construct grammatically correct sentences. Signing Savvy has thousands of high-res videos available in multiple sizes. Registered members can compile all of the words they’ve learned into quizzes, word lists and flashcards. When there is more than one meaning for a word, Signing Savvy provides descriptions that’ll help you differentiate the different meanings and when/how to use them. Descriptive text is available in both English and ASL.


Baby Sign Language

Baby Sign Language contains over 600 free flash cards that you can print out on your home computer. Each card contains the word, illustration and corresponding sign. You can either use the cards for your own memory games or follow the quick-start instructions on the site. Baby Sign Language can also provide teaching advice to ensure your child learns the fundamentals and most commonly used words first.



Fluent in 3 Months

Benny Lewis is the author of the international bestselling book, Fluent in 3 Months, and has one of the most successful language learning blogs on the web. Over the years he has conducted interviews with Forbes, Business Insider and The New York Times; appeared as a guest speaker on two separate TED Talks conferences; and was named the ‘Traveller of the Year’ by National Geographic.  He is now one of the best known polyglots in the world. While his blog won’t teach you sign language in the traditional sense, it’s filled with valuable information and simple language hacks that’ll help you build confidence and remain motivated.  


Start ASL

There are few free sign language websites out there that make the grade. Start ASL is a comprehensive website that’s so vast, it can compete with most paid options. It contains everything from digital video classes to essays about the history of deaf culture. While there are premium versions; unlike other websites, Start ASL doesn’t have a subscription service, nor are the upgrades a necessity.


Hands and Voices

Hands and Voices is a “non-profit, parent driven organization.” It is not a teaching platform; however, it will help you become acquainted with the processes and challenges of raising a deaf child and starting your own journey as a ASL speaker. Articles are available offering advice on everything from transitioning your child to pre-school to developing an effective communication plan. The organization’s primary goal is to help parents and educators improve communication with deaf children so they can reach their highest potential.




Rocket Languages

Rocket Languages courses have been used by over 1.2 million people throughout the world. Their American Sign Language course is priced at $75 and has over 30 lessons, each of which contains several video demonstrations. The Rocket Languages ASL course took 10 years to develop and has been designed to fit around your schedule, rather than add to it. This is a common issue with new language learners – they underestimate how much time it takes. It’s a long process, but consistency is far more efficient than short bursts. Rocket Languages offer a free six-day trial for new students, which contains six full lessons, access to the dictionary and a three-level puzzle game.


Signing Online

Unlike most other online courses, Signing Online has a structured learning system which cumulates with an examination. There are four stages: Beginner – Part One, Beginner – Part Two, Intermediate and Advanced. Each stage costs $75 (bulk discounts are available for educational establishments) and contains 10 lessons, each of which is focused around a different topic. By the end, you should be able to communicate with conversational fluency. Due to the high standards offered on the course, most high schools and colleges are now accepting Signing Online courses for credit.


Gallaudet University

The Gallaudet University sign language course is for serious learners. While it is self-paced, you are expected to set and meet deadlines. Before you begin you may select your skill-level to ensure you receive the academic support you require – if in doubt, you can request a consultation with a tutor. Classes are taught using a mixture of online video recordings and real-time video meetings – in addition to books, DVDs and other “traditional” study materials. You must communicate with tutors and other students in order to complete the course; therefore, access to a web cam is required.

Just like learning to speak another language, you must take your skills out into the real world to truly master ASL. While you may become conversational through the Internet, unless you get out there and put your “hands” where your mouth is, you’ll never become completely fluent. These tools, websites and applications will help you on your journey, but they won’t compensate for human interaction.


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