How Do I Learn Sign Language?

Christina Edwards

If you want to learn sign language, you have several options. You can study books, videos, or websites that contain sign language instructions, or you can attend a sign language class. A hearing-impaired individual may also be willing to teach you sign language. You can choose one of these methods or a combination, but it is important to start small and practice.

Sign language may be learned from a hearing-impaired individual.
Sign language may be learned from a hearing-impaired individual.

Sign language books are one way for you to learn sign language. You can buy a book from a bookstore, or you can borrow one from a friend or library. These books often contain pictures of how to hold your hands and fingers when signing.

A person wanting to learn sign language should consider taking a sign language class.
A person wanting to learn sign language should consider taking a sign language class.

Sign language videos are another way to learn sign language. These are usually better for individuals who have trouble learning from books. They are sometimes considered to be better than books, since those watching them are able to see exactly how the instructor moves her hands.

The Internet is another great resource if you want to learn sign language. Many websites offer free American Sign Language (ASL) information and courses. Some online sign language courses, however, require that students pay a small fee before being able to access sign language course materials.

Sign language courses in a traditional classroom setting are another option. These courses are appealing because a student can receive one-on-one instruction, if needed. Some non-profit organizations, like churches, may offer free or low-cost sign language classes. Other organizations, like local colleges, will typically charge a fee. These fees can be quite expensive.

One of the best ways to learn sign language is from a hearing-impaired individual who uses sign language. He will be able to teach you basic sign language, as well as more advanced sign language. If you have a hearing-impaired friend or relative, this may be the best option for you.

When you first begin to learn sign language, you may want to learn everything right away. This is relatively impossible. Like other languages, learning sign language can take months or years. Sign language students are usually advised to start off with the basics, like the sign language alphabet or a few simple words. From there, they can begin learning longer phrases and sentences.

To learn sign language, you must be willing to practice. Don't expect to have perfect techniques right away. Practicing every day can help you master this language. Try conversing with a hearing-impaired individual, or you can sign while standing in front of the mirror.

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Discussion Comments


I think about Helen Keller who, because she was blind and deaf, could only use the manual alphabet, so everything in a conversation had to be spelled out. But she went to college. Wow.

I'm a little self-conscious, so I think I might be more apt to try to learn ASL from a video, if I could find one that had a good, general course on it. There is a list of the 100 or so most commonly used signs, so if you master those, then you can communicate on a basic level, at least.

I made friends with some guys in a deaf bowling league, and used to meet them for coffee. I practiced my ASL with them. It made for a lot of fun, and I learned a lot of signs.


You can learn the sign language alphabet in 10 minutes. Then the real work starts. I think it's better to learn sign language in a classroom setting. You can always supplement by watching videos or reading books about it, but using sign language properly is best accomplished with other people, in my opinion.

As with every language, you need to practice, and many sign language classes have instructors who are deaf, and are willing to help students learn. It's like learning any other language, although if it's American Sign Language, many words that are spelled out are in English, so if your memory fails you, you can always spell out a word with the manual alphabet.

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