Learn American Sign Language Free Online

Mar 12, 2009Updated 1 month ago

Learn ASL
A quick Internet search for “online ASL classes” brings up several different programs, many of which are free of charge.

University Level Sign Language Courses

ASL University is run by Dr. William “Dr. Bill” Vicars, assistant professor of ASL and Deaf Studies at California State University at Sacrament, and owner/president of Lifeprint Institute. Dr. Bill, who is hearing impaired, offers several levels of courses roughly equivalent to ASL 1, 2 & 3 at college level, 4 semester hours each. He provides course syllabi, downloadable workbooks, These classes are free to the public, but if a student needs documentation, grading, testing, etc, there are fees involved.

Dr. Bill uses a series of still photos that progress through the range of motion for each sign, showing the proper hand shape placement orientation and movemen, placement, orientation and movement. For students with slower Internet connections, this can be a huge help.

Video ASL Demonstration

StartASL is another free study program. Michelle J is the owner/teacher. Michelle is hearing and has been signing since she was 13. She uses printable workbooks that go along with streaming video clips, recorded by her filmmaker husband, Rich. The student is encouraged to use a practice partner, but if one isn’t available, she provides a “practice partner” on video with time to respond.

Signing Assistance in the Classroom

ASLPro is an interesting site that is not intended as a “stand alone” program. According to the website, “ASLPro.com is designed for use by classroom teachers as a facilitating resource under qualified teacher supervision." Even so, it has valuable information and streaming video that is perfectly usable by anyone. It has several different sign language dictionaries, including ASL idioms and can be a valuable additional resource. ASLPro is run by seven members, two of whom are deaf and five are certified interpreters.

Online Signing Dictionaries

Michigan State University publishes the American Sign Language Browser. It doesn’t teach the language per se, but it’s a quick reference for specific words or phrases. The student will need a browser that works with the video links. Vista 64 may be problematic.

Signing Savvy claims to be the “most complete online sign language dictionary.” Again, they don’t actually teach the language, but use streaming video (Vista operates well with this) to show specific words and phrases. A free membership makes available larger images, examples of the word/phrase used in a sentence, description of the sign, memory aids and other ways the same sign may be used.

Formal classroom instruction can be found in many high schools, colleges, and adult education programs. But for those who prefer keeping their own schedules, working at their own speed and saving the cost of tuition, learning ASL online can provide the perfect answer.

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