Where to learn American Sign Language

Learning a new language is a feat. Deciding where or how to learn a language is a challenge. As a stay at home mother of two young children I have found many options for learning American Sign Language (ASL), but quite a few were too expensive, or too time consuming to work with my family's schedule. However, we are lucky there are many options that are becoming more available today.

Traditional route
Jr College/ College courses- these classes are taught in person typically by a person well connected in the local Deaf community. ASL is traditionally split into 4 classes with a few extra options depending on where you live. In Bakersfield our local JC also offers a Deaf Storytelling, and Deaf Culture class. Colleges often offer an AA or BA with ASL and is a good starting point for a career within the Deaf Community. This is the most costly route and will take 2 years at least to do all 4 classes.

Local route
Community classes- These are often offered by your local Deaf agency, or School of the Deaf. These classes are affordable and are done in sessions. Look at your local Deaf Agency for when they are available and if they offer above ASL 1.
Deaf Churches- Deaf Churches are great resources for practicing ASL skills. They often hold events and are very open to people coming to learn. Pastor's are patient and understanding, church members are very open and welcoming. At times these churches will offer classes to the community that are equivalent to an ASL 1 course.

Non traditional Route
Internet- There are many available options to learn vocab and grammar online. These classes can be free, or very reasonably priced. The benefit is the availability to go at your own speed, you can cover ASL 1-4 with ASLU in a matter of months if you can memorize vocab well, and you can do it from home, so you are not adding the cost of child care to the cost of classes. I have listed my favorite options on my ASL page. Where this route fails, is the ability to converse and get outside of your head. ASL is a visual language. You need to have real conversations, and as with Yoga it is best learned in the presence of a teacher. Be prepared to have learned bad habits, and be ready to correct them. If you go this option I highly recommend you spend extra time within the Deaf Community to gain trust and learn properly from fluent signers.

Native Signers- As with all languages immersion is key. The more you can immerse your life in ASL the faster you will learn. Look for Deaf groups, events, go to their activities when you feel you can hold a conversation. The Deaf community is very welcoming and friendly. They are patient when you show you are willing to learn. Happily, unlike many other languages you do not need to go out of the country to immerse yourself in ASL. The more you learn from Native Signers the less you will need classes to teach you.

Don't forget your family. If you are learning ASL teach your children. One of the best ways to learn is to teach. But please remember ASL grammar and English grammar are different. If you talk as you sign you are using incorrect grammar, and be prepared that is a bad habit that will need to be fixed one day, but that is not a reason to not meet those in your Deaf community.


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