Everybody knows that learning a foreign language isn’t exactly an easy thing to do, and it can be even more challenging to learn American Sign Language because you are also learning to communicate with your hands. American Sign Language (ASL) is the used by many people including people who are hearing impaired, teachers, interpreters, and more. If you’re looking to learn sign language in the near future, here are helpful tips to help you get started:
- Fingerspelling: Sign language includes a sign for each letter, which is very helpful when it comes to saying proper names, or trying to say a word for which you do not know the sign. Practice your fingerspelling often, and do it in front of a mirror so you can be sure it looks clear.
- Continuous Review: When learning any language, it helps to build a strong foundation of vocabulary, and then continually growing it. This means taking time each day to review words you already know, and then add some new vocabulary into the mix.
- Mnemonic Techniques & Creative Memory Tricks: If you simply cannot remember the sign for a particular word, coming up with a creative memory trick might help. Some people like wordplay, while others like to break down the sign into a few easier motions. Find whatever technique works best for you, and then use it when necessary.
- Draw the Sign: Just as writing down words helps us to remember them, drawing different signs will help you in understanding and memorizing their distinctions. Try drawing each new sign you learn five times, and also writing its spoken English translation next to it.
- Find Your Dominant Hand: Just like with writing, eating and playing sports, sign language requires you to use one hand much more often than the other. To make things less confusing for your deaf and hard of hearing friends, be sure you pick one dominant hand and stick to it, rather than switching things up in the middle of conversation.
- Look Up Words (as needed): Anytime you think of a word for which you would like to know the sign, you ought to look it up as soon as possible, so that you do not forget to do so. Try carrying around a small ASL English dictionary, or downloading an app on your smartphone, to make things easier.
- Immersion: Finally, once you feel confident enough to engage in simple conversation, you ought to test your skills by meeting with as many fellow ASL speakers as possible. Your community likely has groups and clubs for deaf and hard of hearing people, and those clubs will often allow hearing people to join in if they can communicate using ASL. Make sure you take advantage of these helpful resources.
ASL is like any other language, your skill level correlates with your environment, resources and willingness to learn. No matter what approach you take, it’s important to practice, practice and practice some more. If you or a loved one is hard of hearing or deaf and have questions about ASL or anything related to hearing loss or hearing aids, don’t hesitate to contact us today.