Since finding out my daughter SJ has severe hearing loss my sign language vocabulary has gone from barely a handful to a pool full of words and information on ASL and deaf culture. I am still a beginner, but I’ve come a long way and I wanted to share some of the tools I’ve been using.
1. Baby Sign
When SJ failed her first hearing test I pulled out the baby signing curriculum that I haven’t glanced at in years. The DVD includes 145 ASL signs which I kept practicing until I knew them all. I also started watching Signing Time videos which are a great way for both children and adults to learn on a number of levels.
2. Talking With People
One of the best tools for me has been talking with some of my friends that are interpreters for the deaf. I have gone up to complete strangers that have hearing aids and talked to them. I have sought out council from friends of friends that are deaf or hard of hearing. I want to hear from anyone and everyone that can help me on this journey.
3. Phone Apps
There are a few free phone apps that I downloaded to help me learn on the go. There is one called Wierman’s family ASL which includes 50 signs and you can take quizzes. All the free apps are very limited, but every little bit helps when you are starting out and you can always delete them if they are taking up too much space.
4. ASL University
This website is really in depth and I’ve only completed 3 of the units, but it’s been informative and it was recommended to me by someone who teaches ASL full time.
5. Online Dictionaries
I have three websites that are my go-tos for looking up signs they were all recommended by some of my professional interpreter friends.
My biggest advice as someone learning to sign is CROSS REFERENCE! It’s hard to learn when there is so much conflicting information on which sign is the right one. Many times there are a few different signs used depending on a persons age or region. It’s a bit of a headache, but I always check 3 sources and pick whichever is most common or up to date.
Once I started learning ASL I noticed that signing was happening all around me already. For example programs my kid’s watch like, Blue’s Clues, Sprout Good Night Show , and PBS kids all use some sign language. Then I came across this Sia music video, which I had seen several years ago, but it didn’t occur to me at the time that the entire video was in ASL! Now I can watch it and recognize most of what they are signing. src=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/t1x8DMfbYN4?fs=1″ width=”480″>
7. Switched at Birth
I had a signing teacher recommend this show to me (featured on ABC family, ABCfamily.com, and netflix) and I was skeptical at first because I am just not a fan of teenage drama. Watching the entire first season has confirmed that this show would probably be my last choice in entertainment OTHER THAN the sign language. Many of the main characters all communicate with ASL. Seeing the usage in conversation and modern language was SO helpful. I think this program is what really taught me to be more comfortable implementing what I know into every day speech. I would often rewind pause or try to interpret without reading the subtitles. I fully intend to watch the entire show again eventually just to see how much more I understand the second time around.
At this time in my journey I invested in a heavy duty hard back ASL dictionary for about $30 at half price books. I use it all the time, but I do wish it was even more current than 1998 edition because some of the words are outdated already.
The Sound of Fury
Through Deaf Eyes
Touch the Sound
The first two documentaries are on Netflix and they teach you a lot about deaf culture, cochlear implants, and the history of sign language. The last one is a film I saw several years ago about a deaf percussionist.
I think one of the reasons I have been more successful with ASL than any other language I have tried to learn is because it’s applied to my everyday life. I needed a language to speak to my daughter that is still in-between the world of the deaf and the hearing. I use sign language everyday and I keep an ongoing log of words I want to learn. My 4 year old keeps me on my toes anytime he asks me a sign that I don’t know I just say lets write it in the notebook and later we look them up. We usually do this practice once or twice a week. I will learn one song or story at a time and this helps a lot too. Every time I learn a new song or children’s book I realize there is a little less that I have to look up because my vocabulary is expanding.
I’m linking this up with Top Ten Tuesday at Many Little Blessings. I know it’s a lot of info, but I’ve wanted to share these tips with my friends and family for a while and I always love to network and learn new things myself (see #2). For those interested in my daughters story feel free to browse through the blog or read this post for details.