General Question

Mama_Cakes's avatar

The best/quickest way to learn sign language?

Asked by Mama_Cakes (11085points) June 4th, 2012

I’ll be working on it over the summer.

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7 Answers

rebbel's avatar

Maybe with an app for your smartphone (if you own one)?
> > Android >
> > iPhone >

Kayak8's avatar

The best way that I know is to interact with Deaf people. I have a very good friend (a friendship built over the past 30 years) who is Deaf and I have learned more sign language from her than I ever could have learned from a book. In many areas there are Deaf Clubs (hearing are welcome) where one can play cards etc. and it is a great chance to learn.

I would make sure I had a good understanding of finger-spelling (as it is used in many different signs and your knowledge of finger-spelling will help the signs make more sense. There are some basic concepts that will help but PM me on FB for more info on that.

AngryWhiteMale's avatar

@Kayak8 is correct. American Sign Language (ASL) is a language it its own right, with its own grammar and syntax. Learning it is akin to learning any other language; the best way to do so is to interact with others using the language you want to learn.

This is probably even more the case, since ASL does not have a written form, and cannot be learned aurally (in other words, you can’t just pop in a tape or CD in the player in the car, and learn while you’re on your daily commute). As @Kayak8 says, interact with Deaf people.

To become fluent in ASL will take a few years, but you can probably learn enough over the summer to be able to have a decent conversation. Have fun!

linguaphile's avatar

One of the other things to remember while learning sign language is that several separate meanings are conveyed simultaneously through variations in speed, location, distance of hand movement, head position and facial expressions. It’s akin to a person who can hear being able to decipher separate meanings from the words themselves along with how words are used, except there are more things to look for.

Deaf people can pick up all that information visually and completely naturally- it’s automatic. Most sign language learners look just at the hands, then maybe at the face, but if they’re not taught to look for all the other things that also carry meaning, they miss a lot.

Example: With just my hands, I could sign “I fly-towards California,” which can be translated to, “I flew to California.” But… with only changes in speed and distance and no changes to the basic sign, the meaning could easily change to:
I flew to California in a hurry, reluctantly.
I flew to California quickly in a short notice, and was excited about it.
The flight to California was short and uneventful.
I took a long, winding, boring flight to California.
The flight to California was full of turbulence and scary. (I can think of 15 more possible translations from speed/distance changes)

When you learn signs, be sure to pay attention for all those—if you can acquire the knowledge of those markers early, it will make things much easier later.

filmfann's avatar

I think a classroom with a teacher is actually easier than dealing with someone who is deaf.
A teacher will be more patient, and will explain the ideas behind the sign.

linguaphile's avatar

@filmfann I agree, but think people need both—a classroom definitely gives fundamentals and helpful information along with classmates, but actual conversational skills comes from interacting.

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