7 Tips for Sign Language Learners

What is the fascination with American Sign Language? The seamless motion of hands moving to convey understanding between deaf people seem to have the "hearing" world enthralled. More and more people are wanting to learn ASL, it's the third largest language in the United States. I encourage people to learn ASL, but I do want to state some grievances and advice.

* Take a class from a deaf teacher. What better way to learn than from a fluent Native Signer? Too often in colleges and schools these teaching jobs go to hearing people.

* Don't take a Sign Language class if you don't plan on being around deaf people. One reason, simply put is "if you don't use it, ya lose it." I meet people now and again who say "oh I took Sign Language in High School, but now I don't remember any." Secondly, if you're not around deaf people you will not build up your "receptive" skills (watching and understanding others signing) as well as never understanding deaf culture in all it's glory.

* If you're a new student (Level One or Two) please do not assume you can start teaching others and start posting YouTube video lessons!! Too often I scroll through videos and see them signing a lot of basic words wrong. For example, the sign for "please" is a flat hand over the middle of your chest and moving it in a circular motion, but I've seen one user put her hand up on her shoulder. If this is a video assignment for homework for your class, please state so in the description.

* Again, if you're still a student, do not assume you can interpret for a deaf person. Interpreting takes a lot of skill and proper training and certification. Too many times I see "horror stories" of deaf people receiving students or limited signers at doctors, lawyers and other important places that require a lot of technical terms only for the deaf client to leave frustrated and upset because of miscommunication. There's a HUGE difference between "knowing Sign Language" and "Interpreting".

* ASL music videos -- they're great if they're done by deaf performers who put a lot of time and effort and skill into making these videos. They're are not appreciated when done by Hearing "wannabes." I don't mind those that just want to do it for their own entertainment but please put a disclaimer in your description that you're just doing it for fun. It really irks me the few hearing people out there stating "if you want more videos like this send $$", or getting accolades and recognition for their attempts. (I say attempts because some I see aren't really good signers in the first place).

* Stop with the misconception that American Sign Language is just a "translation" of English. It is in fact a recognized language with it's own grammar and syntax, rules, etc. It takes just as long to learn ASL as any other language like Spanish, German, etc.

* Don't assume that ASL is universal. Every country has it's own version of Sign Language. ASL isn't even universal across the United States! Every place has it's regional variant for a sign, just like English does. For example a Sub sandwich -- Hoagie, Hero, Grinder, Po'Boy, Rocket, Blimpie, etc.

Well there you have it. I'm not trying to discourage you from learning to sign. I encourage it, we need more signers out there!