American Sign Language Resource Guide
American Sign Language (ASL) is a visual language that is largely used by the deaf community as well as those who have other forms of communication challenges. With ASL, the hands, facial expressions and body movements are used to represent words. ASL is more than just a handful of symbols to help people communicate; it is a complete language, with its own rules and grammatical structure. ASL is used by hundreds of thousands of individuals across the United States and Canada. Like any language, learning ASL requires a lot of study and practice, but the time spent learning ASL comes with many benefits, even for those who are not hearing-impaired or have no difficulty communicating verbally.
About ASL and Deaf Culture
ASL is recognized as the preferred language of deaf individuals in the United States and Canada, making the language a critical part of the deaf community. Many people choose to learn ASL as a way of communicating with deaf individuals and others with communication problems, but learning and using ASL requires more than just learning hand movements and gestures. Individuals must also have an understanding of deaf culture and some of the hidden messages involved with communicating in ASL. Use the links below to begin building a comprehensive ASL foundation; each URL showcases different aspects of the language and the overall culture of the sign language community.
NIH: What is American Sign Language? – The official website of the division the National Institute of Health (NIH) that deals specifically with hearing impairments. The division is called the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), and the site features loads of ASL resources, the latest on related funding and research, and many more valuable information assets for those affected by communication challenges.
NAD: American Sign Language – The National Association of the Deaf offers an overview of ASL and covers some of the issues in deaf community.
Deaf Resource Library: About American Sign Language – Find out some of the linguistics involved with ASL and read about the best ways to learn the language.
Sound and Fury: Deaf Culture – Communicating with the deaf involves more than just knowing signs, and this site details all kinds of communication tips and advice on how to honor and uplift those afflicted by these obstacles.
Deaf Culture & ASL – Gain an overview of deaf culture and how it connects with ASL.
ASL is a visual language. Because it is a language based on hand gestures, body movements, and facial expressions, it cannot be easily learned by reading books and completing language worksheets. As you learn ASL, you must watch the movements and practice them as you go. Thankfully, many of the online resources designed to help people learn ASL offer videos and animations designed to make learning this visual language much easier.
Dr. Bill Vicars’ ASL Fingerspelling Practice Site – Practice your knowledge of common signs by watching videos and entering the corresponding English word(s).
Basic ASL: 100 First Signs – Start learning ASL by concentrating on 100 of the most common signs.
Start ASL: Free Online ASL Classes – Take free online classes to help learn ASL.
Aslfree.org – Use the study guide and dictionary from aslfree.org to learn sign language on your own.
School of Sign Language – Watch videos to learn common signs and build your ASL skills.
ASL for Babies and Children
Some parents opt to teach ASL or other forms of sign language to help their babies and young children communicate. Babies can often control simple hand movements and gestures before they can form words and ASL gives them a way to express their needs and desires to parents. In addition to making communication easier, ASL may also lead to other benefits for babies and children.
Signing Time – Kids can play games and learn songs to help make learning to sign easier.
ASL Preschool – Young children can learn ASL through the games and activities on this kid-friendly site.
Sign Language for Kids – These free videos and fun activities will help kids learn sign language.
Teach Your Child Sign Language – Learn some of the reasons for teaching a child sign language even if they are not hearing impaired.
Bilingual Infants: A Jumpstart on Education or an Insult to the Deaf? – Teaching a baby sign language can be beneficial, but it may also be offensive.
Teaching Your Baby Sign Language Can Benefit Both of You – Discover some of the benefits that come with teaching your baby sign language.
Sign Language and its Benefits for Hearing Children – Even hearing children can benefit from learning sign language, and this site outlines the many positive attributes.
An ASL dictionary does not look the same as a traditional dictionary. Instead of sentences, ASL dictionaries feature pictures that describe how to form a particular word. Pictures may be of actual humans signing a word or a diagram of a hand with arrows and other symbols to note how the hands and other body parts should move. An ASL dictionary is a good way to gain a basic knowledge of ASL or learn a word or two, but to truly learn the language, you must also learn the facial expressions and cultural aspects that go along with speaking ASL.
ASL Browser – Watch short video clips to learn signs for numerous ASL words and phrases.
Signing Savvy – Browse signs by word or phrase or search categories such as colors, numbers and fingerspellings.
Embe Outreach: American Sign Language Library – Common signs are grouped by topic, such as technology or biology, and shown through short videos.
ASL Dictionary of Religious Signs – The signs in this dictionary cover common religious signs and include regional and denominational differences.
ASL to English Dictionary – Use this unique dictionary like you would any foreign language dictionary; map out a sign or series of signs and find the English equivalent.
Classifiers in American Sign Language – Classifiers are used to enhance ASL and the main classifiers are covered in this document.