This page is targeted at people with auditory processing issues who are thinking of learning sign language. Some of the information and resources may also be helpful for people interested in sign language for other reasons.
Learning Sign Language–the Right Choice?
Some people with Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD) decide to learn the signed language used in their country as another way to understand people and communicate. Some people with APD do find it easier to use a sign language and may eventually make friends with other people who also use the same sign language so they have more people they can communicate with more easily.
Learning a signed language, no matter which one you learn, will be as challenging as learning any other language. Signed languages have their own grammar, syntax, sentence structure, etc. distinct from the structures and rules used in the written/spoken languages you know. Notice I’m using plural here? That’s because, no, there isn’t a single universal signed language. There are about 200 or 300 signed languages used throughout the world. And, no, signed languages do not necessarily correspond to spoken languages. American Sign Language and British Sign Language, for example, are from completely different sign language families (ASL is part of the French Sign Language family, not from the BSL family). Learning to communicate with deaf people in the U.S. and English speaking parts of Canada will not help you learn to communicate with deaf people in the UK!
The Social Challenges of Sign Language
The social side of learning sign language could be both enriching and challenging. It could help you open yourself to new friendships with people who communicate in your new language. Unfortunately, it could also open you to some negative reactions. Hearing families and friends who don’t have CAPD might not understand why you want to learn sign language. And, sadly, there are some Deaf, deaf, and hard of hearing people who may also react negatively. Some Deaf people are very harsh in “policing” the boundaries of who “belongs” in the culturally Deaf signing community. They don’t only reject people with CAPD, they may also reject some hard of hearing people, some late-deafened people, and people who were born deaf but didn’t have the opportunity to learn sign language at a younger age.
But please don’t give up. Some of us Deaf/deaf and HoH people are completely ready to welcome and embrace people with CAPD into our community. Ignore the ones who don’t want you around and keep looking until you find the ones who do. It may take time, especially if your local signing Deaf community is small. But we’re out there. Please come find us.
Finding Your Local Deaf Community
Usually the best way to learn any language is to mingle with people who use it–and that means finding your local Deaf community. Here is one possible starting point:
List of Members in the World Federation of the Deaf
Find the national association of the deaf for your country here. If they have a website, then that website may have information about local level chapters or affiliated organizations closer to your home. They might be able to guide you in finding ways to meet and socialize with signing deaf community members. Reading the website for your country’s national association of the deaf will also help you learn what sign language (or signed languages) are used in your country.
Also use google or bing to find if there are any schools for deaf students using sign language in your part of the country. Be aware that some schools for deaf students do not use sign language. If the nearest deaf school uses sign language, they may be another source of information for opportunities to meet signing deaf people locally. Google or bing might also help you find local deaf/HoH organizations that are not officially affiliates or chapters of the national association of the deaf. You can also try the word “deaf” or “sign language” in combination with keywords such as “social events” “coffee” “dinner” “silent supper” etc. in combination with your nearest Metropolitan city. This might help turn up information about any informally organized regularly recurring events for deaf people, and other signers, in your area. Unfortunately, if you are very rural, any deaf community existing where you are is likely to be small and weak.
Finding Sign Language Classes
Second best, and often an important supplement to interacting with signing Deaf/deaf/HoH people, is taking sign language classes from people who grew up using it and are trained in techniques shown to be effective in helping people learning their local signed language as a second language. See if local associations of deaf people can refer you to local places with good quality sign language classes. You can also try checking with local colleges and community colleges. Be aware that the quality of sign language instruction may vary widely from one school to another, so be ready to ask questions about the teacher’s background, how they first learned sign language, and how they learned techniques for teaching it.
If needed, you also can use online videos to teach yourself sign language. This isn’t perfect, but could be a stop gap measure if you are unable to take classes or meet other sign language people often enough to practice with them. And it is definitely MUCH better than trying to learn from a book. (Don’t try to learn sign language from a book.) If you choose to learn from online videos, make sure the videos are using the sign language in use in your own country! And make sure the person providing video instruction is a native or near-native user of sign language. There are, unfortunately, many novice sign language users who start producing sign language tutorial videos after just a few weeks of sign language classes. You don’t want to learn sign language this way because they may be making many mistakes without even realizing.
Try some of the resources below to learn more about the deaf community and where to find sign language instruction resources online.
Resources on the Deaf Community and Sign Language
I do not claim to have the best master post of sign language or deaf community resources. If you do enough exploring on the web, you can probably find better master posts. But the links below may be a good starting point.
It’s A Deaf Thing: FAQs
Learn answers to many frequently asked questions (FAQs) about the deaf community and sign languages. By Deaflepuff.
Sign Language Related Resources
Find links that can help you learn a sign language or practice your sign language comprehension skills. Most of these are focused on American Sign Language (predominantly used in the United States and in English-speaking parts of Canada). But toward the bottom you can find links for people needing to learn other signed languages like British Sign Language, Auslan (used in Australia), and Czech Sign Language. Also by Deaflepuff.
Deaf Related Links
More links to deaf related websites and resources. Yup, by Deaflepuff again.
Spread the Sign
Offers sign language vocabulary from different countries including the U.S., Austria, Brazil, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, India, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom. Please note that a dictionary is not a substitute for learning the full language including its grammar and syntax–but it can be a starting point for learning signs for a few key concepts you need to talk about each day (if it’s in the dictionary!), or for use in conjunction with taking classes or interacting with people who sign.
Online ASL Resources
This program is still in beta phase, but it is basically a way to learn ASL through videos of signs, lectures, etc., and interactive exercises.
More links to online ASL tutorials.
Online ASL lessons, may cost some fees especially if you need academic credit or continuing education units.
Phone Apps for Learning Basic ASL
More apps seem to be available for iPhone than for Android phones. This is not necessarily the best or most recent listing of phone apps, if you are anxious for a good phone app then I encourage you to do some more googling on your own.
Different options for learning ASL at varying budgets–starting at free for people who just want to learn a bit of signs on their own up to paying more for academic credit. I am not familiar with this resource and cannot confirm if this provides good quality instruction.
Know of more resources that aren’t listed here? Especially, resources for learning sign languages other than ASL? Use the comments area below to add your suggestions.