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Have you considered learning a challenging new language? Or maybe you’ve met an interesting person who only understands sign language and would like to learn how to communicate with them? The chances are you will need an online class to learn how to “speak” sign language. But are there any free online courses, or do you need to pay?
- Many free online resources exist for learning American sign language.
- Most of the free classes don’t offer a certificate.
- Many courses and classes that offer a certificate require payment for the certificate.
- Aside from using a computer, several apps help you learn sign language.
- Sign language is not universal.
- There are several benefits to paying for a sign language course, including a certificate, structure, and access to help.
Some free online sign language classes award you with a certificate to show that you put the time and effort into learning sign language. Most of these “free” courses require that you purchase the certificate, even if the course was free.
Alison.com offers a free online American Sign language course in conjunction with Montessori Pro. The course covers the basics of sign language, and once you complete the course, you’ll receive a certificate of completion.
This course is ideal for learning to communicate with other ASL users and if you want to become an ASL interpreter.
- The course is free
- You receive a certificate upon completion
- A well-structured course
- You’ll need at least 80% to pass the course
- You need to purchase your certificate
Gallaudet University ran the ASL Connect program, where anyone could sign up to learn American sign language for free.
However, in April 2022, they paused the ASL Connect program to restructure. The course originally offered learners online ASL interactive lessons focusing on basic vocabulary.
- The course featured over 20 video lessons addressing various topics, including colors, letters, and numbers.
- The ASL Connect program is currently unavailable.
- You’ll need to pay to qualify for a certificate for your studies.
Suppose you don’t need to receive a certificate at the end of your course/studies for your work in sign language. In that case, the internet is host to a plethora of free online resources that assist you in learning American sign language.
The American Sign Language University (ASLU) offers free self-study materials, information, and lessons. The ASLU also offers formal tuition classes if you’d prefer to learn first-hand. The ASLU was established in 1997, and the online resources were designed to benefit rural deaf children.
- The resources are free and open to the public.
- Numerous resources, and lessons, form the curriculum (roughly 60 lessons).
- You won’t receive a certificate for your studies.
ASLPro.com (and .cc) offers online resources for learning sign language, including various dictionaries (general, religious, phrases, etc.), charts, quizzes, and games to make learning sign language fun and interactive.
- A free resource
- There are instruction videos that accompany each of the dictionaries.
- There is no structured course.
- There is no certificate.
Sign Language 101 offers various courses and training videos on its website. While the courses require payment, the training videos are free.
- They offer a structured course which makes learning easier
- The free videos cover a variety of ASL basics
- The courses are not free.
- You won’t receive a certificate unless you do the course.
Sign School is a free resource center for learning American sign language. Their website has several demonstrative videos, a dictionary, games, and “signs” of the day.
- It’s free
- The curriculum is streamlined for quicker learning.
- No certificate
The internet is full of useful information. Often a Google search provides you with enough information to get started.
Some useful sites for acquiring free sign language resources include:
- This method is completely free.
- You can work at your pace.
- You won’t necessarily follow a structured course and might not get a complete understanding.
- You won’t receive a certificate.
In the era of applications and smartphones, it is a small wonder that there are apps dedicated to learning sign language. These free apps offer many valuable resources at your fingertips.
The ASL App is a great tool for learning sign language on the go. It features more than 2 500 signs and phrases. There are several videos on this app.
Some of the features include:
- Saving your favorite signs for quick referencing
- Shifting to “slow mode.”
- Hand shaping exercises
This app is available for Android and IOS phones through Google Play and the Apple Store, respectively.
The Marlee Signs App is only available for IOS (from the Apple App Store). This app is the brainchild of Marlee Martins, an Academy Award-winning deaf actress, and MEDL Mobile. This app allows you to quickly learn how to communicate in American sign language.
The app features:
- The basic vocabulary
- Common expressions
- The alphabet
- A free first lessons video pack
- A link to social media so you can share signs and your learning progress on Facebook and Twitter.
Many agree that this is a user-friendly app.
Like other languages, sign language is not without structure and governing bodies. Each country has its governing body, and in the states, it is the National Association of the Deaf (NAD).
Some of the core functions of the NAD are:
- Promoting the acquisition, teaching, and interpretation of American sign language
- Preserving ASL as a legitimate language
- Advocating the civil rights of deaf and hard-of-hearing Americans
They are the representative body for deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals in the states and maintain the ASL’s integrity.
In a society where nothing of value is ever free, it’s surprising to find so many free American sign language resources and classes/courses online.
However, are these free courses all they are cracked up to be?
In reality, most of the “free” resources and classes only give you a portion of their service for free.
They’ll cover the basics, provide you with several interactive videos and other content you could find on YouTube or other websites, and stop more or less there. You’ll usually need to pay if you want to progress to more complicated lessons or gain access to other features or even certificates.
While you can learn sign language through these free resources, you’ll often hit a “wall” in your learning and understanding. You can overcome this wall with hard work, practice, and a great deal of patience, but for most people, it’s easier to pay the fee for access to the full service.
If you need the certification for work or personal development, you’ll need to be prepared to pay the accreditation price.
Sign language is not universal. Much like spoken languages differ in rules, syntax, meaning, etc., so does sign language.
Different countries have different versions of sign language. Sign language is so intricate that different regions within a country may develop dialects.