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Whether you're interested in connecting with people in the Deaf community, trying to communicate with a non-verbal child, or facing hearing loss yourself, you're in good company. It's estimated that over 500,000 people in the US and Canada use American Sign Language (ASL).
If you're hoping to learn to sign, it's important to choose lessons that teach not just the signs themselves but also about Deaf culture and the differences between ASL and English. (It surprises many people when they learn that they don't correspond in a 1:1 fashion. In fact, ASL often uses a completely different word order, and facial expressions are a critical component of using ASL fluently.
Wednesday, September 28th
You'll have a hard time finding a better resource for sign language lessons than Start ASL. You can get three levels of content for free: that includes more than 170 lesson videos, 1,100 vocabulary and phrase videos, as well as essential ASL grammar lessons. For Free. No tricks or gimmicks. This company is 100% committed to helping people learn to sign.
Course 1: the basics
Start ASL's Course 1 is designed for beginners or to refresh your skills if you have some experience. It has 13 units that cover the basics of fingerspelling and numbers, word order and sentence types, verbs, pronouns, how to identify people, and lessons on Deaf culture and history. You'll get 60 lesson videos, 30 activities and quizzes, and several assignments.
Course 2: focus on grammar
ASL 2 targets grammar skills like time, duration and regularity, plus inflection, distance and more. This level has 30+ lesson videos and more than 15 advanced quizzes and activities.
Course 3: the most advanced
Finally, ASL 3 is the most advanced level and is ideal for those who are trying to become completely fluent in sign language. The 20 lesson videos and 17 activities/quizzes cover topics like role shifting, narratives and storytelling, and they even delve into interpreting songs.
Each level takes 3-12 months
How long will it take you to work through the three levels of sign language lessons on Start ASL? They estimate that really driven, self-motivated students can complete a level in 3-4 months. If you're taking the course for credit (and need to work through it more slowly for mastery and retention), expect each level to take from 9-12 months to complete.
Get much more with a paid membership
With so much for free, you might be wondering why Start ASL offers paid plans. What more could you possibly get? The answer is "quite a lot" . Whether you choose the Silver plan ($24.95/month, $149/semester, $199/year) or Gold ($49.95/month, $299/semester, $499/year), your package will include the ability to track your progress, to get a completion certificate for school or employment benefits, and to receive text (Silver) or video (Gold) feedback from Start ASL's instructors on your signing assignments. And how about online group practice sessions, virtual office hours with the instructors, and even social events via Zoom? These plans are the best way to get the most out of your studies, especially if you need school credit for your language learning. Both of them are backed by a 14-day satisfaction guarantee.
Need a tutor?
Also, if you're interested in working one-on-one with a tutor, check out Start ASL's tutoring page. Read through the bios and reviews of the six instructors featured there and schedule your session directly through the Start ASL website. It really is that easy. You can expect rates that range from $26 to $40 per hour, and keep in mind that this is considered to be a service separate from Start ASL itself.
Glowing praise from Start ASL students
Still not convinced? We're not sure that's possible, but go check out the 200+ testimonials on the Start ASL site if you need a little push. You'll see glowing praise like "best online resource for learning sign language" and "amazing" and so much more. And did we mention "free" ?
Best of the best
We strongly encourage you to consider Start ASL first as you decide where to take sign language lessons. Spend as much time as you like working your way through the free content, with no pressure to subscribe until you're ready for all of the perks you get as a Silver or Gold member. We're pretty sure you're going to love everything about this service, and Start ASL remains our first-place winner among providers of sign language instruction.
Sign It! American Sign Language is a self-paced program taught by well-known educators and entertainers from the ASL community. Some recognizable names include Rachel Coleman, Sean Forbes, Peter Cook, Crom Saunders, Patrick Fischer, and more. This course is meant to help students become fluent in ASL and would span an entire year or more if you go through all the material and practice tests.
20 lessons available
The full Sign It ASL curriculum has a total of 50 lessons that teach conversational ASL. It will go over sentences, vocabulary, syntax, and grammar. However, not all lessons are available yet because only 20 of them are funded at this point. Lessons 21-50 will come as soon as they are ready to launch.
Extensive study material
In the first 20 lessons, there are over 1,200 vocabulary words, fingerspelling practice, sentence structure material, and more. The course has 3 difficulty level settings and you can slow down or speed up videos to fit your learning preferences. Lesson topics include introductions, family, feelings, job, school, neighbors, transportation, countries, vacation, money, clothing, hobbies, colors, religion, and so much more. Each lesson contains an hour of content and 8-12 quizzes. It's recommended that students go over the whole course three times. It takes about 35-40 hours to do lessons 1-20 without repeating lessons or doing practice exercises.
Donate to support free use for families
Sign It ASL is provided by the Signing Time Foundation in partnership with Two Little Hands Productions. For individuals wanting to donate and support free ASL lessons for families who need it, there is a link to donate. Free lessons are available to families who have a child 36 months or younger that have hearing loss.
Lessons you purchase from Sign It never expire. This way you can go through the content at your own pace and review it as often as you'd like. For those with educational site licenses, each user will have access for 12 months from the time of purchase. You'll need an internet connection for all the quiz and test features to work.
Different lesson packages to choose from
You can preview lessons #1, #2, and #10 for free to get an idea of how the Sign It ASL platform works and if it caters to your learning style. The packages include:
No return policy or satisfaction guarantee is mentioned.
Students love Sign It ASL
Students who have used Sign It ASL enjoy that humor is used in the teaching. They say it is easy to follow and they learn new signs quickly. The videos are not only informative, but enjoyable to watch. This is an extremely thorough way to learn ASL at your own pace. The program is designed to help students become fluent and remember words and phrases long-term. We highly recommend this program if you're willing to dedicate the time to going through all the course material.
This cleverly-named company was created to teach Deaf students, parents of Deaf children, and the community American Sign Language (ASL). It is set up for people of any age to begin learning and improve their skills until they are fluent. ASL Deafined reminds people that learning American Sign Language will enhance your life whether you or someone you know is deaf. It can improve your marketability in your career, open doors to meeting new people, and help you experience a new culture.
To get a feel for ASL Deafined's platform and usability, you should definitely take advantage of the 3-day free trial they provide. No credit card information is required. All you need to do is create a username and password and answer some questions about your current knowledge of ASL. They even have a "second chance" box that allows you to get your free trial reactivated if you need a little more time to decide whether or not to commit to their service.
After going through some video lessons and exploring the platform, we found that ASL Deafined has a lot to offer. All of the videos are signed by deaf experts, they have over 300 themed lessons for beginners to advanced users, retention exercises, progress charts, vocabulary banks, fingerspelling practice, quizzes, grammar exercises, and more. In short, you won't run out of things to learn here.
Lessons cater to skill level
Beginners are taught basic topics like the alphabet, numbers, colors, survival words, verbs, animals and clothing. Intermediate students have lessons to choose from about outdoor activities, illnesses, Christmas, the beach, and hobbies. Advanced learners are taught about deaf culture, famous deaf people, science, professionals, weather, money, and more. All video lessons are good quality, straightforward, and easy to navigate. Some videos move quickly, so you might need to rewatch them a few times to figure out which fingers to use and which directions to point.
Considering all that is included, ASL Deafined is one of the least expensive options for learning sign language. The cost for educational users is just $12/year and the cost for individuals is $36/year. This includes unlimited activities, lessons, and games. (The site doesn't explicitly state the difference between "educational" and "individual" accounts.) It also includes continuous updates and versions. ASL Deafined can be cancelled at any time. If you're unhappy with your purchase, all you have to do is email customer service for a full refund.
Inexpensive and easy to use
ASL Deafined is not rated by the Better Business Bureau. We wish their website included reviews from people who used their service to learn sign language. Unfortunately, reviews on this site are pretty limited. However, in the feedback we were able to find, people say they are thrilled with the price of ASL Deafined's platform and how easy it is to go at your own pace. If you're looking for a place to start, this is an awesome resource. We highly recommend checking out ASL Deafined.
Sign Language 101 is the creation of Dr. Byron Bridges, a deaf educator who has used ASL as his primary language his entire life. His enthusiastic teaching style makes ASL a joy to learn, and it must be contagious because the other signers featured on this platform's social media channels are equally engaging.
A wealth of free sign language lessons
You'll be impressed with how much you can learn for free - no need to create an account or sign up in any way, because it's all right on the Sign Language 101 website. (Shocker: you'll find them under the Free Videos tab at the top of the page.) Want to learn the ABCs? How about how facial expressions matter in sign language? Numbers? Calendar words? Animals? You get all of that and much more. There's also an impressive amount of current vocabulary (like holidays, seasons, and so on) on Sign Language 101's social media channels; we love the way this demonstrates this company's commitment to being relevant and helping ASL learners to master exactly what they need at the right time.
Affordable paid plans
If you're looking for a structured program, take a look at Sign Language 101's two 10-week courses (appropriately named Level 1 and Level 2). They're designed to take you at least 10 weeks each, and you can preview up to the first six lessons in each one through the site. Each level costs $30, or you can buy them together as the "Complete" package and pay $50. That's a one-time fee, and you can use the lessons as much or as little as you want, with no time limit. If you need a certificate of completion when you're finished, you can request one with all paid plans.
30-day refund policy
What if you buy Sign Language 101 and decide you don't like it? You can get a refund within 30 days of your purchase date, but only if you have completed less than 50% of the level you purchased (or 25% of the Complete Online ASL course).
See for yourself
We'd love to see student feedback for Sign Language 101, but it's a little hard to come by. Then again, is it really necessary to read other people's reviews when you can already access so much ASL content for free, right on the website? We don't think so either!
Risk-free option for learning sign language
There's really no reason not to give Sign Language 101 a go. You could easily spend many hours taking advantage of every free lesson on their website before paying a dime - but with such a low one-time fee, why not track your progress and get a nice certificate at the end? We applaud this service for giving learners of almost all ages an affordable way to study ASL at their own pace.
Lingvano is based in Austria and has provided instruction in both American Sign Language (ASL) and Austrian Sign Language (OEGS) since 2018. You may even spot the German-language influence in the ASL when you watch the mouth of the signer pronounce "welcome" as "velcome" ! All of the online teachers used in this program are Deaf, and they work hard to break down language barriers through easy-to-use lessons for real-life situations.
Create a free account to see
Lingvano is pretty mysterious about what they have to offer until you create a (free) account. When you provide the company with a name and email address (which doesn't have to be your actual contact info, if you'd prefer to hold off on that), you'll be taken to a dashboard that walks you through some basic ASL exercises: presenting easy signs like "hello" and "welcome" , then having you match the signs with the words below. Lingvano has an interesting mirroring tool also, where your camera is used to let you see how closely you're imitating the signer. You can rest assured that your video images aren't being sent anywhere. You'll also see a little turtle icon that, theoretically, slows the demo video down, but we didn't notice much difference.
The structure of sign language lessons on Lingvano follows an overall pattern of Discover, Dialog, and Review, with little checkpoints for comprehension. There are a total of five modules offered here, with anywhere from 12-15 lessons in each one. You can try out the first lesson in each module: a good idea if you've already got some basic knowledge of ASL and want to know if Lingvano will provide enough challenge.
For paid subscribers, Lingvano has tools like a Vocabulary Trainer (exercises for fingerspelling, numbers, and so on), a sign dictionary, plus review exercises after each lesson and at several points through each module.
Helps you notice the differences between ASL and English
We really appreciate how Lingvano addresses topics like Deaf culture and grammar, recognizing (and rightly so) that ASL is a language in its own right and doesn't always directly map to English syntax. As you work your way through the signs taught here, you can see the English translation below. That's helpful for those of us who struggle to use sign language's unique grammar and not apply our English language rules over the top of ASL.
3 ways to subscribe
There are three payment structures offered here. If you think you'll be using Lingvano for a long time - maybe you like to go through lessons very deliberately or you don't plan on studying a lot all at once - you can pay the equivalent of $9.99/month when paying for a year in advance (just under $120). If you'd like to pay for a three-month plan, it works out to $15.99/month, or you can always choose the month-to-month plan for $17.99. We're not entirely sure how long Lingvano's money-back guarantee is. In their Terms and Conditions, it specifies a 14-day limit, but at the very end of the first (free) lesson it's called a 20 Days Money-Back Guarantee.
Thousands of five-star reviews
We were pleasantly surprised to see how much positive feedback Lingvano's sign language lessons have received from subscribers - over 7000 five-star reviews and counting. In fact, the only complaint anyone seems to have about this platform is the cost: everyone loves what they see in the free version, and then they get mad when they hit the paywall and want to keep going. Only you can determine if the price is right, but we're glad that the word on the street from paid members is that Lingvano is a fantastic way to learn sign language - no matter if you use it on your computer or via smartphone app.
Great program - but pricey
Lingvano gets high marks for being engaging and easy to follow. Students feel like this app helps them make genuine progress in their ASL fluency. But, price can be a big drawback: these sign language lessons have some of the highest month-to-month pricing we've seen. It would be wise to try all of Lingvano's free content and then realistically evaluate how committed you are to studying ASL, to determine if your investment in these lessons will be worth it. If so, be ready to add yourself to the thousands of satisfied students who love Lingvano.
Rocket Languages' programs are frequently featured here as a way to get a well-rounded set of lessons that you only have to pay for once: no subscription required. We've evaluated this platform many times because this company offers over a dozen different languages to learners around the world. Read on to see how Rocket Sign Language measures up to the competition.
Free trial for life
We encourage you to jump right in and create a free account with Rocket Languages. It will give you unlimited lifetime access to a sampler of lessons across every language they teach, including ASL. It's the best way to get a feel for how the instruction here is delivered and if it's going to feel natural and fun for you.
7 levels of study
There are seven learning modules offered in Rocket Sign Language, for a total of 30 lessons and nearly 100 hours of instruction. Module 1 covers a short introduction to ASL, the Deaf community and signing clearly, with video lessons on the alphabet, greetings, and starting a conversation. By the time you work your way down to Module 7, you'll be ready for ASL idioms and slang, comparing and contrasting, the weather and more. Rocket says you can expect a beginning-to-intermediate level of sign language fluency by the time you've completed their program.
No subscription required
Have you ever been aggravated with yourself for signing up for a subscription and then never using it - realizing after many months (and payments!) that you've wasted your time and money? Us too. You won't have that problem with Rocket Sign Language: you only pay a one-time fee of $69.95 or four monthly installments of $15 - and that's it. You can use these lessons as much or as little as you like...forever.
Lessons get consistent updates
Fortunately, just because Rocket Sign Language only requires a one-time payment doesn't mean that these lessons are never updated. When we used these lessons most recently, the content had been updated within the last year. True, that's not as robust as some platforms that are constantly pushing out free and timely vocab lessons on their social media channels, but it's still better than an always-static service that doesn't reflect the changes in ASL that happen over time.
60-day refund policy
Only you can be the judge of how well Rocket Sign Language fits your learning style, because there's just a few dozen reviews from other students. Most of them give these ASL lessons a five-star review, and either way you'll have 60 days from the purchase date to request a refund if you get into it and determine that it's not what you expected.
Good option for learning basic ASL
Generally speaking, Rocket Sign Language is a great way to avoid expensive subscriptions and annoying auto-renewals. For students who prefer a one-and-done cost, this is probably the best option. It doesn't quite have all of the bells and whistles you'll see with some ASL platforms, but Rocket's lessons are well-rounded, easy to follow, and offer a solid introduction to signing.
Founded in 1864, Gallaudet University is a bilingual, private university federally chartered for the education of the deaf and hard of hearing. Their in-person campus is located in Washington D.C. They have over 50 degree programs available online or on campus. Students can get their Bachelors, Masters, or Doctorate degree from Gallaudet University. Although this is a professional, expensive University, they offer an ASL Connect program online for free.
Impressive selection of topics
"ASL for free" is a way for people to get their feet wet in the world of American Sign Language. It gives people a starting place to learn the basics of communication through videos and interactive lessons. We were surprised by how many topics there were to choose from including numbers, transportation, baby items, fruits, emotions, colors, animals, sports, weather, basic needs, and more.
Each video is about 45 seconds long, so you either need to internalize everything you're seeing really quickly or do a lot of stopping and rewinding. Videos show the word you're being taught and the sign language interpretation in an ongoing video. For example, if you're learning how to sign different fruits, you'll see an apple on the screen, then the sign, an orange, then the sign, grapes, then the sign, and so on.
Three lesson modules
The lesson modules are a bit more comprehensive than the videos: you are shown one sign at a time and asked to copy. There are three modules: basic personal information, making an encounter, and people. The lessons are short, but teach you how to identify vocabulary related to genders, describe what people are doing with action verbs, answer "yes" or "no" questions, and use appropriate pronouns. Each module has between 1 and 4 lessons.
Good for refreshing your memory
Obviously a huge selling point of using ASL for free through Gallaudet University is that it's... well, free. Because of this, it isn't an extensive program that tracks your progress over time or lets you choose lessons based on your knowledge level. This is just a free resource for anyone to use if they want to teach themselves the basics at whatever pace they want. It's probably best to refer to Gaulladet's free ASL course for quick refreshers rather than learning from scratch.
Brush up on your vocab
If you want all that Gaulladet has to offer for learning sign language, you'll have to sign up for their courses. Each class is about $316 and gives you credit toward a degree at Gallaudet University. This is an amazing institution who has served the deaf community for a long time, so whether you enroll in their courses or take advantage of their free ASL videos, it will be a great benefit to you. This isn't our first choice since you don't have an option to get extensive course content for a budget-friendly price, but it is a good place to refer to if you need to quickly brush up on your ASL vocabulary.
The ASL App is the creation of Ink & Salt LLC, a deaf-owned and operated company that specializes in digital publishing and creative productions. The company's goal is to "create connections between the non-signing community and the signing community" , and the app uses a dozen signers from a wide variety of backgrounds to give you exposure to many different ASL users as you learn. In 2021, The ASL App received a Webby Awards nomination and was ranked among the top 10% in the People's Choice category.
Easy to use on the fly
For anyone that wants to learn sign language on the go, The ASL App could be a solid fit. It's even designed to be used one-handed, so that you can hold your phone in one hand and sign with the other if you're trying to communicate with a deaf person. As you use the app, you can save any signs that you want to remember to practice (or any favorites), and the video can be paused or rewound if you need extra time or to see something a second time.
Free and paid content
The ASL App has a fair amount of free content you can access by downloading it to your mobile phone: just visit the app store for your specific device. You'll get basics like Universal Gestures, Handshape Exercises, Colors, and several other topics. You can also pay for $0.99 downloads of content on topics like Family Signs, or with a one-time fee of $9.99 you'll get the entire library.
Very mixed feedback from app users
Unfortunately, users seem to have a love-hate relationship with The ASL App. On the Google Play Store alone, the five-star raves were dead even with the one-star rants and just a handful of 2- to 4-star ratings in the middle. Fans of the app say that it's fun and easy to use, and that it provides a great value. On the other hand, negative reviews frequently mention glitches in both the free and paid content, too many downloads, and less-than-intuitive controls.
Even more questions
Even more troublesome were the handful of comments we found from users claiming to have advanced knowledge of ASL (like interpreters and so on) that said many of the signs featured on The ASL App were off or flat-out incorrect. In any language, that's no bueno. And, as far as we can tell, there's no way to get your money back if you've paid for the downloadable content - short of filing a complaint with the Apple App Store or Google Play or a dispute with your credit card company (but you shouldn't hold your breath on either of those).
Not much support
We're also not sure how much support you'll get with your app on either platform. On The ASL App's social media channels, it seems like the company earned their Webby Award and then promptly disappeared: there are no more posts on their Facebook account, the site link to their YouTube page is broken, and their Instagram and Twitter feeds were only slightly more active but still not posted to on a consistent basis.
Don't pay until you've used the free version a while
For all of these reasons, we think your best bet is to try The ASL App strictly for the free content. Use it for several weeks (or longer) and see if you encounter any of the technical problems mentioned by other people. By then, you'll have a clearer idea how this app works and whether or not it feels right for your needs. Granted, $9.99 is pretty cheap no matter how you look at it (especially compared with other sign language lessons that charge you by the month), but take the time to see if this service actually functions properly before buying full access.
Skillshare is "an online learning community with thousands of classes for creative and curious people" , ranging from artistic endeavors like illustration and photography to language lessons, programming and much more. Because of the collaborative, user-created nature of this platform, the type and quantity of sign language lessons may vary with time. At the time of our most recent visit to Skillshare, there were 40 ASL lesson sets to choose from.
ASL courses taught by different providers
It's relatively easy to tell at a glance which courses are most popular and who's teaching them. For example, the American Sign Language Level 1 course by Intellezy Trainers had nearly 20,000 students when we visited Skillshare; the next-most popular class was The Alphabet for Beginners by Able Lingo ASL (who also taught the majority of the remaining sign language lessons on offer here).
Read all about it
When you click on a course that catches your attention, you can see exactly how many lessons are included and the total instructional time. It's a good way to make sure the course will meet your learning needs, so you don't waste time on any ASL topics you may have mastered previously. You can also learn more about the instructor(s), the goals of the course, and what their students say about the quality of the sign language lessons.
Account very limited until you pay
Skillshare doesn't make it super-obvious, but you'll have to subscribe to a Premium membership to get "unlimited access to thousands of classes" : your free account only goes so far, and it's not easy to tell upfront how much you'll get out of the sign language classes without paying. If you decide that it's worth it to join, expect to pay $32/month if you choose a month-to-month plan, or $180 on an annual membership (which works out to just $15/month). All plans come with a 7-day free trial.
Best if you want to learn other things too
Compared with other sign language lessons, Skillshare is very expensive. It might be a good resource if there are other classes on the platform you'd like to take, like creative writing, web development, or marketing - you could really get your money's worth. But, if you're just looking for a program with expertise in ASL and only that, you'll likely get a better experience with one of the higher-ranked services in our evaluation.
An "F" from the BBB = choose a different ASL program
Unfortunately, no matter how good any of the individual ASL instructors or programs are here, Skillshare is a service that is probably best avoided. Why? The company has an abysmal rating from the Better Business Bureau: complaint after complaint describes customers having an impossible time canceling after a free trial and being charged for a full year's membership - and then not getting a refund until the BBB gets involved. Go with a sign language lesson service that isn't going to give you a headache.
Sign language lessons that include different instructors can help you see that individuals often have their own unique way of signing - just like someone from the South has a spoken accent that's very distinct from a New Yorker. Going back to the question of where to learn ASL, it might be possible to find classes nearby at a community college or even a library. Will they fit your schedule? Your budget?
Maybe, maybe not. Fortunately, there are many providers of sign language lessons online that let you study at your own pace, any time of day or night. (And hey, unlike other language lessons, you don't have to worry about disturbing people as you practice ASL in a quiet public place!)
What should you look for as you choose where to take sign language lessons through the internet? Here are some suggestions that can help you narrow down the options:
TopConsumerReviews.com has reviewed and ranked the best Sign Language lessons available today. We hope these reviews help you open new doors of communication as you learn to sign fluently in ASL right away!
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