Over 1 million people in the United States are deaf, meaning that they are functionally deaf and unable to hear. On top of those people, around another 6 million have hearing impairment significant enough to cause problems for them.
You may know someone who has trouble hearing or someone who is completely deaf, which may be why you’re looking into learning American Sign Language. You should know that around 500,000 people in the United States and Canada use ASL, so it is common to see people using it in everyday life.
Not all deaf or hard-of-hearing people learn sign language. In fact, only around 1% of them do. That being said, it can be an amazing tool to help a person communicate with others when they are unable to hear or speak to say what they need to.
Learning ASL can help you help people who are hearing impaired or deaf. If you are deaf or hearing impaired, it could help you make you communicate more clearly with others. ASL is a fantastic tool for anyone wanting further ways to talk with others.
ASL is set up to be easy to learn. It teaches you the basic alphabet, which allows you to sign words that you may not know. You can also learn signs for specific words, making it easier to sign sentences.
We’ve put together this helpful resource of the top 26 sign language books, apps, and other sources, so you can start learning ASL today.
Top 26 Resources to Learn Sign Language
Sign language is easy to learn if you have the right resources. Fortunately, there are many available that are both free and paid. You can start online on YouTube, download an app to your phone, or try a book or DVD program to get started.
This collection of resources will make sure you have what you need to start talking in sign language as soon as today.
Best Apps for Learning Sign Language
Apps are great for learning sign language. You can take them with you, and many are set up for short lessons. Have a break at work? A quick 5- or 10-minute lesson could be waiting for you on your phone or tablet.
1. Hands on ASLHands on ASL is an excellent tool to help you learn ASL because it uses 3D model hands instead of still images or videos. You can zoom in, change angles, and rotate the angles to make sure you really understand what you’re learning. Add to that the gamification of learning the language, and it’s an easy choice.
Price: Free to use with the option of in-app purchases.
2. LingvanoLingvano is one of the more expensive apps, but it focuses on offering excellent visual aids and helpful ASL signs. It also has the option of teaching British Sign Language, which is helpful for people looking to travel abroad.
Price: $17.99 per month (other subscriptions are available)
3. The ASL AppThe ASL App is unique because it was created by a deaf-owned-and-run company called Ink & Salt. You’ll love that you can turn on the slow-motion option to start learning how to read a conversation visually. You can also use a search index to find the signs that you’re looking for.
Price: Basic: $.99. A one-time purchase of $9.99 includes all current and future bundles.
InterSign ASL is an ASL app that you can use to learn ASL over the course of 90 lessons. It uses games to gamify your learning, and you can also use a dictionary or check the glossary for the words you’re looking for. Sign variants are coming soon, so if you’re an intermediate and want to know how you can use signs differently, this could be a good option for you.
Price: Free to use with in-app purchases starting at around $4.99.
ASL Dictionary has over 5,000 videos that you can review as you learn to use American Sign Language. It includes exercises for fingerspelling, slow-motion options, quizzes, and more, so you can learn in a multitude of ways.
If you want to practice offline, the app allows you to do so by downloading content.
6. Pocket SignPocket Sign teaches ASL with small videos, quizzes, and flash cards. It also tells you more about the hand movements you’ll need to use, which can help if you aren’t quite sure how to form the sign.
Price: $5.99 monthly, $59.99 per year.
ASL American Sign Language teaches sign language vocabulary and phrases. Unlike some others, it also includes picture-matching games and nursery rhymes, which can be beneficial if you’re teaching kids or learning to speak with your own via sign language.
Price: $2.99 one time.
SignSchool is free to all users and focuses on teaching over 4,000 signs across 200 different subtopics. You’ll love that you can learn about deaf culture at the same time as signing, too.
The reviewers for this app do point out that it isn’t the best for beginners, so if you’re an intermediate, you might like this app more.
Price: Free to all users.
Best Video Courses for Learning Sign Language
Video courses may make it easier to learn how signs look in real-time. Here are several courses we think you’ll love.
Start ASL Complete Online Course is an instant download, which is great if you don’t want to wait to start learning. There are three class lessons that will get you started, and you don’t need to be online to run them.
A truly full-fledged program, Learn & Master American Sign Language is made up of 25 DVDs that have over 49 hours of instruction. Thanks to this, it’s simple to learn vocabulary, sentences, dialogues, narratives, and more. There are around 2,000 vocabulary words taught throughout the program.
Common Expressions in American Sign Language (DVD) is a two-volume set that goes over 250 common phrases, idioms, expressions, and sentences in American Sign Language. These phrases are ideal for common, everyday conversations.
American Sign Language Interpreter Training is a two-DVD resource that is perfect for anyone looking to learn sign language. It teaches both receptive and expressive skills, including sign-to-voice, vocabulary, and more.
Signing Time is a series designed for children. It starts with basic sign language, with each lesson running for 30 minutes at a time. It is a reputable program and resource, so it’s one that you can use with your kids.
Price: Starting at $1.99, DVD is $16.98
The American Sign Language Learning System is a DVD with quick signing, so if you’re looking to learn up to speed, this is one for you. It’s great for intermediate learners and those with a familiar basis in ASL.
Best Online Courses for Learning Sign Language
Gallaudet University offers both free ASL basic courses as well as paid ASL courses. The exact cost depends on the course. The university offers all kinds of studies, such as Intro to Deaf Studies and Deaf Women’s Studies, which you may enjoy.
Price: Free, but paid classes are available. Finger spelling is approximately $316, and special topics may be up to $950.
2. Start ASLStart ASL offers a classroom-like setting where you can learn units about ASL. There are three levels, all of which accumulate to around a semester of a college language course. You can upgrade or downgrade your access level at any time, so you can decide if you like the program and want to use it for academic credit.
Price: Silver: $25 monthly. Gold: $50 monthly.
3. ASL MeredithASL Meredith offers a six-week course in ASL. It is self-guided, so learners are allowed to take as much time as they would like to complete the program. The Foundations of ASL course has six modules.
Price: $179 for the beginner course with a payment plan available.
ASLDeafined is an amazing video dictionary. It has over 15,000 words recorded, so it’s easier for you to learn the ASL vocabulary words you want to know.
Users get a progress chart, so they can look back and see how far they’ve come while learning sign language. Over 300 themed lessons are currently available.
Price: $36 annually, but educators pay only $12.
5. Sign It! ASLSign It! ASL is an online sign language course that is self-paced, so you can take all the time you need to complete the program. It’s free to those who have a child under three years old with hearing loss. The 20 units include quizzes, information about deaf culture, and more.
Price: Price: Starting at $7.83 on Kindle and $18.03 for a paperback.
American Sign Language University offers instructor-guided courses that you can pay for. You can also choose to use self-guided resources for free if you don’t want to pay. Dr. Vicar offers the First 100 Signs video as an excellent place to start in any program.
Price: Approximately $483.
SignOn Connect pairs with native sign language users to give you the opportunity to connect through one-on-one videos. It has been shown that this unique platform increases college test scores in ASL by around 37%. Speak with role models if you’re deaf yourself, or connect with native sign language users.
Price: $25 per individual session. Five free sessions. Annual memberships are $35.
Best Books for Learning Sign Language
1. Talking with Your Hands, Listening with Your Eyes: A Complete Photographic Guide to American Sign LanguageTalking with Your Hands, Listening with Your Eyes: A Complete Photographic Guide to American Sign Language is a book that goes over not only signs you need to use but also Deaf culture and history. It is organized by category for easy memorization.
Price: Starting at $17.50
Religious Signing: A Comprehensive Photographic Guide to American Sign Language is a helpful book for anyone looking to interact while discussing faith and religion. It is a comprehensive guide that helps interpret everything from religious sermons to events.
Price: Starting at $18.98
American Sign Language the Easy Way is designed for beginners. This book helps you learn the basics of ASL, making it easier for you to start signing with others in simple conversations right away. The nice thing about this book is that it has many photographs, so you can see signs the way they really look.
Price: Starting at $24.45
Signing Illustrated: The Complete Learning Guide includes an amazing 1,500 signs that you can learn to speak with others. The signs are organized in the book by category, making it simple to find the terms you should look for while discussing a particular subject.
Price: Price: Starting at $14.89
From Mime to Sign is a book that goes over not only hand signs but also gestures and facial expressions. When you’re learning ASL, knowing all these different ways to express yourself is essential.
Price: From $24.54
10 Tips for Learning Sign Language
There are many things you can do to make it easier to learn sign language and make a connection in your community. To help you get started, we’ve put together this helpful list of 10 tips to make learning sign language easier.
- Get started with the finger alphabet. The finger alphabet lets you spell words you may not know the signs for, so you’ll never be stuck if you don’t know a particular hand sign.
- Have conversations from the start. Though you may not know many signs, being able to use them will help you retain them better and be able to use them correctly in the future as you interpret what others are signing or are describing speech or sound to those who cannot hear.
- Learn common phrases. If you start by learning common phases, you should be able to quickly start having conversations. This makes you more fluent when you want to participate in small talk.
- Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Sometimes, it’s hard to remember all the signs you want to use, but you need to try anyway. Making mistakes helps you learn faster, and most people won’t judge you negatively for doing your best.
- Watch ASL videos on YouTube. By immersing yourself in your favorite ASL courses online, you’ll be more likely to learn new signs by virtue of watching them in use. Some common Deaf YouTube channels include “Deafies in Drag” and “Sign Duo.”
- Keep learning fun. Try to learn in a number of different ways, so you don’t get bored learning new content.
- Keep in mind what goals you have, so you can aim for them as you continue to learn new signs. Whether your goal is to learn 100 new signs or you want to learn 1,500 to become relatively fluent, you can do it with the right mindset.
- Remember the Pareto principle. This principle is known as the 80/20 rule. It says that around 80% of outcomes come from 20% of causes. Essentially, the work you do isn’t necessarily going to have an equal result. Spending 20% of your time focused on study, conversation, and review is great and accounts for around 80% of your results. You can really do more by doing less, in a sense. So, don’t worry too much if you can’t spend 100% of your time learning sign language, because you really don’t have to. Just focus on the 20% of tasks that are most vital, and you’ll see results.
- Track your progress. You need to see how far you’ve come to be able to feel successful. Try to take regular quizzes or tests to see how your knowledge is improving.
- Know that everyone learns at different paces, and learning isn’t linear. While it would be nice to think that you could learn everything you need to know just by focusing on studying and that studying would give you equal returns, the reality is that your skills will fluctuate over time.
These are a few tips that will help you as you learn sign language. As with any language, there may be times when you find it hard to learn more than what you know. You might think your journey has come to an end or that you’ve plateaued.
Don’t be too hard on yourself because, like any language, ASL can be difficult to learn and takes persistence. The resources above will help you get started on your language journey, so you can soon be on your way to fluency. If you find yourself in a tough spot, consider trying a new learning opportunity, so you can try a new platform or educational process and continue making headway towards fluency.