Learning American Sign Language
Are you learning alongside your children and just signing as you can, or are you the “expert” in the family? How are you teaching yourself?
Actually, Jane is the family expert. We are all learning together, but she’s ahead of me. My downfall is fingerspelling—I can spell words quickly, but I can’t read fingerspelling to save my life!
We have used (are using) a number of different resources. The Signing Time DVDs are definitely our family favorites, and all of us—including Wonderboy—have learned dozens of practical, useful, everyday signs from those. A dear friend of mine gave us the four new volumes as a baby gift for Rilla. Such a great present!
I’ve heard there’s now a Signing Time show on PBS—anybody know if that’s correct?
Another video series we have learned from—and I get goosebumps over the fact that we actually went through this program long before Wonderboy was born, just because Jane and I both had an interest in learning ASL—is the Sign with Me program published by Boys’ Town. This video series (not available on DVD, unfortunately) is aimed at parents of deaf children, with the vocabulary consisting of words frequently used when talking to babies and toddlers. This made it a delight for then-seven-year-old Jane and four-year-old Rose, who enjoyed being able to sign important things like “yucky,” “sticky,” and “Cookie Monster” to their baby sister. After Wonderboy—and his diagnosis—came along, we watched the 3-volume series all over again. And somehow I think having gone through it once already, having watched deaf toddlers signing on the video, helped me take Wonderboy’s hard-of-hearing diagnosis in stride.
Last year Jane and I took a course online. Signing Online is geared for college students or older, but it worked out beautifully for us. Each lesson teaches conversational vocabulary through video clips. Again, we found the vocab extremely pertinent and functional: phrases like “What are you doing?” and “Of course!” really help you to converse in a natural manner. (There are a good many nouns, verbs, etc also.) It was a little pricey but we felt it was worth the expense. I think the full course is the equivalent of a semester at the university level.
However, there are some excellent free resources as well:
• ASL Pro and ASL Browser are free online American Sign Language dictionaries with video demonstrations of each sign.
• ASL University offers a free online tutorial with a combination of video clips and stills.
• I really have no excuse for my lousy fingerspelling skills—I could be honing them with this Fingerspelling Quiz.
• Finally, if your family has a deaf or hard of hearing member, you automatically qualify to use the Captioned Media Program’s free lending library of videos and DVDs—including a wide selection of ASL instructional materials. You can even view them via streaming video! Jane, Rose, Beanie, and I plan to begin a new series in the fall. (I just have to figure out which one.) CMP is funded by the Department of Education and has a library containing thousands of captioned movies, documentaries, and other resources. It’s an amazing program. Your tax dollars at work!
• Signing Time DVDs
• More about Signing Time
• Rilla Signs
• Unsolicited Signing Time Commercial
• Signing with Babies, My Favorite Topic