Ways & How

How to Learn Sign Language

How to Learn Sign Language

You may be interested in figuring out how to learn sign language if you have loved ones who are deaf or if you have recently come to know someone who can only communicate through sign language. It is a fun language to learn, perhaps no more or less challenging than other languages. If anything, it is simpler in one sense: You won’t be hampered with the effort of training your tongue to form new sounds or burdened with the need to adopt a new accent. You will need to be persistent and diligent in memorizing the gestures and the words that go with them, using your newly learned vocabulary in actual situations, and practicing. The following tips will help familiarize you with the steps you can take to learn sign language.

  1. Make use of all the resources that exist in your area. Your community or a local school or organization may offer classes. If you can, join one; it is easier to learn in the company of other people because they constantly challenge and support your efforts. Boredom is a big deterrent to effective learning; learning in a classroom setting will help keep you on your toes and keep the learning process interesting.


  2. Ask someone to show or teach you the proper way to make the alphabet signs before you memorize them and practice them on your own. This is the second step, not the first, for good reason. Sign language involves actions that are difficult to understand or follow from illustrations in books or, in some cases, from videos. Memorizing them on your own may get you hooked on the wrong gestures or habits, making them difficult to unlearn. With that in mind, memorize the Sign Language alphabet so that you can communicate even when you don’t know the sign for a specific word. Start memorizing the basics and try to insert them into your everyday conversations. You can practice even when speaking to a non-deaf person by making the signs while you’re conversing. Who knows? You might get him or her interested in learning with you, thus doubling your motivation and interest.

  3. Once you have the basics memorized, support your learning with independent study. Get a sign language dictionary. Borrow books or learning materials from your local library or deaf friends. Search the internet for online tutorials. There’s a wealth of material out there waiting to be used. Just dive in.

  4. One good way to memorize signs is to sign along to a simple song. Choose a favorite song, one with lyrics that are meaningful to you, and learn to sign along with it. Practice singing the song along with the signs, thus committing the signs to memory and enabling your muscle memory.

  5. Befriend deaf people and acquaint yourself with deaf culture in your community. Sign language, like other languages everywhere, varies slightly from place to place, and each group or culture has its own jargon, expressions, phrases, and colloquialisms. Making new friends, going through new experiences, and finding connections will enrich your life so much more. It will also expose you to benefits beyond the opportunity to practice signing.

  6. Since sign language is more limited in vocabulary than, say, English, there are a lot of words for which there are no corresponding signs. To express yourself, you will have to learn to simplify and condense your thoughts.

You should be as sensitive when dealing with deaf people as you are with strangers. Not all deaf people know sign language, and each person’s experience is different. Deaf and mute people, just like those who can hear and speak, have their own share of emotional baggage. It would be unkind and arrogant to assume that you can relate with them right off the bat just because you know a few hand gestures. Tread lightly and be courteous and gracious; it will get you far. Once you have mastered all these steps, you will have a comprehensive sense of how to learn sign language.


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