So You Want to Learn American Sign Language? – Part Two
by: Brooke LaTurno, EIPA 4.0 - Interpreter Coordinator
This blog post is part two on the topic of learning American Sign Language (ASL). If you have not yet read part one, please click here to check out the first post.
An important part of learning any language is immersion. The best way to immerse yourself in the signing world is through real world engagement.
Once you have some of the language basics down, a great way to further your exploration is to attend deaf meetups in your community. Keep in mind that some social gatherings are set-up for members of the Deaf community to get together, and may not be open to newcomers who are just starting to learn ASL or who are not a part of the Deaf community. An easy way to find out is to reach out to the event host, let them know that you are a new signer, mention whether you are hearing, deaf, or hard of hearing, and simply ask them: “Would I be welcome at this event?”
Communities with a large population of Deaf and hard of hearing people, as well as hearing signers, tend to have standing dates when they regularly meet every month at the same time, in the same place. Deaf clubs often have a robust calendar of events, including fun game nights where hearing signers may be welcome.
There will be other times when a special meet-up or event is scheduled – like for a special guest who is in town visiting – those events often have a bigger turnout. Both types of events would be a great opportunity to practice your ASL and may lend themselves to different conversation dynamics; it all depends on the unique circumstances of the occasion. Go into it with an open mind and see where the experience takes you.
Do you have a friend who is also interested in learning ASL? You can be study buddies, and practice together in-person or through a video chatting platform. Make a commitment to check out local meetups together and encourage each other’s learning milestones.
Please let us know in the comments below if you have any recommendations about community events in your area or online.
As a final note, if you do learn ASL and are interested in becoming a Sign Language Interpreter, the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) has a useful search tool to find Interpreter Education Programs, to begin your studies: https://myaccount.rid.org/public/search/organization.aspx