Dear Lipreading Mom,
Can you tell me how to go about learning sign language?
I have been in your shoes. In fact, I still am learning sign language. Imagine being part of a culture all your life and being immersed in the language, traditions, and history of that culture. The Deaf culture is one that is closely identified with its language. In the U.S. where I live, that is American Sign Language (ASL), and there are many other forms of sign language depending on what country you live in.
For purposes of this column, I will share what has helped me learn the basics of ASL.
Four Sign Language Tips
1) Visit events where sign language is common. Deaf Coffee Chats are an excellent way to learn sign language and are held all over the United States. Click here to see if a chat group meets in your area.
2) Download one or more American Sign Language (ASL) apps, and practice regularly. HearingHearing.com lists several apps. One that my daughter and I use is MarleeSigns, an iTunes signing program by actress Marlee Matlin, who is deaf.
3) Learn songs in sign language. I’ve found that music makes learning to sign easier, because the hand movements are more dramatic and often slower. Where I attend church, one of the ladies signs the worship music. One day, I asked her how she learned to sign the words so beautifully. Her answer: Watching YouTube videos. She finds out, in advance, what the the worship songs will be each Sunday, then she Googles the name of the song and “sign language video” on YouTube. Click here to search for sign language videos to your popular songs.
4) When signing with someone, have that person stand beside you, not in front of you. Otherwise, that person’s signing movements will be like a “mirror reflection” to your eyes—backwards.
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Shanna Groves was diagnosed with progressive hearing loss after the birth of her first child. She was 27. Raised in a hearing family, Shanna traces her hearing loss to a genetic loss on the paternal side of her family. She is mom to three young children, a published author, and speaker. Her books are featured at www.ShannaGroves.com. Shanna blogs about being a hard of hearing mom at http://LipreadingMom.com.