How to Learn American Sign Language: 6 Ways to Learn ASL Effectively

Kelsey Wetherbee Last updated on January 18, 2023

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If you want to learn American Sign Language, using the right resource can make the process more enjoyable. You can use this ASL guide to find a way that fits your learning style and language goals. Whether you prefer a more traditional method like books or courses, or want to explore more modern ways to learn like apps and YouTube videos, this guide can help you find a method that’s right for you.

Best ASL App

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Try Rocket ASL

Best ASL Course

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Try Udemy

Best ASL tutors

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Try italki

American Sign Language (ASL) is the recognized language of deaf and hard-of-hearing people in the United States. ASL is a visual language that does not use spoken sounds. Instead, it uses hand signs, body movements, and facial expressions to communicate. It also consists of fingerspelling (or dactylology), which you can use to spell out specific names or words that don’t have a sign yet.

There are many reasons to learn ASL. First of all, more than 500,000 people in the United States are deaf or hard of hearing. Learning sign language will enable you to communicate with the Deaf community more easily. Chances are you know, or have interacted with, someone who is deaf or hard of hearing. Many people learn ASL to communicate with a family member, student, friend, or coworker.

It’s important to note that ASL is a unique language with specific grammar and syntax rules that vary from spoken English. And just like when learning any other language, it requires dedication and practice to reach a communicative level. ASL is unique to the United States. Each country has its own version of sign language. If you live in Norway, you would use Norwegian Sign Language (NSL) or British Sign Language (BSL) in the UK.

How to Learn ASL: Follow These Steps to Learn Fast!

There’s no magic formula to learn a language overnight, but there are some tips to learn ASL faster and more efficiently. The best way is to create, and stick with, a study routine. It’s best to study a little every day if possible. This will help you remember what you’ve already learned and build upon it.

It’s also a good idea to use more than one resource. Using a language app or watching YouTube videos can help you learn the signs and how to combine them into phrases, but there’s no substitution for practicing with a real person. You can take lessons from an online tutor, find a group in your community, or find a 1-on-1 practice partner.

Now let’s take a look at the 6 best ways to learn ASL.

Use the Best ASL Apps

Using an app is one of the best ways to start learning ASL. They are easy to use and begin with the basics. Most apps are engaging and include interactive lessons that make practicing fun. Rocket ASL, ASL Bloom, and The ASL App are three of the best options out there. They use videos to show how to correctly sign and are addicting so you’ll want to practice every day.

Commitment: Low
Price: Low-Medium
Convenience: High

See more ASL apps

Rocket ASL

Rocket ASL has the best overall course that will help you learn ASL the right way. Each lesson features videos of people signing and detailed explanations of how to combine signs into sentences. Rocket also includes tons of information on Deaf culture, such as how to join a conversation with people who are signing and the importance of signing space. This takes their course a step further than many other apps. You can try Rocket ASL for free for 7 days.

ASL Bloom

ASL Bloom is an excellent choice for beginners because they don’t presume you have any prior knowledge of ASL. The app was designed to help families and friends of deaf children learn how to sign. The videos show exactly how to make a sign and the spaced repetition will help you remember them long-term. In addition to the lessons, there are practice quizzes and flashcards, as well as a sign bank where you can search for a specific sign. You can read more about the app in this ASL Bloom review and try the first 3 units for free.

The ASL App

The ASL App was designed by deaf people to help friends and family who want to learn to sign. It’s a simple app that includes vocabulary lists such as colors, education, and pop culture. You click on a list to watch video flashcards that you can sign along with. Each video can be repeated, saved to a favorites list, or slowed down so you can see how to sign the word or phrase correctly. Some videos also include additional information and context on how to use the sign. You can try the first few lessons for free on The ASL App to see if you enjoy using it.

Take an Online ASL Course

An online ASL course is a helpful option if you like to learn in a structured manner. The lessons and study material are laid out for you so you always know what to study next. Most courses use a combination of live or pre-recorded classes, plus additional study material to complete outside of class time to help reinforce what you learned in the lessons. Udemy, Start ASL, and ASL Deafined have well-structured and developed courses to fit a variety of language goals.

Commitment: High
Price: Medium-High
Convenience: Medium

Udemy

Udemy is a massive online platform that has all types of educational courses and has almost 100 options for ASL courses. Some of the most popular courses include “Learn & Master Sign Language” and “First 500+ ASL Signs.” Each course has a detailed description, including how many hours of video lessons are included and what is covered in each unit. You can also read past student reviews and see how many people have taken the course to make sure you are getting a quality option. Watch a preview video of each course on the Udemy website, or read more about the overall platform in this Udemy review.

Start ASL

Start ASL is a developed platform that features online ASL courses for all levels. It’s a comprehensive site that puts together all the resources you need to study ASL effectively. You learn the grammar and sentence structure to sign fluently, not just vocabulary. The courses are self-paced so you learn at your own speed. There are video lessons, quizzes to check progress, dictionaries, and much more. Start ASL has quite a few free lessons and other resources available for free.

ASL Deafined

ASL Deafined structures their courses for different types of learners: deaf students, family members of deaf children, and people with a special interest in learning ASL. There are over 300 lessons for each of the groups. You also get retention activities, a progress chart, an ASL dictionary, and more. The yearly subscription price is very affordable, and you can access the lessons on the ASL Deafined app. You can sign up for a free 3-day trial to see if ASL Deafined is a good choice for you.

Find an Online ASL Tutor

One of the best ways to sign fluently in ASL is to practice with a teacher. This way, you can practice having a conversation and receive immediate feedback. Now, there are tons of online options available to connect with a tutor. Italki, Take Lessons, and Superprof have experienced teachers that can offer you individualized classes.

Commitment: Medium
Price: Medium-High
Convenience: Medium

italki

italki is a general language-learning platform that connects language learners with tutors. You can find tutors that teach ASL, as well as tutors that teach other variations of sign language. While italki is used more for languages like Spanish and German, there are currently 16 ASL teachers. They all have excellent ratings from past students. You can search their profiles to find a teacher that’s right for you. Most teachers offer a discounted trial class to see if they are a good fit for you. You can also read more about the platform in this italki review.

Take Lessons

Take Lessons is an educational platform that connects students and teachers. There are currently 45 teachers available that teach ASL. Each teacher creates their own lessons and sets their class time and prices. You can read their bios to find out their experience with ASL and if they are deaf and/or their connection with the deaf community. There isn’t a free trial class available, but you can try the teacher with a 30-minute class and many teachers offer a new student special.

Superprof

Superprof is a growing platform that connects language learners and teachers. There are currently 52 tutors available to teach you ASL. They set their own price so there is a wide range and you can find one that fits your budget. You can get to know the teachers through their bios and reviews from past students before you decide to take a class. Some teachers even teach face-to-face lessons if they live in your area. Most teachers offer a free trial lesson, and some have special deals if you buy multiple classes at once.

Study with High-Quality ASL Books

Books are a convenient way to study ASL. You can take a book anywhere and practice at any time. They often provide detailed descriptions and illustrations so you are learning the how and why of the language. American Sign Language for Beginners, American Sign Language Dictionary, and Barron’s American Sign Language are a few of the most popular options available.

Commitment: Low
Price: Medium
Convenience: Medium

American Sign Language for Beginners

American Sign Language for Beginners is a helpful choice if you’re just starting to learn ASL. It has 30 days of lessons to get you signing in a month. Each daily lesson takes less than 30 minutes to complete and teaches a basic vocabulary and grammar topic. There are pictures of all of the signs to see what they should look like. Reviewers liked the useful tips that were included in the book. See what others had to say about the book here.

American Sign Language Dictionary

The American Sign Language Dictionary is a reference with over 5,000 signs included. Each sign is illustrated with a written explanation of how to make it correctly. It’s a comprehensive reference for both beginners and more advanced learners. The words are in alphabetical order so you can look up a word or phrase and see the corresponding sign. Reviewers agree that it’s one of the best ASL references around. You can learn more about the American Sign Language Dictionary here.

Barron’s American Sign Language

Barron’s American Sign Language is a comprehensive textbook that can help you learn all aspects of ASL. In addition to learning vocabulary signs, there is instruction on grammar, how to combine signs into phrases, and information on the Deaf culture and community. There are online practice activities and graded video quizzes so you can receive feedback on how you are progressing. Reviewers thought that the lessons are challenging and might be better for people that already know the basics of ASL. See what you think about the book here.

Watch ASL YouTube Videos

Watching YouTube videos is a fun way to learn ASL, and it’s completely free! There are instructional videos that teach basic signs, while others are more informational and talk about Deaf culture. With most videos, you can turn subtitles on/off to fit your level. Finding a quality YouTube channel can be time-consuming, but the channels listed below have great instructional videos to get you signing fast.

Commitment: Low
Price: Low
Convenience: High

Learn How to Sign

Learn How to Sign YouTube Channel

Meredith is a certified ASL teacher and makes videos that show you how to sign correctly. She starts with basic words and phrases and gets into more advanced topics. There are even quizzes to test your knowledge and check your understanding. There are also videos that teach grammar and fingerspelling. She posts a new video every week so there’s always new content.

Bill Vicars

Dr. Bill Vicars teaches sign language through immersion. In each video, he teaches an ASL student new signs. That way you can see how he signs it and see corrections of common errors. His videos are humorous and he makes learning entertaining. He even has videos of how to sign dad jokes in ASL. There are hundreds of videos already uploaded on the Bill Vicars channel.

Signed With Heart

Signed With Heart is created by Ashley, a deaf woman born to a hearing family. She has both instructional videos and vlogs showing her daily life. It’s a great way for more advanced learners to practice because her vlogs show her signing naturally and you can turn the captions on and off to check for understanding. You can check out all her videos on the Signed With Heart YouTube page.

Find an ASL Practice Partner

It’s no secret that practice makes perfect (or at least closer to it). The same applies to learning ASL. If you want to become communicative, you’ll need to practice with other signers to reach a certain level of fluency. But if you don’t know anybody that communicates in ASL, it might be hard to practice. Now, there are plenty of options to find someone to practice with, either in-person or online.

Commitment: Low
Price: Low
Convenience: High

Meetup

meetup logo

Meetup is a social platform that lets members join groups according to their interests. You can search in your area to find an ASL group that meets in person. If there isn’t one near you, there are many online events you can attend. Some events are purely social, and others are educational that teach you how to sign. Most events are free, but some might charge a small fee to cover costs.

Social ASL

Social ASL was made to bridge the gap between the Deaf and hearing communities and connect signers. When you create an account, you have the option to choose if you are looking for friendship or dating and find others with the same intentions. There is an app available and you can make video calls to other members through the app.

Sign Language Forum

The Sign Language Forum can be used to post questions and talk about ASL-related topics. Many people post requests for a practice partner. There are also video chat rooms that you can join right from the website. You can choose a room based on your level, or join a mixed-level chat. It’s easy to sign up and is free to use. There are also other interesting ASL resources available on the site.

How to Learn ASL: Final Thoughts

I hope this list can help guide you to finding the best way for you to learn ASL. There are many reasons to learn sign language, and learning this unique language can be a rewarding journey. Just as with learning any other language, it takes time and dedication to reach a certain level of fluency. My best advice is to focus on why you are learning ASL and enjoy the journey.

Want to learn more? Check out our ASL resource page.

How to Learn ASL: FAQ

What is the best way to learn ASL?

There are many excellent ways to learn ASL, but one of the best is to learn with an app or course. Rocket ASL has a comprehensive course available that teaches different signs, how to combine them, and important information about Deaf culture. Another useful app is ASL Bloom.

Can I teach myself ASL?

Thanks to the availability of online resources, you can teach yourself the basics of ASL with ease. If you want to learn common signs, an app is a good place to start. To become more communicative, a comprehensive course is a better option. To become completely fluent, however, you’ll need to practice signing with someone. You can take online classes with a teacher through a platform like italki, or find a practice partner.

Is ASL an easy language to learn?

ASL might seem like an easy language, but it can take a year or more to learn. Many of the signs for ASL are intuitive and look like the object they are indicating. For example, the sign for “book” looks like you are opening a book. But ASL is not just a copy of spoken English using hands. It’s a unique language that follows its own grammar and syntax rules. Like learning any language, it takes practice and dedication to learn fluently.

How can I learn ASL for free?

Luckily, there are many free resources available to learn ASL. The Sign School app is completely free, and many other apps offer a portion of their content for free. Certain websites like Start ASL and ASL University have tons of free content and video lessons. You can also watch YouTube channels like Learn How to Sign for free video lessons.

Kelsey Wetherbee

Kelsey is a language lover that wants to help others on their linguistic journeys. As a former ESL teacher and foreign language learner herself, she hopes her experiences can benefit others and help them learn more effectively. She loves to travel and enjoys meeting people from all over the world. Connect with Kelsey on LinkedIn.

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