Where Can I Learn ASL? That is a question often here around our neighborhood. Trinidad is multi-lingual neighborhood with English and American Sign Language (ASL) as two dominant primary languages. Our proximity to Gallaudet University means deaf and hearing neighbors often have need to communicate in ASL, the predominant sign language used in North America and Canada.
For those of us that are new to ASL, there are many ways to learn and many sources for resource material. You can start by signing with neighbors to learn basic signs or check ASL instruction books out of the library. The DC Public Library has a list of available resources on their website. (add link http://dclibrary.org/node/5884). A few online programs, apps, and courses a noted below. If you know of other good sources for ASL instruction or practice, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
American Sign Language University (ASL University) is an online American Sign Language curriculum resource center that provides many free self-study materials, lessons, and information. They also have fee-based instructor-guided courses. Anyone wishing to do so may use the online course material at www.lifeprint.com for personal study. The site contains more than 30 courses plus practice quizzes and games.
Signing Savvy is a sign language dictionary containing several thousand high-resolution videos of American Sign Language (ASL) signs, fingerspelled words, and other common signs used within the United States and Canada. A guest may browse the site to find signs for words, organized by letter, but will have limited access to resources on the site unless joining and payment of a monthly or annual fee.
ASL Deafined is a website for both deaf and hearing. They have as part of their mission to provide a platform for teaching and encouraging the community-at-large to learn and utilize the basic skills of ASL. The subscription based website has ASL video instruction. Rates are from $10 per month to $200 per year.
ASL Pro has free reference and learning tools available to the public. These include a video dictionary, conversational phrases, and ASL for babies. There is also content that can be accessed through membership.
There are many other programs and more to come in the future. For example, Gallaudet University has received a grant from the Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation to develop ASL Connect, an on-line learning resource. You can learn more about that on the GU website at https://www.gallaudet.edu/news/asl_connect_.html.
There are an abundance of YouTube videos available but be careful that any videos you use to learn ASL words or phrases were created by someone certified in ASL instruction.
There’s an App For That
There are many apps available for free or purchase that teach ASL. Two that have been used by TNA members are highlighted here.
- The ASL App was created by Deaf people to introduce and teach conversational ASL to anyone interested in learning without enrolling in a class. It’s called “ASL for the People” because this is for anybody including but not limited to family, friends, co-workers, or your average Joes who want to learn ASL. The app is free to download and includes a few basic lessons with additional in-app purchases.
- Marlee Signs is another app that teaches fundamentals (alphabet and basic vocabulary) with ability to practice at your own pace. The download is free and includes a few lessons with additional in-app purchases available.
Gallaudet University (GU): GU is the world’s only university with programs and services specifically designed to accommodate deaf and hard of hearing students. GU offers degree and non-degree courses, professional studies, and continuing education credit courses. To enroll in ASL classes you should first register and be accepted as a student.
Visit the GU website at https://www.gallaudet.edu for general information or the Center for Continuing Studies ASL pages at http://www.gallaudet.edu/asl/asl_courses.html for specifics on ASL class options. You can also email email@example.com with questions. Information on fees can be found at http://www.gallaudet.edu/ccs/registration_and_fees/financial_information.html.
Graduate School USA: Formerly the USDA Graduate School, Graduate School USA is a private non-profit educational institution that has evening and weekend classes towards certificate programs or continuing education credits. They have beginning and intermediate ASL courses that run approximately $320 per semester. Visit the website at http://graduateschool.edu/index.html or call (888) 744-4723 for additional information.
Kendall Demonstration Elementary School (KDES): KDES is on Gallaudet University campus, just past the West Virginia Avenue entrance. The school offers a free ASL course geared towards hearing parents and family members of deaf students. When the class is not full, they extend places in the weekly class to the general community. Following the school calendar there are two semesters (roughly September to December and February to May with registration the week or two before sessions begin) and a long summer break. Typically the classes are on Wednesday evening (6 pm – 8 pm) or Saturday morning (10 am – noon). KDES classes are divided into beginner, intermediate, and advanced. The contact for recent classes has been Tara Miles who can be reached by e-mail at Tara.Miles@gallaudet.edu or by office phone at (202) 448-7318 (V) or (202) 250-2211 (VP).
DC Public Library – MLK Memorial Library Branch: DCPL typically holds a beginners’ level class, which covers 100+ ASL vocabulary words and rules of grammar, on Tuesdays at 5:30 pm. The class is on hiatus for the summer months and will restart in the fall (pending identification of an instructor). The class is free and open to the public and there is no need to register. Any level signer is welcome to join the class, review what you know, learn new signs, and practice conversation. To learn more or check into availability, you can contact the MLK library branch by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (202) 727-2142.
Tutors are also available in the community and from the student population. You can ask deaf members of the community to identify someone that may have time available to teach you at your own pace.
There are some local gatherings or regular events where you can learn or practice ASL.
- Vendetta at 1212 H St NE hosts ASL Trivia on the second and fourth Monday each month. They have a Facebook page with more information.
- During the Capital Fringe Festival, Dog and Pony DC has been holding four back-to-back 15-minute sessions to teach the Basics, the Theater, The Bar, and the Wild Card. These are free lessons so check the Capital Fringe website for show times and stop in the outdoor seating area where the lessons are held. We hope to see more of Dog and Pony DC working with us in the future.
- The Argonaut at 1433 H St NE has ASL poker night the first Saturday each month at 8 pm. Join them upstairs for poker games and conversation.
- Search the Meet Up website for current information on discussion groups or ASL-related events. Current listings include an ASL Bridge Meet Up for students, teachers, and fluent signers. The group is based in Silver Spring and meets every two weeks on Thursdays. See the website for information and membership. Sign and Dine in Crystal City Shops meeting the second and fourth Saturdays for lunch and other events are held in Wheaton, Rockville and Ballston.
- Busboys and Poets has an ASL Open Mic Night the last Friday of each month at the 1025 5th St NW location from 11 pm to 1 am. Tickets are $5.