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American Sign Language

Why Use American Sign Language?

I'd like to offer some practical, and philosophical reasons for learning American Sign Language (ASL). My daughter has a mild-moderate loss (now progressed to a moderate-severe loss) and we've found sign to be very helpful.

There are number of situations in which using sign is extremely practical.

Philosophically, I want my daughter to be able to participate in the Deaf Community, if she chooses. I want to support her with as many tools and resources as possible.

The best way to learn ASL is from a native signer. Check for classes in your community.. It may also be possible to arrange for private tutoring.

If you are unable to work with a person, VIDEOS are the next best option. Facial expression and body posture are also important elements in American Sign Language which are difficult to portray well in books.

American Sign Language Books

Books are the least reliable way of learning accurate sign. ASL has motion and speed in 3-dimensions which are impossible to accurately portray in a two-dimensional book. Since most of us don't have easy access to native signers,however, books are still a helpful resource.

If you see a general ad for Amazon, please refresh this page and the proper book information, including price, should appear.

The American Sign Language Phrase Book
by Lou Fant
ISBN: 0809235005, Published by Contemporary Books, illustrated, 368 pages

This book is indispensable for two reasons:
  1. It is the only book that I've seen that indicates appropriate facial expressions;
  2. Proper ASL grammar is clearly demonstrated.

From the Back Cover:
Now updated and expanded, this bestselling manual is clearly illustrated with thousands of line drawings and is very easy to use. Organized by topic, its chapters focus on areas such as health, family, school, sports, travel, religion, time, money, food and drink, and even small talk. A detailed discussion of ASL grammar (very different from English grammar) and a compact dictionary of signs are also included.

My First Book of Sign
by Pamela J. Baker
ISBN: 0930323203, Published by Gallaudet University Press, illustrated, 80 pages

A nice picture book for children. The motions aren't terribly clear, as I mentioned above, this is a problem with all sign books. The handshapes are easy to understand.

There is a written guide to the handshapes and motions in the back of the book.

The nicest thing about My First Book of Sign is the cheerful, colorful illustrations of signing children (some wearing hearing aids).

Reading through this book with your child is a great way to practice the signs.

Random House Webster's American Sign Language Dictionary
by Elaine Costello
ISBN: 0394585801, Published by Random House, illustrated, 992 pages
ISBN: 0679780114, Published by Random House, illustrated, 539 pages

Over 5,000 signs are clearly defined in English. Demonstrates different signs for different meanings of the same English word.

From the Back Cover:
This dictionary represents the cutting edge in reference works for American Sign Language, with a treasury of signs for the novice and experienced user alike. A unique dictionary for a unique language, its many features include:
The Random House American Sign Language Dictionaries are the only ones that make it easy for you to match the right signs with the right meanings, by giving you:

Signs for Me
by Ben Bahan & Joe Dannis
ISBN: 0915035278, Published by Dawn Sign Press, illustrated, 112 pages

A fairly decent guide to basic ASL vocabulary. Signs are divided by part of speech. The directional indications are fairly clear, but sometimes the exact hand shape is difficult to understand.

From the Back Cover:
Provides a multi-dimensional sign language vocabulary for pre-school and elementary school children. The authors introduce common household items, animals, family, verbs, emotions, safety and other concepts.

Each of the vocabulary words features a picture, sign illustration and the English word. The American Manual Alphabet, number signs and a list of different American Sign Language handshapes are included for handy reference.

Related Resources

CD Garden
"At CD Garden we design educational software that allows children to explore math, language, social, creative and problem solving concepts. No sound is needed to run our software. Hearing and hearing impaired children can learn to sign the alphabet in an enjoyable and easy to use format."

Palatine American Sign Language Software
This company offers software-based ASL tutorials. Free fingerspelling screen saver available for download.

Production Associates
The producers of the Say Sing & Sign video series. All titles are available for purchase here.

A symbolic system for writing sign languages.

Teaching ASL to Homeschoolers
A short article about homeschooling families teaching ASL to their hearing children.

Language Learning: ASL
ASL software tutorial.

American Sign Language Videos
A guide to selected American Sign Language videos.

Teaching ASL to Hearing Children
Resources for teaching American Sign Language to hearing babies, toddlers and young children.

Is sign language the real language of Paradise?
- Hugo Ball

Quick Tips

Start with five to ten signs.

Sign continuously throughout the day.

Establish a silent time each day -- no voicing.

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