Learning a new language is always difficult, and it can be especially challenging to learn American Sign Language because you are also learning to communicate with your hands. From your audiologists in Salinas, here are eight ASL learning tips to help you get started:
- Finger spelling: Sign language includes a sign for each letter, which is very helpful when it comes to saying proper names, or trying to say a word for which you do not know the sign. Practice your finger spelling often, and do it in front of a mirror so you can be sure it looks clear.
- Constant review: When learning any language, it helps to build a strong foundation of vocabulary, and then continually growing it. This means taking time each day to review words you already know, and then add some new vocabulary into the mix.
- Creative memory tricks: If you simply cannot remember the sign for a particular word, coming up with a creative memory trick might help. Some people like wordplay, while others like to break down the sign into a few easier motions. Find whatever trick works best for you, and then use it when necessary.
- Draw the sign: Just as writing down words helps us to remember them, drawing different signs will help you in understanding and memorizing their distinctions. Try drawing each new sign you learn five times, and also writing its spoken English translation next to it.
- Put time first: American Sign Language has a very different structure than spoken English, and it requires putting the time a certain event happened (or will happen) before anything else. In other words, keep in mind that instead of saying “I visited my friend yesterday,” you will break the sentence down into “yesterday,” “my friend” and “I visited.”
- Dominant hand: Just like with writing, eating and playing sports, sign language requires you to use one hand much more often than the other. To make things less confusing for your deaf and hard of hearing friends, be sure you pick one dominant hand and stick to it, rather than switching things up in the middle of conversation.
- Look up words often: Anytime you think of a word for which you would like to know the sign, you ought to look it up as soon as possible, so that you do not forget to do so. Try carrying around a small ASL English dictionary, or downloading an app on your smart phone, to make things easier.
- Get out there: Finally, once you feel confident enough to engage in simple conversation, you ought to test your skills by meeting with as many fellow ASL speakers as possible. Your community likely has groups and clubs for deaf and hard of hearing people, and those clubs will often allow hearing people to join in if they can communicate using ASL. Make sure you take advantage of these helpful resources.
If you or a loved one is hard of hearing or deaf, get in touch with Valley Hearing Center, your audiologists in Salinas, for more ASL and hearing aid tips.
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