Illustration by Olivia Lake
Witnessing the unnecessary difficulties a deaf person had to go through to simply order food has inspired me to take it upon myself to learn sign language and make the world a little more accessible.
Sign Duo’s video, “Deaf Man vs. Drive Thru”, revealed the struggles of those in the deaf community and how common knowledge of basic signs could go a long way. You never know when or where you may encounter someone in need of this simple accommodation, especially those who work in restaurants, stores, hotels, etc.
If you have struggled learning a second language for your resume or college application, give sign language a chance. It will definitely set your application apart because it is (sadly) less common, but incredibly useful. It is also more appealing than other languages because it is easier to learn. This is due to the fact that you just memorize and expand your vocabulary of a language you already know, no need to decipher new words or sounds. Gesturing is known for being a great memorization tactic and way to study because it involves muscle memory.
There are so many resources out there to help you. The internet is full of free online programs, websites and YouTube videos, such as SignSchool, StartASL, Handspeak and SignLanguage101. They offer several tools that assist in learning, practicing and reviewing signs. SignSchool’s beta app covers an immense amount of words, phrases and topics. Subscribing to their “Sign of The Day” emails have encouraged me to continue practicing even on my most hectic days. SignLanguage101 provides free videos as well as premium multi-levels courses.
One of my favorite methods is signing to songs. It is a fantastic way to expand vocabulary, increase speed and improve flow. It is so fun to sing along and sign along to all your favorite tunes. For my personal tastes, I found this amazing Youtube channel, Sign Language Worship, where there are tons of tutorials for signing worship songs. If you love Hamilton and want to really challenge yourself, try signing all the raps with Carol ASL.
Although there are amazing online resources, the two previously mentioned methods can only take you so far. It is highly recommended to connect with actual people who are deaf. This is so you can learn the culture that comes with the language and better understand the deaf community.
It also definitely helps to have someone to practice with, so why not bring a friend or two along. It will be fun to explore the new language together. Create games to guess what each other are signing and become charades champions. Having technical difficulties with FaceTime or Zoom? No worries, y’all know sign language, no need for audio anyways. The same goes for when there is no talking or phones in class.
All the fun stuff aside, learning sign language opens a gateway of opportunities, for you and for those you may meet. Being unable to hear and/or speak can be quite isolating, and so sign language opens the opportunity for someone to make a new connection with you. You are bound to make new friends if you immerse yourself in the deaf community.
I encourage you to help make this world a little more accessible-learn the alphabet and some basic signs. If you work with other people, take the time to learn specific signs for your job because you never know who you might meet. I will even give you a head start, check out this quick 4-minute video showing you “25 Basic ASL Signs For Beginners”.