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American Sign Language (ASL) originated more than 200 years ago, is the 3rd most common language in the United States and is used by over 500,000 people in North America, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD).
Learning ASL can be a rewarding and beneficial experience to many people, for many reasons, but does pose some difficulty when attempting to teach yourself through the more “traditional” routes, such as books and websites with static images, due to the obviously visual aspect of the language.
As an article from Life Hacker points out, there are many nuances and varied movements in ASL that can be easily misunderstood, as well as the added challenge of regional and contextual variations to consider.
Being able to see American Sign Language performed has been shown to be the most effective way to learn ASL. Watching others make the various signs of ASL can help increase the likelihood of learning success, as well as assisting in understanding the complexities of American Sign Language.
The ASL support and education site HandSpeak.com has published a video ASL dictionary which offers visual depictions of ASL signs, produced and signed by native ASL bilinguals. Although HandSpeak.com does state that the video dictionary is not yet an exhaustive resource, new signs are regularly added, and they welcome suggestions and requests for new sign videos via email.
Those who have accessed the video dictionary in their ASL studies state that being able to see hand signs formed by individuals that have been using ASL as their main form of communication is especially helpful when attempting to replicate the many different signs used in ASL, since there are nearly 6,000 different signs used throughout the United States. ASL also makes use of its own grammar and syntax, furthering the usefulness of HandSpeak.com’s video dictionary.
With an easy user interface and thorough search capability, the video dictionary is an excellent starting point for learning ASL.
However, HandSpeak.com also notes that immersing yourself in ASL culture and having daily interaction with Ameslan people (ASLers) is still the best means of becoming proficient in American Sign Language, so be sure to also check out the additional ASL resources that HandSpeak.com offers, as well as the excellent information offered by the NIDCD in order to further your ASL education, and become more active in the ASL community.