What is the third most used language in the United States? Russian? Chinese perhaps? Japanese? All wrong! The third most spoken language in the United States is claimed to be American Sign Language (ASL). And, even more surprisingly, it is also the third most-studied language in the USA, outnumbered only by Spanish and French.
So, why are more and more people around the world learning ASL?
For one, learning sign speaking will give you access to a world you weren’t previously even aware of.
For example, say you are an entrepreneur with potential clients from the deaf community. In such instances, learning even the basics of ASL and deaf culture can instantly build lifelong customer loyalty.
Another surprising benefit of learning ASL is the positive influence it has on the brain. Since sign languages like BSL and ASL are totally new mediums of communication for most of us, practicing these languages will instantly get your neurons sparking. You already know how learning a language improves your memory, creativity, and problem-solving skills. Well, learning an entirely new way of communication comes with at least double the benefits of learning a “traditional” new language.
But, how does one get started? One of the easiest ways to learn ASL is via an online course. At first, signing might seem intimidating and foreign. But, once you get a hold of the basics, your skills will start to improve quite rapidly. And, in no time, you will be able to have a simple conversation in ASL.
Sounds interesting? If so, stay with me as I will list and review the 6 best online ASL courses available.
What is the best ASL course?
These are the 6 best ASL courses you can take online:
- Best Overall: American Sign Language “Basics” (Udemy)
- Best Free ASL Course: American Sign Language Level 1 (Skillshare)
- High-Quality & Comprehensive: American Sign Language Online Course (International Open Academy)
- American Sign Language, ASL, Level 1 (Udemy)
- Live Sign Language Classes (TakeLessons Live)
- ASL Meredith
Best Overall: American Sign Language “Basics” (Udemy)
An expert-taught 2-hour ASL crash-course for beginners.
“American Sign Language Basics” from Udemy is our favorite ASL online class. It is ideal for beginners, it’s super concise, and it covers all the very basics of ASL.
So, if you have zero experience with ASL vocabulary and deaf culture, this is a great place to start. The 2-hour class is led by the superb JP Cappalonga, a high school teacher (with a Master’s Degree in Education from Simpson University), and a sign speaker with over 18 years of sign language experience.
The content of the class is aimed to get learners well-versed in the very basic vocabulary of ASL. For example, you will be learning the alphabet, numbers from 1 to 10, colors, and the common greetings and introductions. So, nothing too complex, but still enough to get you started and give you some practical ASL experience.
The major strong point of this ASL class? The care JP has put into accommodating total beginners to ASL.
In this class, you will never feel overwhelmed while getting to know this entirely different medium of communication. And, despite being a basic ASL course, the tutor has still decided to conclude the course with an introduction to deaf culture. A very nice touch, especially for people with zero experience with sign speaking.
All in all, this Udemy class is one of the best ASL courses for people starting from zero. It is concise, engaging, and will familiarize you with the basics very quickly. We recommend it as the best overall online ASL course.
Best Free ASL Course: American Sign Language Level 1 (Skillshare)
A laser-focused 2h30min class on the basics of ASL
“American Sign Language Level 1” from Skillshare is another beginner-friendly online ASL class. The course takes 2h26min to finish in full and is led by Intellezy Trainers. Intellezy is a team of world-class trainers, presenters, and instructional designers. Intellezy delivers its courses by using a method of breaking down complex ideas into bite-sized learning nuggets. This format is probably already familiar to readers who have used the popular learning platform Mindvalley.
“American Sign Language Level 1” is a course that aims to give learners a language foundation in ASL. It does so by first familiarizing the students with the ASL alphabet and fingerspelling basics. You will also be learning common everyday vocabulary and the key nouns and verbs.
Despite being short in length, the course manages to cover a lot of ground in a relatively short time. Still, the progression of the studies feels natural, easy, and even fun. It is an ideal example of a crash course done well. Lots of well-developed, no-frills content. All delivered by a super engaging, highly knowledgable instructor.
If you wish to set a solid foundation for future ASL studies, this quick Skillshare class is one of the best introductions available.
High-Quality & Comprehensive: American Sign Language Online Course (International Open Academy)
A high-quality ASL course with a comprehensive yet beginner-friendly curriculum.
International Open Academy’s ASL class is another one of our favorites. It has some excellent strengths going for it. For one, it’s led by sign language experts Jackie Haig and Dr. Rhonda Jennings-Arey.
And, the online class has over 3h of video content (over 65 video lessons) and is aimed at beginners to sign speaking. So, what can aspiring ASL speakers expect from the course? To sum it up, the course covers all the essentials of ASL communication. Your lessons will take you from learning basic ASL vocabulary to more advanced modules on topics including but not limited to ASL syntax and morphology.
To give you a glimpse of what to expect, have a look at the full syllabus of the class:
As you see, this class takes you well beyond the basics. Still, even if you have no prior experiences with ASL, the course would be a great entry point. The structure is chronological and very beginner-friendly, which makes the curriculum flow with ease. You will notice yourself getting better and better without your studies ever feeling like a struggle.
All in all, this ASL has most of its bases covered – it’s engaging, comprehensive, and comes with international certifications. When it comes to online ASL classes, you should definitely give this one a consideration.
American Sign Language, ASL, Level 1 (Udemy)
A highly practical Level 1 ASL course.
We continue with another quick and concise online ASL course from Udemy. “American Sign Language, ASL, Level 1” is good for building on skills learned from the previous ASL class on our list.
Why? Because once you have mastered the basic ASL vocabulary, you can easily advance your skills by learning to construct sentences and dialogues.
And, this is what this class will teach you. It offers a splendid variety of quizzes, practical assignments, and video lessons. The video lessons themselves take only 29-minutes to finish in full. Still, make sure to take your time and fully immerse yourself. Also, make sure to complete all the assignments and quizzes. This ensures that you will fully absorb the skills and can use them in real life.
So, how far will finishing this ASL course get you? Assuming that you were a dedicated learner, you will easily be able to describe colors, people, and clothes by the end of the class. You will also be able to introduce yourself and have a simple conversation with members of the deaf community.
And, as a cherry on top, the course concludes with a self-assessment. At the end of the class, you will be asked to send your first ASL video. Of course, the instructor will also give you feedback on your video.
In a nutshell, this is a very solid class to take as a follow-up to “American Sign Language”. It is practical, easy-to-follow, and led by a highly engaging teacher. What’s not to love!
Live Sign Language Classes (TakeLessons Live)
A high-quality collection of ASL classes for beginner and intermediate level learners.
If you have a deaf family member or need to communicate with a deaf person on a professional level, you will need to take an in-depth online ASL course.
TakeLessons offers a collection of ASL courses suitable both for intermediate level learners and total beginners. The duration of the individual classes varies from 30 minutes to 45 minutes. The classes are separated into three different categories – basics, technique, and practice. In total, there are 9 individual classes. And, to get the best out of these ASL classes, I suggest taking them in chronological order.
Let’s examine the curriculum of this online ASL class further. In the basics category, you will be familiarizing yourself with the basic vocabulary and all the “must-know” signs. You will also be learning how to fingerspell and comprehend fingerspelling. A very important practice for speaking and understanding ASL.
The techniques and practice categories are all about hard skills. Practice, practice, and more practice! But, in these classes, practicing ASL is actually fun. Since TakeLessons uses an interactive format, you will be supported by your peers and tutors at all times. This method of learning will take you through the classes with ease and make you a competent sign speaker in no time.
To sum it up, TakeLessons has put together a streamlined collection of courses. Courses that are useful both for total beginners and people already experienced with ASL.
A highly engaging six-week ASL program.
“ASL Meredith” is a six-week ASL program for beginners to sign language and the deaf community. It is led by “ASLMeredith”, a social media personality, a certified ASL teacher, and a published author. The biggest strength of this basic ASL course? The teacher herself.
For those who value an engaging and fun style of teaching, look no further. Having taught ASL for 10 years, Meredith has developed a style of teaching that will get the most out of all her students. She prioritizes a clear, concise, and information-packed style of teaching. Yet, she keeps all of her lessons lighthearted and fun.
The class itself has all the hallmarks of a great online ASL course. You have your introduction to sign language fundamentals, the basic vocabulary, and lessons on basic greetings and manners of deaf culture. But, what I love most about the course is the strong emphasis on sentence construction. This makes it one of the best online ASL courses for people who do have a bit of experience with sign speaking but are struggling with moving forward to a conversational level.
All in all, this beginner-level ASL class from Meredith is a splendid online course to cap off this list. It is a comprehensive, engaging, and fun learning experience that is suitable both for beginner and intermediate levels. If you wish to get a quick teaser of the teaching style of Meredith, feel free to check out her Instagram and Youtube pages.
How to learn ASL online efficiently
Map your goals
In order to succeed in learning a new skill, you should know WHY you want to study it. And, this goes for ASL as well. Do you have a relative or a friend that is hard of hearing/deaf and you wish to communicate with him/her? Do you just want a new hobby? Do you want to improve your overall brain capabilities? All these questions should be answered before choosing which course to take. This will help you in figuring out whether you should opt for an in-depth ASL course or a shorter crash course on the basics.
Repetition is everything. Especially when it comes to learning sign language. Make sure to practice daily. Even if you only manage to set aside 5 minutes per day for ASL practice, make sure to keep the habit of going over an extended time period. Over time, you will start to make sense of the structure, rules, and culture of sign speaking.
Get real-life practice
Lots of novice ASL make the mistake of only practicing by themselves. This is not necessarily wrong at the beginning. Still, once you have reached a certain level, face-to-face ASL communication will provide immense value and speed up your learning progress. I guarantee that even lifelong speakers of ASL will not judge you. On the contrary, members of this community are generally very welcoming to new ASL speakers.