Start Learning Sign Language (ASL)



Learning sign language is so much fun! Welcome to the second class in the Start ASL online curriculum!

Materials you will need for the class

  1. ASL 2 WORKBOOK (PDF) (Required & Free) – You will use the workbook for the class assignments and activities.

  2. ASL Dictionary (Required) – By now, you should own an ASL dictionary. The lessons will include lists of vocabulary that will be used in the units, and you will need to look these up in your printed ASL dictionary, or on one of the many ASL dictionary websites.

  3. A Webcam/Video camera (Required) – In this class, you will be completing expression assignments by recording your signing. Don’t be shy! Since you are learning sign language online, this is a great way to make sure you are on the right track!

  4. The Don’t Just “Sign”… Communicate! Student Guides – Readings are assigned from these books throughout the Start ASL curriculum for further learning and more in-depth studies. We highly recommend these books for every ASL student. These guides not only cover all of the essential information about ASL and Deaf Culture you will need for your ASL journey, but the ASL grammar book is the only book for students completely dedicated to ASL grammar. You will be able to learn how to successfully and accurately sign in ASL right from the beginning–something most ASL students don’t get to do!

  5. ASL 1, 2, & 3 – Paid Online Version (Optional) – We also offer paid versions of these online classes. With the paid versions, you get access to all the Start ASL lessons and activities in a more organized and easy-to-follow format, with no advertisements, the ability to watch the videos in slower motion, a forum and live chatroom, the option to submit assignments for viewing and commenting by other students, and a completion certificate. We highly recommend this option for serious students who want to form a community of active learners and learn ASL together.

  6. ASL 2 Class – Offline Version (Optional) – The Start ASL online classes are available as an instant download. This one file contains all of the video lessons in one professional-style video as well as the lessons and workbook. Only one download and you will have full access to the ASL 2 class on your computer without an internet connection. We highly recommend this if you need access to the class offline, need to download the videos all at once, want to watch the videos in slower motion, or don’t like the advertisements in the lessons!

  7. Start ASL Tutoring Program (Optional) – With the Start ASL Tutoring Program, you have access to professional ASL tutors who can help you with concepts you may be struggling with or who can just help you practice what you’ve learned. This is a great option if you are serious about learning and being able to effectively communicate in ASL.

Unit Sections

  • Vocabulary
    This section will give you a list of phrases and vocabulary words to study for the activities in the class. You will need to look these up in your printed ASL dictionary, or on one of the many ASL dictionary websites. You will not be tested on these vocabulary words because you need to know them to understand the lessons anyway. It’s up to you to keep up your vocabulary as you’re learning sign language and to continue always learning more. You can also download the ASL 2 Vocab Study Sheet for easier studying.
  • Conversation
    Every other Unit begins with a conversation video and outline. This section shows how to use ASL in everyday conversation. Try to watch the video until you can follow what is being said without the outline (that’s when you’re really learning sign language!)
  • Conversation Explained
    Every unit that has a Conversation section will have a Conversation Explained section. This section explains the conversation in the Conversation section in detail.
  • Conversation Practice
    Every unit that does NOT have a Conversation section has a Conversation Practice section with the same conversation as the one in the Conversation section in the previous Unit. However, this time you will be practicing signing the conversation with a partner or with one of the signers.
  • Grammar
    American Sign Language has a unique grammar structure and you will be learning sign language grammar in this class. In every Unit, there will be sections that discuss (and sometimes demonstrate) ASL grammar.
  • Grammar Practice
    These sections give you a chance to practice the grammar rules identified in the ASL grammar sections. These usually consist of a video with questions.
  • Reading
    I will be assigning a few important reading assignments during the course of this class. These include sections from The Don’t Just “Sign”… Communicate! Student Guides.
  • Comprehension
    In this section, I will give you a video with questions. This is just so you can practice your comprehension and receptive skills.
  • Expression
    In this section, I will give you an expression assignment. This is so you can practice your expressive skills instead of only comprehension and receptive skills as you’re learning sign language.

Because there is so much to these lessons, I want to make sure you know that some pages may take a while to load because of the videos. Please be patient because the wait time is definitely worth it!

Introduction to Glossing

Because ASL is an unwritten language, glossing is a technique used to create a written version of ASL. In this class, I will use glossing to give examples of how to use ASL grammar when signing. Glossing is not difficult to understand, but it is necessary for me to give a short lesson so you are able to follow the examples in this class.

When glossing a sentence in ASL, there are certain rules for how everything is written:

Every sign is written in CAPITAL LETTERS.

“I like rice.”

Signs that are translated into more than one English word are shown with dashes. The lower case words are implied, so they are not signed separately.

“Mom went to the store yesterday.”
“We watched a movie.”

Fingerspelling is shown with dashes between the capital letters or with “fs-“.

“Her name is Suzy.”

Lexicalized fingerspelling is shown with a number sign (“#”). When you see the number sign, this means you fingerspell the word, but use the lexicalized version that is produced more like a sign than like a fingerspelled word.

“She arrived very early.”

Signs that are repeated are shown with plus symbols (“+”). The number of symbols indicates the number of times the sign is repeated.

“That long boring speech seemed to last forever!”

A sign signed with both hands is indicated with (2h), signed with your dominant hand (dh), and signed with your non-dominant hand (nh).

Quotes after a sign specify how the sign is inflected (if necessary).

(2h)CL:4(people in line)”long line”
“That line is so long!”

Signs between lowercase words indicate directionality. The words indicate the direction of the sign between referents.

he-GIVE-her BOOK
“He gave her the book.”

Non-Manual markers and facial expressions are normally shown on a line above the gloss when learning sign language, but I will be using parenthesis. For example, the sentence below tells you to have a “wh-word question” facial expression when signing WHERE.

“Where did you go?”

Other non-manual markers are shown with the following:

Topicalization: (…)t)

Yes/no question: (…)y/n)

Rhetorical question: (…)rhq)

Conditional statement: (…)cond)

Affirmative statement: (…)aff)

Negative statement: (…)neg)

Mouth movement: (…)”…”)

For example:

HE/SHE (WHO?)whq)
“Who is he/she?”

(DEAF YOU?)y/n)
“Are you Deaf?”

“I’m hungry because I didn’t eat lunch.”

“If it rains today, the game will be cancelled.”

(THAT GIRL)t), (WHO?)whq)
“Who is that girl?”

(MY DAD)t), (THAT MAN)aff)
“That man is my dad.”

“I want a very large soda.”

You will be learning sign language non-manual markers and sentence types in a later section.

Ok, enough of my rambling…

Please leave only comments that add to the article or discussion. Any help or support comments should be directed to Start ASL Help & Support. Thank you!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *