I’m on the last week of my American Sign Language mission! This has turned out to be one of my most interesting language projects yet! So interesting in fact, that I am pretty sure I’ll come back to the states for another month (after I’ve tackled my fourth language this year) to continue my progress in it.
ASL is so expressive since it allows you to communicate in a way that spoken/written words actually can’t really cover. So it’s quickly becoming my favourite language!
Precisely as I had expected, the main challenges in this mission are exactly the same as in learning an oral language: the need for confidence to use the little you know as quickly as you can, challenges in finding the right people to use it with, getting over your own lazy excuses, and using extrapolation and social dynamics to make sure that you can smoothly enter conversations with natives.
I’ve otherwise adapted various forms of my usual approach (to learn vocabulary etc.) to apply when studying between conversations. I’ll probably wait until the end of my second ASL experience to write in detail about how to apply these to sign language (i.e. “The Sign Language Hacking Guide” )
There are of course very unique aspects that make sign language a fascinating language to learn, which I will elaborate on soon. But learning something so drastically different has just reinforced my belief that the communicative approach, with emphasis on application, is the best way to learn any language.
This weekend I’ll be working on making my main video to conclude this particular ASL mission; a fun project that was inspired by one of the videos below. With that in mind, I wanted to share some of my favourite online videos about or in ASL! Enjoy!
Fuck you! ASL version
This one was doing the viral-Youtube-video rounds a while back – it’s a funny interpretation of a pop song by an ASL student:
Bob’s house – Pepsi’s Superbowl ad
(There’s no sound in this video)
Morse code sign language alphabet song
This is by far the most impressive video I’ve seen this year. Stu Jay, another polyglot who has guest posted on this blog and who also inspired one of my most popular posts says that the idea for this video came to him in a dream. In this video he teaches you the full alphabet in both morse code AND sign language, using very clever associations. The background music synchs to a very catchy tune along with it. Well worth a watch:
My deaf lady
Signing English words directly just doesn’t work in ASL. I was initially tempted to just learn as many words as possible and sign each one, one-after-the-other, directly translated from English. But that’s not how ASL operates. It’s something I’ll try to take into account when I do my next video (which I didn’t in the initial videos I’ve made in ASL). Many people pointed out how trying to sign and speak at the same time was messing the whole thing up and I can see why now.
Along those lines, while at a deaf coffee meet-up here in Austin, we were shown this very clever video. It takes the story of a sloppy ASL student who is like the cockney speaker from “My Fair Lady”, who needed to be “refined”.
There is no sound with this video. To read captions to understand what is being signed, press the menu button in the Youtube frame (second on the right) and click “CC” to activate closed captions.
Did you enjoy these videos? Any others that you really like? Share them with us in the comments!
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If you enjoyed this post, you will love my TEDx talk! You can get much better details of how I recommend learning a language if you watch it here.
This article was written by Benny Lewis
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