For some, the prospect of learning a new language is not only an exciting, marketable skill to add to their resume, but their civil duty. According to the Communication Service for the Deaf, approximately one million individuals speak American Sign Language (ASL) in the United States alone, and the need for individuals who are proficient in this area has never been greater. Unlike other variances of sign language, ASL is a visual-gestural form of communication that incorporates differences in expression, dialects, gestures, slang, variations in rhythm of signing, pronunciation, and signs, depending on different regions in America. As any culture, wherein communication and speech reflect your geographic location, ASL mimics the same natural evolution.
ASL specific jobs range from interpreters to instructors, and are employed in schools, school districts, hospitals, government jobs, two-year colleges, universities, and much more. Their respective salaries range from hourly to over $61,000 a year, wherein your job is primarily communication or teaching the language to others.
However, not all skills plug directly into a respective career paths. The ability to communicate with others in your community helps to reduce stigma and other barriers for non-English speaking individuals living in America. It an additionally be useful for those who are looking to work in medical fields, education, customer service, or language.
While most people at one point or another harbor the desire to learn a second language or build upon some preliminary skills they may have, cost and time often hinder completing this goal. It either cost too much, or there is no time to dedicate to focus on learning a new skill fully. Luckily for us, there are programs out there designed to offer free or cost-effective instruction for those looking to learn this skill on their own time.
This means not only can you learn ASL—but you can possibly do it for free, whenever it is most convenient for you!
Best Free ASL Online Courses and Classes
Udemy is an extraordinary learning site that offers courses on about any topic you can think of, including more than 10,000 courses designed to teach American Sign Language specifically. Udemy offers a money back guarantee, and most courses do not cost more than $13.00. This platform is excellent for those who want professional courses but need flexible learning times. Once a course is purchased, you download the courses and can access it and all your course materials whenever it is most convenient for you. In addition, you can view reviews from others who have taken the course and can choose the learning format that best suits you. Udemy allows others to share their knowledge and works to make learning easy, fun, and accessible.
Lingvano claims you can learn ASL in as little as ten minutes a day, which is perfect for those who operate a busy schedule and only have minutes of their time to focus on a new skill. Lingvano is dedicated to building bridges and support ASL learners to become proficient communicators in their community. Right now, you can register for free and allows you to pay monthly as opposed to a flat fee. Lingvano’s mission and professionalism creates a user friendly, cost-effective way to learn American Sign Language.
Skillshare offers a two-month free trial, which means right now you can access ASL courses for free. Like Udemy, Skillshare is a learning platform that enables professionals to share their expertise across the globe. Also, on Skillshare, you have access to many different learning platforms from videos, to downloadable pdf workbooks that you can work on during your free time. Moreover, Skillshare is designed for beginners and those who are new to language learning. If you are unsure or have reservations about language learning, taking advantage of free trials allows you to see if Skillshare works with your learning style before committing to a program.
Believe it or not most community centers and nonprofits offer free language learning courses, often at no cost to their community members. If you are interested, reaching out to your local Parks & Recreation Center or community center is one way to get the process started. Often there is money designated to offering enrichment programs for their community members. Contact your local center to see what language courses are offered in your community.
If you are not a book reader and prefer learning from a live person, TakeLessons Live offers a personable, classroom learning experience without the cost of higher education, online or in person. One notable aspect to consider about TakeLessons Live is that communication factor and feedback that often assists with language learning. Also, in person learning offers higher accountability, which is one reinforcement mechanism that helps us learn. Courses begin at $15.00 a lesson and fully refundable if you are dissatisfied in anyway. Furthermore, TakeLessons Live works to assure that you are receiving instruction from competent teachers. TakeLessons Live allows you to attend a course at no cost to see if it is right for you and signing up is completely free.
Signing Savvy is impeccable for those who are self-learners and do not need formalize instruction to begin learning a new skill. If that sounds like you, Signing Savvy is a resource that can assist you with all the tools and information you need to begin your learning process. Here you can access handouts, articles, beginning words, tutors, and other information. If you are a self-learner, many individuals have found success for free by choosing to begin the process on their own through resource sites and connecting with others in their community.
Sign Language 101
Designed especially for Sign Language learners, Sign Language 101 connects students to specialized instruction that advances as you go. This instruction begins with assisting others to learn the basic foundations of Sign Language, adding complexities in as you accomplish courses. Sign Language 101 is a learning platform whose sole mission is teaching others Sign Language, and thus comes with the added benefit of instructors and resources to assure you are meeting goals. Sign Language 101 is a self-paced course and is designed to meet your individual learning needs. In fact, to begin, you can access their free video courses located at the bottom of their site page—to see if this mode of learning will best fit your needs.
At Start ASL you can begin learning ASL for free! Like most colleges, at Start ASL you will move through three level courses, building upon your skills as you go. Start ASL has an unbelievable dictionary you can consult in case you ever wonder the proper sign for a word and how to use it. This is an impeccable resource that you should utilize even if you choose not to take courses through them. Furthermore, Start ASL has free lessons, curriculum for teachers, homeschoolers, online and offline courses, and so much more. If you find yourself wanting more than the free lessons (which gives you free access to their entire learning platform) you can opt for a silver or gold package for a monthly fee that provides greater learning support.
It goes without saying that there are a lot of free videos, tutorials, information, and resources available to you for free via YouTube. If you are self-starter and can navigate your needs, this is one resource that can get you started. Even if YouTube is not your primary mode of learning, YouTube can assist for clarity, community, and to provide you additional support as you learn the content. While it may be a creative approach to learning, it is free and full of professional videos that mimic paid for courses for zero of the price. Type in “Free or Expert courses in ASL” to begin.
Just as it advertises “SignSchool is a free resource for learning ASL at your own pace!” Unlike some free platforms, SignSchool promotes visual learning through video courses, which when you think about it, makes sense in the context of learning a visual-gestural language. Also, unlike its peers, it offers interactive learning, which means you are not only learning content—but are a part of it. SignSchool learning is designed to fit your pace and schedule, and offers games, free resources, and an accessible dictionary. Right now, there does not appear to be any hidden fees or cost associated. Thus, if you are ready to learn for free, SignSchool comes highly recommended.
Learn ASL for free at Gualludet University. Gallaudet is a private college for deaf or hard of hearing individuals that offers free online resources, ASL courses, and much more for those who are looking to learn. Here you are learning from ASL speakers, which is one premier feature of their learning platform. Often, there are specifics that come along with the culture that are not included within the basic foundations less from those teachers where ASL is their primary language. With Gallaudet University, you gain access into the ASL culture and learn from those who know it best. Gallaudet University is a perfect choice for those who prefer academic structure, community, and may be looking for opportunities beyond free learning.
Get Your Degree for Free
If ASL is something you are passionate about and you are searching for a way to leverage that skill, there are many grants and scholarships out there to help you realize your dream for no cost to you. These programs are offered online and are designed to fit your schedule. If you are unsure where to look, most junior colleges or universities have scholarships listed through their financial aide department, or you could fill out a FASFA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) to see what free grants and programs are available to you. If you are under the age of 18 and enrolled in a qualifying high school, you can take ASL for college credit as part of their Running Start Program. If this is of interest to you, contact your local college or university for more information. They are equipped with the knowledge to get you started, with a complete list of next steps to take.
It is always a good idea to read the fine print and be sure that free programs are free, or that your content is not restricted in anyway. This can be frustrating for some who are expecting one thing but are faced with another. Moreover, if you have any questions, do not hesitate to reach out via webmail or phone to find out more information. It is their job to provide you with answers and assure your peace of mind.
Before you choose your program, be sure that the content speaks to your learning style. Some are visual learners, while other grasp content from reading and diagrams. Others need community and instruction to feel they are progressing and thrive from learning platforms that provide structure and accountability. While learning a language can be exciting and new, it also needs to fit your learning style for it to be effective. If you are not quite sure, take advantage of free trials on different sites and see which one speaks most to you. Lastly, learning is best done with a partner! Especially when it comes to language! Therefore, we strongly recommend you grab a friend or join a community wherein you can speak to one another and practice your language skills in real time.
Learning a new language not only provides you with a stronger resume and increased opportunities but helps to reduce language barriers within communities. Therefore, if you are searching for a free or cost-effective way to expand your skillset and learn American Sign Language, here are twelve opportunities specifically developed to help you reach your goals.