Some experts have suggested it takes 20 hours to become proficient at a new skill. Regardless of your previous knowledge, this article will discuss my method of learning American Sign Language (ASL) and how you can use music to teach yourself.
What Didn’t Work
I learned ASL as a child, but it was broken. Therefore, I couldn’t have an elaborate, extended conversation. As an adult, I decided to revisit that skill. First, I tried to read books with illustrations, but I couldn’t remember the words very well. Later, I tried to watch videos of specific words, but I struggled to put them into context.
When I was a teenager, I had learned to sign a song, and I still remembered most of the words and signs. Once I realized that, I decided to learn a new song. I chose a slow song that I heard often, and used Lifeprint to look up individual words. Lifeprint is an incredible resource that shows pictures and videos of words and phrases.
The Power of Music
Learning a verse or chorus to a song helped me remember the words easily and quickly built my vocabulary. Even a simple chorus can teach you ten words, and you’ll be able to use those words, (which are often very common,) in other songs and in normal conversations.
In fact, the books that I read grouped words together such as objects in a house, food, or clothing. However, I’m much more likely to use lyrics from a song than these items. I can spell any item in my house, but it’s rare that I actually need to sign the word “window”. I use the signs for “need”, “want”, “leave”, and “should” daily, however.
Start with the alphabet song to memorize your letters. Craig David’s “7 Days” can help you learn the days of the week. Learning only the chorus of a song can give you the necessary repetition to learn the words quickly. Choose songs with slow singing, or you’ll quickly become frustrated. (I’m still trying to learn the verses of “Same Love,” which is faster than I realized.) However, it doesn’t matter what songs you choose, as long as you enjoy learning.
Since I’m not on a deadline, I usually learn two songs each month and let my vocabulary build slowly. I’ve been using this method for approximately 18 months and estimate that I know 1,000 words that can be used in any conversation.
The power of music can make learning ASL an easy, enjoyable experience. However, don’t feel pressured to learn certain signs or songs. Also, use other tools to help you including Lifeprint, books, and classes. Enjoy learning this new skill!