Learn Some ASL for International Day of Sign Languages

By: Sarah Roberts
Two women communicating in sign language

American Sign language (ASL) is the third most used language in the United States, following English and Spanish. However, ASL is just one of more than 300 sign languages people use to communicate worldwide. Each of those languages is unique, not only from other sign languages but also from the languages people speak in those countries.

The United Nations named September 24th International Day of Sign Languages to celebrate this important form of communication. The day also serves to bring attention to human rights issues for people who are Deaf and hard of hearing. 

One of the best ways to celebrate this event is by taking the time to learn a few key phrases in ASL. This year, Verbit Customer Success Manager, Lindsay Tulloss, put together five quick, one-minute lessons that make it easy to start learning ASL. Check out the videos below, and in a matter of minutes, you’ll be able to sign 20 words or phrases in ASL. 

The many benefits of learning ASL 

Learning any new language, including ASL, is great for your brain. Researchers show that learning ASL, in particular, improves spatial awareness, cognition flexibility and reaction times. However, the most important benefit of ASL is the ability to communicate and connect with new friends and acquaintances. 

You can quickly learn some essential parts of the language in these videos. 

Greetings in ASL

In this short video, Tulloss demonstrates how to sign greetings. These four phrases are ones you’ll likely use often. Learn how to say “hello,” “how are you,” “what’s up” and “good.” You can start a conversation with someone in ASL with just these few signs. 

Polite phrases

Sometimes the ability to use a few polite phrases can help you make a connection with someone. Words like “please,” “thank you,” “sorry” and “excuse me” are helpful in many environments and should be some of the first words you learn in any language. You can learn all four in this quick, one-minute video. 

Talking about friends and family

Tulloss teaches words related to friends and family in this short clip. Learn to sign “friends,” “family,” “connection” and “socialize” so you’re ready to start making new acquaintances.  

Accessibility language

Accessibility and inclusivity are two concepts that are becoming more important in schools, workplaces and communities. You can learn how to sign several words related to accessibility in this one-minute video. Here, Tulloss shares how to sign “accessible,” “captioning,” “interpret” and “translate.”

Discussing the Deaf Community

For many people in the United States, ASL is an integral part of Deaf Culture. You might think of this as similar to how the French language is an important part of French culture. Tulloss shares terms that relate to Deaf cultures and the communities, including “Deaf,” “hearing,” “sign language” and “Deaf community.”

Taking just a few minutes to learn these phrases is a wonderful way to acknowledge the International Day of Sign Languages. You may even want to continue learning this rich and complex language. If you do choose to learn more ASL, you’ll be in good company. The language is growing in popularity at American universities, with more than 100,000 students studying ASL. Many of those students say they find the language beautiful and are enjoying the opportunity to learn a new way to communicate. 

ASL and captioning: a note on accessibility solutions

It’s important to understand that ASL is a distinct language from English. Translating ASL into English requires more than just interpreting the words. Many people who are Deaf prefer having a sign language interpreter over using captions because it lets them understand in their own language. In fact, for many people who use ASL, it’s their native language.

However, this is not true of everyone who is Deaf or hard of hearing. Many people become Deaf later in life. Learning a new language as an adult is much more challenging than learning languages as a child. The same holds true of ASL. As a result, many people never learn ASL. For these individuals, captions are a vital accessibility tool. Additionally, this means that essential events or broadcasts might need to offer both an interpreter and captions. 

Captions also support many other people, including individuals with ADHD, people who speak English as a second language and those viewing without the sound on. When discussing accessibility solutions, it’s critical to consider the perspective of the people using those tools. In a business meeting, or a classroom, individuals might need more than one solution to participate fully. Truly inclusive environments will acknowledge that people have diverse needs and that it’s important to let them have a say in the solutions they use. 

Partnering with Verbit for accessibility

Verbit’s solutions and missions both focus on driving accessibility forward. As a provider of captioning, transcription, audio description and translations, Verbit is committed to making the world more accessible and inclusive for everyone. Reach out to learn more about how a partnership with Verbit can benefit your business or other organization.