Learning strategies in sign language classroom

Not everyone, who wants to learn sign language, has the opportunity or convenience to language learning immersion in a Deaf community of the target language (American Sign Language). Language learning in a classroom is another common option.

Combine some of the ideas and strategies to attain your signing skills and learning process and to work best with your learning style.

Learn in the target language

The instructor teaches in the target language (ASL) through contextualized tasks and activities. Focus on meaning rather than word/sign. Avoid word-for-word translation in your mind. Focus on the forms of the target language (signs) and their meaning.

One of the students' strategies is to look at the sentence meaning first before scrutinizing the smaller components of the sentence meaning.

Another student's tip is "When switching back to English for clarification is probably the worst. Stay immersed in ASL and learn those problem solving skills in ASL. Remain immersed in ASL because 1) you allow yourself to learn more, and 2) it is pretty hard to switch back and forth when you are learning."

Maximize your time to practice ASL in class and you have other resources to reinforce outside class.

Focus on the signer's face, not hands

You absorb whole information from signed words to facial grammar and nuances by primarily focusing on the signer's face.

Take notes of syntactic grammar, facial grammar, inflections, tones and variations from native ASL signers in various contexts.

Commitment: attendance and homework

Follow up with your study from classes to refresh your memory. Practice and practice signing by yourself or with your buddy team.

Attending every class is a great value for its contextualized learning and human-to-human signing practice. Learning a set of vocabulary from the dictionary or online materials doesn't bring the same benefit and effect as this environmental type of immersion.

Have fun.

Ligthen up if you're afraid of making mistakes in ASL class. Toss fear away and be brave to communicate and to learn better. Laugh when you make a naive silly mistake.

More learning strategies and tips by students

"Try my best to maintain a signing environment in and around class and on breaks."

"To encourage my family to participate in my learning process." "Signing with your family members or friends/roommates even if they don't know the language." "Practice signing by teaching your boyfriend/girlfriend at home."

Don't forget to take the opportunities to interact with your ASL/Deaf instructor who can offer you corrective feedback with your sign production ("pronunciation"), grammatical structure and more.

Use a mirror to look at yourself when signing. Check your facial grammar, such as burrowed eyebrows for wh-questions and raised eyebrows for topicalization and yes/no questions.

Videotape yourself and look at your signing from a different perspective in time that you wouldn't be able to assess the same way with the mirror.

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Also see: How to learn sign language the best way

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