The best ASL online courses can help you pick up American Sign Language in no time. These digital-first, online lessons have been designed to help people progress from beginner-level hand signs to more advanced sentences. It’s a great way to learn to communicate with the deaf community and to expand your social circle.
Most of these lessons are aimed at complete beginners, although some courses — such as those provided by Gallaudet (opens in new tab) — also have options for more advanced signers. If you’re unsure which option is right for you, then pick one of the courses below that offers a free, introductory period. That way, you’ll be able to gauge your competency and see if the platform is a good fit for your learning style.
Some of the platforms below also feature in our round-up of the best online learning platforms (opens in new tab). If you opt for one of these on a subscription basis, you’ll find that you’ll be able to pick up plenty of other classes, too — such as one of the best coding courses online (opens in new tab).
Those who are trying to progress quickly might want to splash out on one of the best online tutoring services (opens in new tab) too, as this one-to-one assistance is bound to speed along the learning process. But for those who are looking to start out smaller, here are the best ASL online courses.
Udemy: Best ASL online course overall
Udemy’s ASL course is a video-based course led by an instructor that covers all the basics for any beginner, including the alphabet, numbers, colors, family and emotions. It also includes a history of how ASL came to develop, which gives a fascinating background on the language that is often omitted in other courses.
The course also includes a Q&A section for each video, as well as a downloadable workbook to go over what you’ve watched, meaning it’s pretty comprehensive and you can ask questions if you get stuck. Rather than simply showing you the signs to copy as some other courses do, this course explains very clearly how they are formed, breaking them down into the motions taken and how to position your hands. It also expands into how to use each sign learned in full sentences and conversations, rather than just picking up individual words or phrases.
The course videos take 2.5 hours to watch in total (that’s not including your own study time). It costs $49.99 at full cost, although it’s normally on sale for $13.99.
Lingvano: Best for bite-size learning
Lingvano is a platform for learning ASL that aims to teach you the language in just a few minutes each day. Using bitesize lessons, students learn via interactive games and quizzes in a way that feels similar to language-learning apps like Duolingo. It also offers a useful webcam function in each lesson, where you can use your computer like a mirror to see if you are learning the new signs correctly.
The platform is easily accessible on all devices (desktop, smartphone and tablet), so you can learn on the go, and it’s suitable for complete beginners. The course has five modules which all contain around 12 lessons, meaning there’s a total of around 60 lessons in total (for paying subscribers). By the end of the course, you should be able to hold basic conversations in ASL and describe a variety of opinions and things in the world around you.
You can access a few lessons for free, but to get full use of the platform you’ll need to subscribe. Price to access the whole course ranges from $9.99 to $17.99 a month, depending on if you pay monthly, quarterly or annually.
Gallaudet ASL Connect: Best for academic teaching
Gallaudet is well known in the world of sign language education. The university itself is based in Washington D.C and has been providing degree-level education for deaf and hard of hearing students since 1864. In addition to this, it also provides a free, basic online course for anyone who wants to get to grips with sign language essentials, as well as paid-for online college classes in ASL.
The latter feature scheduled lessons that are obligatory to attend, alongside video-based assignments that contribute to a pass/ fail grade. The benefit of these classes it that they foster a great sense of community and give you the opportunity to communicate with a live tutor. The drawback is that, unlike a lot of online learning, you can't set your own schedule with these sorts of classes. Courses are also pricey, starting at around $316 and going up to $950 for a full semester.
If you're serious about learning to sign, then this could be ideal, as the college-credit classes provide robust training and all the learning resources you could possibly need; if you're just curious about ASL, then you'll likely find that the basic free course is enough to get you started. You'll only learn a handful of words and expressions, but the immersive approach and thoughtful touches in the videos and quizzes demonstrate why this is a world-leading platform for teaching ASL.
Sign It: Best for fun lessons
There are a lot of quite serious videos out there when it comes to ASL courses, but Sign It bucks the trend by making lessons fun. The website has employed various actors in its videos, who play out silly situations that you can follow. It's reasonably priced, too, with five lesson bundles priced at $49.99.
Lessons are primarily taught through a mix of videos and quizzes. Having a variety of actors in the videos means that you get acquainted with the way individuals sign words slightly differently, which is a nice extra that's not common on other sites.
There are a couple of features that are lacking on the site, though. It is missing any kind of interactivity or feedback, which would make it a lot easier to know whether or not you are signing something correctly. Lessons are also only accessible online via your browser, so you can't download and watch them on the go.
Skillshare: Best ASL course online for vocab
Able Lingo (opens in new tab) on Skillshare offers a range of classes in both ASL and American English. Its ASL lessons offer you both the chance to learn the language from an individual sign upwards approach, where you learn each sign individually and then later build into sentences. You can also do the opposite, where you learn key useful phrases and break them into their components later. It also includes components on aspects of ASL culture or grammar to help deepen your understanding of the language.
However, it isn’t a course that you progress through as such, more a series of lessons you can dip in and out of. Lessons aren’t split up by clear subjects but sets of signs and phrases - for example ‘First 120 Basic Signs’ or ‘20 Common and Useful Nouns’. This means you can jump in pretty much anywhere or only learn the aspects of the language that feel useful to you, however that may not be a good thing for someone wanting a logical, structured course to follow from start to finish
Skillshare works on a subscription basis, which means that you can't buy a one-off course, but you do get access to all of them once you've paid. It's free for one month, then $32 per month or $168 annually.
ASLdeafined: Best low cost option
ASLdeafined offers video-based lessons at a very low price. It only costs $36 annually to subscribe to the platform, where you'll be able to access plenty of lessons, quizzes and retention exercises. There is an app you can access too - although, as beginners, we found it difficult to hold a smartphone and sign with one hand at the same time, so it might best be used as a kind of 'refresher' tool.
There are a few features we felt were missing on the site. Without any interactive feedback, we couldn't feel confident that we were signing correctly. There's also no option to slow down playback on videos, which can feel a little frustrating if you struggled to catch something the first time round. It's rarely an issue, as most videos on the website are very clear, but when the problem occurs it can stall your progress. In addition to this, we didn't come across a lot of content that explained any elements of deaf culture, or examined the nuances of signing that would help show us how to be 'active listeners' in conversations.
You can get a free trial on the platform, which is a great way of testing it out before you commit to a subscription. If you do decide that it's a great fit for your learning style, then you won't have to part with a big pile of money to keep using it.
SignSchool review: Best for intermediate learners
Unlike many ASL courses which are aimed at complete beginners, Signschool is unique in that it allows you to pick your difficulty level - Beginner, Intermediate or Advanced. Through video lessons, lessons, grammar modules and interactive exercises the platform aims to kick-start or progress your ASL knowledge via short, easy-to-digest content.
Similar to Lingvano, many lessons also feature the opportunity to turn your webcam on and practice your ASL along with the video, which offers a useful and dynamic practice of using the language in a ‘real world’ context.
Although the platform has a lot of potential, it’s still in beta, so doesn’t offer a learning experience as broad or comprehensive as some of its competitors. However, you can access all current course content for free, making it a good companion to any ASL lessons or subscriptions you may be having elsewhere.
Start ASL: A great free resource
You can access plenty of courses on the Start ASL platform for free, which is great for beginners. The site offers a mix of video-based lessons alongside text-based teachings, with good explanations of finger spelling techniques.
Unfortunately, the site is also quite messy when it comes to its layout. Students are often directed to read and download text books in the middle of a lessons and flick between resources during classes. It can feel a little confusing and certainly overwhelming for young learners or people who are very new to sign language. A lot of the videos also feature conversations recorded from a side-on angle, which isn't as clear as having face-on images, as you can't clearly see the actor's hands.
There are some good points to the platform. You can get 1:1 video call tutoring and there are online deaf community events to supplement your learning. It's not cheap though, with prices starting at $24.95 per month and going up to $49.95 a month for the all-access package.
What's great is that you can access a lot of the online learning content for free by simply signing up to the platform. You'll be able to dip into all kinds of vocabulary and grammatical lessons. While these might not be as well-organized as the above options, it's a good resource for anyone who's got some basic understanding of ASL and has the patience to comb through the lesson plans.
Best ASL courses online: FAQs
How we chose the best ASL online courses
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1. Course quality and content
The primary deciding factor in our list above is the quality of the content. We found that good quality videos, with clear shots of the actors' hands signing words and sentences, made a big difference to the speed of our learning.
2. Ease of use
Some ASL sites can be confusing to navigate, with convoluted learning paths and disorganized lists of classes. We found this would often impede our learning, so the lessons with enjoyable, user-friendly interfaces rank higher on our list.
3. Teaching method
We gave higher marks to platforms that managed to incorporate elements of ASL grammar and deaf culture into their lessons; having a stronger grasp of these things helped us to feel more comfortable understanding people and expressing ourselves.
4. Interactive elements, community and feedback
A lot of online platforms overlook this element of learning, as it's not part of the standard format of massive open online courses (MOOCs). However, creating a welcoming community can really improve motivation, so we gave extra marks to websites that had managed to do this.
A lot of these platforms have similar pricing, with a free-tier option and a paid subscription available for committed students. As such, pricing isn't the most important factor in our ranking, but it's still something we took into consideration.
How long does it take to learn ASL?
Opinions on this vary, but given that Gallaudet's basic introductory course takes around three months to complete, it's not unreasonable to assume that it would take you around three months to acquire a basic understanding of ASL. Going by this logic, it could take you two to three years to achieve full fluency, as Gallaudet offers six 'levels' of ASL courses, which can be taken in the spring, summer and fall semesters.
However, as with all language learning, the speed of acquisition depends upon the individual student and their environment. For someone completely immersed in the world of ASL, using it on a daily basis, it could take as little as a year to achieve full fluency (according to personal experiences reported on this blog from ASL basics (opens in new tab).)
How much do ASL online courses cost?
There's a little variety here, but in general you can start learning the basics for around $10 - $30. Platforms like Skillshare, which work on a subscription basis, will charge you $32 per month, and you can get a year's pass to classes on ASLdeafined for $36. Udemy, on the other hand, allows you to take one-off classes for as little as $10.
Gallaudet is a little different, offering college-level courses with prices that correspond to this. For a 3-credit course, you'll have to pay around $950.