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Best ASL online courses 2022

Best ASL online courses - man using a computer for ASL
(Image credit: Getty Images)

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 — 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. 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.

Those who are trying to progress quickly might want to splash out on one of the best online tutoring services 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 logo

(Image credit: Udemy)

Udemy

A clear structure, reasonable price and excellent set of videos put this course ahead of the rest.

Reasons to buy
+Includes a brief introduction to the history of ASL+Breaks down each sign clearly+Q+A section useful if you get stuck
Reasons to avoid
-No opportunity for interactive practice 

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 review: image shows Lingvano logo

(Image credit: Lingvano)

Lingvano is a simple-to-use, fun, and reasonably priced platform for learning American Sign Language

Reasons to buy
+Easy-to-use, interactive course+Learning via short clips and language games+Low commitment (a few minutes a day)
Reasons to avoid
-Not suitable for in-depth 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

Screenshot of woman signing at camera with 'ASL Connect' written over image

(Image credit: Gallaudet)

Gallaudet's immersive approach forces you to pick up sign language at quite a rate.

Reasons to buy
+Free online course covering ASL basics+Options to upgrade to more in-depth lessons+Strong focus on ASL grammar and conversation markers
Reasons to avoid
-Course navigation can make it hard to flick between lessons-Basic course is very short-Upgrades are very expensive

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

Screenshot of video player showing two men having ASL conversation

(Image credit: Sign It!)

This site goes out of its way to make videos engaging, but there's a lack of interactive options available.

Reasons to buy
+A comprehensive introduction to ASL for beginners+Features a variety of instructors and conversation topics+Reasonably priced for amount of content
Reasons to avoid
-Students don’t have direct interaction with an instructor-Lessons are not accessible offline

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

Skillshare: best online learning platform for creatives

(Image credit: Skillshare)

Skillshare

The online learning platform hosts plenty of useful vocab videos, but the learning path is a little confusing for beginners.

Reasons to buy
+Provides an extensive range of ASL signs, phrases and sentences+Offers a dynamic way of learning, rather than just progressing through set topics 
Reasons to avoid
-The course structure’s layout may hinder learning for some 

Able Lingo 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

Vector image showing different people standing in a line and signing words

(Image credit: ASLdeafined)

This is one of the cheapest subscriptions available for ASL lessons, but that does mean you don't get all the bells and whistles.

Reasons to buy
+Signing dictionary of 17,000 + words+Fingerspelling and hand shaping practice
Reasons to avoid
-Lack of tips and advice for beginners-Some of the videos are too quick to follow

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

Signschool review: image shows Signschool logo

(Image credit: Signschool)

SignSchool shows much promise as an easy to navigate and highly personalized approach to learning ASL, but as it’s still being developed it would be best used as a complement to another learning method.

Reasons to buy
+Different difficulty levels+Allows you to sign along via your webcam+Offers special modules on grammar+Offers quizzes and games
Reasons to avoid
-Platform in beta-Some navigation problems

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

Screenshot of Start ASL homepage

(Image credit: Start ASL)

There's bountiful resources available here, but it's a bit of a headache to navigate.

Reasons to buy
+Useful tips on fingerspelling+Opportunity for 1 to 1 signing practice over Skype+An ASL community for meet-ups and practice partners+Excellent grammatical explanations
Reasons to avoid
-Course materials hard to navigate

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

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.

5. Cost
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.)

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. 

Ruth Gaukrodger

Ruth has worked across both print and online media for more than five years, contributing to national newspaper titles and popular tech sites. She has held a number of journalist roles alongside more senior editorial positions, and is now the Digital Learning and Hobbies editor for the Top Ten Reviews brand.