HUh! well this is a fun ask; let me get it out of the way though, that I am just a student. I’m no professional but sometimes taking it from another fellow learner has its own special qualities.
**NOTE! if there is any of you who think I’ve made a mistake or left something important out, please add to this post!***
I really RECOMMEND learning ASL from a professional class. Because the curriculum that i learned was a good balance of learning vocabulary and accent steps, to the culture, slang, grammar and personality of the culture as the whole. You CAN study these on your own though! the books I read in ASL were:
For Hearing People Only by Matt Scott Moore – a guide to commonly asked questions to Deaf lifestyle and culture
A Deaf Adult Speaks Out by Leo M. Jacobs – deaf culture and history
Also, there is this Deaf magazine subscription you can look into buying. I lent all mine from my teacher but who knows! Maybe you might get really into it and want to know everything thats bumping in the ASL community. Its called NAD mag
You might find these an interesting read, but if you are more like me; who’s bad about reading anything thats not about cool dragons; a class would definitely help you read and digest these in manageable chunks. Its almost GUARANTEED that if you take up a beginners corse in ASL you’re going to run into these two books.
If you can not learn in the class for the time being, try to find some one who’s proficient in ASL enough to maybe teach you a little! Couldn’t hurt. I mean it might be hard to just MAKE a friend that knows ASL, but it could give you good practice!
If you REALLY CANT WAIT TO LEARN SOME SIGNS. Well; there are TONS of sign language sights. You have to be careful using the internet, because not all of it is American Sign Language; ASL is not universal and there are multiple different types of signing styles, mostly all of which are hearing condoned and the Deaf community finds is patronizing or limiting to their potential vocabulary. Though don’t look down on anyone who uses them. (i.e. S.E.E., L.O.V.E., Baby sign, etc…) I find the most reliable source of my words come from this dictionary There are some words you wont be able to find, which is normal, I like signingsavvy the most. Its reliable and certified by my teacher to be a good website.
So yeah! those are some good self reliant sources of what you can learn by your own. Don’t be over whelmed, its all really interesting stuff! I still recommend you take up a class or learn from a person who understands and/or has been apart of the ASL community for some while. I put some fingerspelling tips down below as that needs little instruction and I really encourage you to try it out! Thanks for asking!
One thing that takes almost NO pro pointers is fingerspelling! If you wanna get into sign language, practice your alphabet. get GOOD. cause it is one of the first skills you learn and one of the most challenging (reading it is the hard part). I like this chart the most because it doesnt represent letters like C,K,P,Q, and X as sideways (they are to face forward) It is an easy and very important skill to learn. I’ve found it to be a good nervous tick when i need something to do with my hands. Plus you never know when you might come in contact with someone who needs you to communicate with them via basic FS! Here are some pointers:
- When fingerspelling, keep your arm up at shoulder level. You shouldnt feel pain or struggle to keep your arm up, just prop it up with your palm facing outward. When you sign each letter do not bounce when trying to form each letter, it makes it hard for the reader to understand what youre trying to spell.
- Fingerspell with ONE hand only. Your dominate hand (right handed, or left handed.) Your dominate hand is important to anchor both your finger spelling and dominate movements in signs, so dont switch between them or it will look sloppy.
- Make sure that you do appropriate hand stretches as to not over work your wrist. Youre hands are important for signing! and fingerspelling wears them out good. so make sure to stretch often– make it a frequent habit!
- Acronyms (such as A.S.L.) have to be signed in a circle. I sign them counter clockwise from my own perspective. I HAVE seen people sign it by moving each individual letter in a tight, small circle. You’ll find that there are different styles of signing all around.
- If you are fingerspelling a phrase make sure to pause briefly between each word imaginehowbullshititwouldbeifyouhadtoreadthiswholethinglikethis. same thing.
- When you fingerspell a long word or maybe a phrase sign and move your hand sideways, kinda like a typewriter! Do not move out forward, or inward, or to the opposite direction of your dominate hand. You should never feel pain or stress in your hand/arm when fingerspelling, so dont over do it and end up with your arm across the room at the end of your word/phrase!
- Double letters such as in “school” or “glass” can be signed by just resigning it with a small squeeze like S-C-H-O-O-L. Or, I HAVE seen when you just drag sideways it very shortly like S-C-H-(OO)-L. if that make sense.
- Learning how to fingerspell is the easy part, the hard part is learning how to read it! Heres a good website that can help you practice your FS receptive skills.
- Same creators of asl.ms listed above made an app! Its extremely helpful and i recommend doing it when you are waiting in line for something or just have some time to kill. Its helped me so much. It costs money, but I found it was well worth it. (itunes link) it says on asl.ms that android version is available as well.
Thats about all the tips I know. Good luck! If any of you ASL students or Deaf members of the community would like to add anything for those looking into getting into Sign Language please add to this post!