“Now I know my ABCs”… but now what?

May 16, 2022 3 By Benton Froc
Screenshot of ASL Program; Learning the letter “I”

“The only normal way to begin speaking in a new language is to begin speaking badly”

Greg Thomson

After setting my intentions on learning some basic ASL for my learning project, I very quickly realized that it is much easier said than done. One of the biggest issues I faced right away was choosing what resources to use. Simply googling “ASL lessons” or “how to learn ASL” was extremely overwhelming, with a plethora of options to choose from, each explaining why there were the best (and sometimes, the definitive) option for learning ASL. Eventually I just grew tired of looking and picked on that looked decent.

The program is through an online interface called StackSkills, where instructors can create virtual lessons on a wide variety of topics and then sell them to people like me who have no idea where to begin. After signing up for an 80+ hour package of ASL lessons (it contains multiple courses and classes, so no, I won’t be learning ASL for 80 hours straight this summer semester), I chose a course called “ASL: The Manual Alphabet (American Sign Language)”.

This specific course was designed to provide a very in-depth way of learning the letters. For example, to learn the letter “I” (as pictured above), the instructor devised a two-minute video clip of just the hand sign for “I”. To be honest, I felt that this was quite excessive, but I did appreciate how he took the time to describe, rotate, and show his hand position in a way that made sense for anyone watching. He also gave plenty of tips for funny ways of remember how certain letters are formed and look, like the letter “G”:

“So, if you want a quick way to remember it, let’s say someone said “How big was the bug?” And you’re like, this big! Then you just turn, and that is a G”

Michael Honkanen

Admittedly, most of these tips were quite childish, but they did help! He also designed specific reviews for sections of letters throughout the course. I didn’t have to learn the entire alphabet, and then try and remember it; he taught letters 8 at a time, and then used review wheels to randomly have me sign them to practice.

Letter wheel for reviewing

In terms of progress, I have managed to memorize the entire alphabet this week. My plans for this following week are to work on letter-spelling sentences like “Hello, my name is Benton”, or “I am writing a blog on ASL”. From there, I’m thinking of starting to replace some words with basic vocabulary, but I’d like to see how this next week goes before I get to far ahead of myself. And here’s a progress video too!