I've got my PTA license but no job, so I'm staying busy by learning American Sign Language. I've always been fascinated by it, it's one of my New Years Resolutions, and I thought it would be beneficial to my career if I could treat deaf patients.
How to Get Started
The first thing I did was study how to learn a second language. I spent a lot of time on www.fluentin3months.com The guy on there learns new languages in 3 months by completely immersing himself. He actually lived in different countries, but for those of us who don't have that option it means finding yourself classes and a language partner or private tutor. (More about that later)
How Much Do I Have To Know
Considering you probably know about 20,000 words in your native language, it can feel overwhelming trying to learn a new language. From what I've found,3000 words account for about 95% of the words used in everyday conversations and writing. That's not quite so bad.
Where to Start
Start with 100 of the most common words in the language and try to have a conversation with them. FluentIn3Months would say have a conversation the first day you start learning a new language, but I'm not in a race to learn and I don't have those resources.
Where to Learn
I found a site that has 300 common ASL signs with animations. I decided to focus on learning these first as they'd allow me to have a small talk conversation about family, work, and school. (I learned a few other words like speak and dog that weren't on that list.)
Go to your local library to check out all their DVD& book resources on the language to compare.
There is an ASL personal enrichment class (not for credit) at my local community college, but it doesn't start until March.
There are free sign language classes at a church with a deaf ministry near me. I am waiting for them to post their spring dates and I'll be joining that.
There are classes at the deaf resources center near me as well.
YouTube is a great resources as well.
In summary check out your: libraries, community colleges, churches, internet, and resource centers for the community that speaks your chosen language. If there are no options, then I would purchase DVDs, books and for spoken languages: CDs and podcasts.
How Can I Practice
iTalki is a great resource. You set up a profile and indicate your native language and what language you want to learn. Then you can connect with professional instructors, informal tutors or language exchange partners (they want to learn your native language and you want to learn theirs, so you learn from each other). Language exchange partners are free; it's just a matter of finding someone willing. Professional instructors and informal tutoring cost money, but the most I've seen is $13/hr. I've seen as low as $5/hr for a native speaker of Tamil.
I had my first ASL private lesson today. For ASL, we have to use Skype but spoken languages can get away without the video part. I was a little nervous because webcams make me uncomfortable and I'd never really used one before. But my teacher was a professional interpreter and answered all my questions about grammar and proper signs. She taught me new words and I tried very hard to keep up with her signing and understand her. I think I'm decent with signing the words I know, but I need a LOT of practice with the other side of the conversation, figuring out what the other person is signing.
Overall it was a good experience and I will be using that teacher again. She was very patient with me. Right now I think once a week private Skype sessions is affordable and reasonable. Hopefully those church classes will be available soon, too, so I can have extra practice. Tomorrow I'll be near the central library, so I'm stopping in to get some books and DVDs.