American Sign Language: A Compact List of Class Types


American Sign Language (ASL) is the visual body language used by the deaf and hard of hearing in order to communicate. Hearing individuals also learn sign language in order to communicate with individuals who are audibly impaired or simply as a second language.

While some assume that sign language only utilizes hand and arm movements to portray thoughts, that is not true. Signers can use their whole bodies to get their points across. This can include hand gestures, facial expressions, even body posture.

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There are many ways to learn about ASL, but a good resource to have is the Rocket Language online learning courses.

Following are a broad overview of the various subjects that you can study about ASL. Many of these are covered by the Rocket Language courses.

ASL Culture and History

Sign language has a very broad and deep culture and history.

Of the approximately 130 different sign languages around the world, American Sign Language is one of the most popular.

While sign language is likely over 300 years old, ASL has been around since the first quarter of the 1800s.

It has actually been discovered that children who are deaf and who have not learned fingerspelling or sign language actually develop their own unique sign language, showing the will that young people have to learn to communicate in this way.

What is Finger Spelling?

Finger spelling isn’t exactly sign language, although the two are often associated, so it has been included here.

Finger spelling is often used in combination with sign language when a signer is introducing a proper name of a person, place, or thing. After an initial spelling out of the proper name, a unique sign may be given for simplicity’s sake.

Finger spelling predates sign languages.

Numbers in ASL

In ASL, numbers 1-5 are pretty simple. It is just like counting on your fingers.

Numbers 6-9 are pretty simple, as well. You may even do it without even thinking about it, especially when you are counting something in your head. It involves touching the tip of the thumb to different fingers on the same hand.

The gestures do become progressively more complex, but they remain pretty simple to remember. This is especially true for people who are naturally visual learners.

Words in ASL

Some of the most common words in ASL include:

1. ASL—sign the individual letters for A, S, and L

2. Please—hand completely flat, rubbing palm once in a small circular pattern on your upper chest

3. Thank you—hand flat, finger tips on chin, then hinge your wrist forward until your palm is up

4. Me—point at yourself with your index finger

5. You—using index finger, point at the person “you” is referring to

These are just a handful of examples. There are many, many words in American Sign Language. Some are easier to do and remember than others.

Phrases and Sentences in ASL

Many phrases in ASL string together or combine the signs for individual words.

For example, if you want to find out someone’s name, point to them then do the sign for “name.”

So, you would point at them with your index finger. Then you would immediately transition to having the index and middle finger on each hand together. Tap the sides of your fingers together so it looks like an X from above.

Continue with this idea to communicate whole sentences and conversations.

Learning ASL Online Versus in the Classroom

The preference for online or brick and mortar ASL classes comes down to you.

Each have their advantages and disadvantages.

With a physical classroom, you have the option of immediately asking for clarification from the teacher. However, it isn’t guaranteed that you will receive the help you seek. It is also easy to miss something important.

With an online ASL class, you can rewind and rewatch videos until you have a sign down perfectly. However, you don’t always have someone right there to help you if you just can’t figure something out. But, you do have the privacy of your own home.


There are many steps to learning American Sign Language. These steps can be approached in different orders, but it is important to take as many classes as you can in order to become fluent.

Beyond the classroom, it is also beneficial to have conversations with others who speak American Sign Language.

A good option would be to learn online using a website such as the highly rated Rocket Languages.


Our Top Pick For Learning ASL

Learn American Sign Language!

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