This page is a work in progress; it has information and FAQ for ASL students.
If you are a student of ASL and you have a question, but you’re too shy to ask in person, feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org and ask. We may post your question (and answer) here. Don’t worry, your name won’t be posted.
Below is a list of recommended books, websites, and media on deaf-related subjects, such as ASL, deaf community, deaf history, and deaf culture. More will be added. Got a book or website you’d like to recommend or you were required to read/use? Email email@example.com and we’ll add it to the list.
The Deaf Community in America: History in the Making. By Melvia M. Nomeland. 2011. Paperback and Kindle versions are available. ISBNs: 078646397X / 978-0786463978. Amazon | Ebay
Note: If you’re taking deaf studies in college, you may be required to get this book. Much to our surprise, DeafCoffee.com is mentioned in it! Thanks to Emily for mentioning this.
For Hearing People Only. By Matthew S. Moore and Linda Levitan. Volumes 1 and 2. 4th Edition, 2016. Only paperback is available. ASIN: B01LWVXRO6. Amazon | Ebay
Note: These books aren’t cheap, but well worth it, according to many people. Make sure you’re getting the 4th Edition. The book-covers of the 3rd and 4th editions look very similar.
ASL University (Lifeprint.com). Run by Dr. William G. Vicars (“Dr. Bill”), a deaf man who holds an accredited doctorate in Deaf Studies and Deaf Education. This wonderful website contains countless animations, graphics, and videos of signs.
Sign Can You (SignCanYou.com). By Paul Greenberg. This website is run by a CODA and long-time interpreter. It provides sign language courses online and in files. You can view or download the files for free, although donations and/or book purchase are greatly appreciated.
The ASL App (TheASLApp.com). An app for your smartphone that contains over 1,500+ signs!
ASL Nook. A YouTube channel by a deaf mother, showing her and her adorable family teach and use sign language.
Sign and Dine. Many short videos showing how to sign different words with more videos to come. Perfect for beginning ASL students! Not only that, Sign and Dine hosts multiple deaf/ASL events in San Antonio, Texas, all of which are listed here on DeafCoffee. Their website: SignAndDine.com
Switched at Birth. This is a TV show (ABC) that featured deaf actors, deaf culture, and issues faced by deaf people. It ran for several seasons, from June 2011 to April 2017 and is no longer being shown now. However, there are DVDs available.
Children of a Lesser God. (1986) If you’ve never seen this or heard about it, you must be a hermit! 😉 Marlee Matlin is the first deaf actress ever to win the Oscar for Best Actress for this movie. Summary: A new speech teacher (hearing) falls in love with a deaf woman. Lots of signing. This movie is available all over the place – on some video streaming services, DVDs, and sometimes it’s replayed on cable TV. If you’re a ASL student, it’s a must-watch if you haven’t seen it yet.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Q1: I don’t mean to offend, but why do some deaf people write or type English very poorly?
A1: This website (ASLSpeak.org) explains it the best. Please be considerate and don’t ask a deaf person who you don’t know well about this; most of them may feel insulted and some may even become angry.
Q2: I’m completely new to ASL so I’m very shy and nervous about going to a deaf event. How do I start approaching deaf people?
A2: Our advice is to have a friend, colleague, or mentor who is fluent in ASL accompany you when you go to a deaf social event. They can then interpret for you and help you get accustomed to socializing with deaf people. After you feel confident with your signing, you can then be on your own. Or, if you don’t have someone with you, ask around for a hearing signer while you’re at the event and stay close to them or become friends with them. Be sure to politely ask them for permission first, perhaps offer to buy them a drink or a snack!
NOTE: Please keep in mind that not all deaf people may want to spend their time teaching ASL. Most of them are at the event to hang out with their friends and to catch up on news with each other. So if some deaf people seem uninterested in teaching ASL, don’t take it personally – move on to another person or stick with your friend/colleague/mentor.
Q3: I enjoy learning ASL as a hobby. One day I asked a few deaf people how to sign “computer”. They all signed it in different ways! It was explained that there can be different signs for some words. I’m trying to understand… how can that be?
A3: Just like any verbal languages, ASL does have “accents” or “dialects”! It’s dependent on how deaf people were brought up, who they interacted with, and so on. It’s not a big deal; just try to memorize the different signs for a word and/or stick with one that’s used most often among the deaf people you associate or socialize with.
Q4: I read that there are different “flavors” of ASL such as PSE and SEE? Can you explain? Which do you use?
A4: Sure! There are three main forms of Sign Language. They are: ASL (American Sign Language), PSE (Pidgin Signed English), and SEE (Signed Exact English).
- SEE signers sign word for word. For example, “I-need-to-go-to-the-bathroom” as opposed to ASL’s “I-need-zoom-bathroom”. SEE typically uses much more signing and fingerspelling than ASL and PSE. It takes more time as well. Some parents or teachers may prefer to use SEE with young deaf children since SEE helps with learning how to write English correctly. SEE is probably the least used form out of the three forms.
- ASL is the main sign language used by the majority of deaf Americans. It is a very graphic, expressive, and abbreviated form of sign language. SEE would sign “I-got-very-angry-and-yelled-at-him” while ASL would sign “I-angry-(sign resembling fire coming out of mouth, angry expression)-(point)”.
- PSE is an in-between, a combination of ASL and SEE.
I (the deaf owner of this site) started using SEE at around age 3. As I grew up and socialized more with deaf classmates, friends, and even strangers who used ASL, my signing form gradually changed to predominately PSE (with ASL being slightly more than SEE). Now I’m able to adjust my signing between SEE, PSE, and ASL depending on who I talk with.
Q5: I’m an ASL student and want to become fluent in ASL. As a deaf person, do you have any advice?
A5: Practice, practice, practice! If you’re serious about learning ASL and want to invest your time in it, I suggest getting involved in the deaf community. Join any nearby deaf events. If you’re an ASL student at a college, your professor will (should) give you a list or tips on how to find deaf events. Sign with deaf people every day or as often as possible. Most importantly, practice heavily on your receptiveness. From what I’ve seen, it’s the most difficult part of learning ASL. I’ve met some ASL students who sign VERY well, but when I sign normally back to them, they’re completely overwhelmed and have an expression like a deer caught in the headlights. I repeat… practice, practice, practice! 🙂 If you’re a Facebook user, join as many deaf groups as you can; some of them have videos posted by their members – these videos are excellent opportunities for you to practice your receptiveness.
Q6: I’m interested in learning ASL but I’m not sure where to start. Any suggestions?
A6: In addition to the resources I listed above (“Books/Websites/Media”), use Google, Facebook, and/or Meetup.com to find places and groups that teach ASL. Make inquiries with your local colleges and community centers as well! Some of them may provide ASL lessons. For those of you with the goal of becoming ASL interpreters, you may want to look for and contact interpreter agencies – I’m sure they’d be happy to give you tips and information.
(More Q/A coming soon. Don’t see your question here? Email firstname.lastname@example.org).