ASL University

 American Sign Language: "Am I too old to learn sign language?"


A lady named Diana ______ writes:

I saw that you answer questions on your website, but had difficulty determining where I was supposed to ask my question.
So, I'm asking it through email, if this is okay.

I am a 50 year old woman who has signed up to get an associates degree in ASL. It's been a dream of mine for a long time.

So, you can imagine my disappointment when I discovered that I'm having an extremely difficult time learning it. It's not so much my signing as it is my receptive skills. Everyone in the class is picking it up much faster than I am and no--I'm not just imagining things. I see the instructor sign, I see the students nodding and smiling and answering her in sign and following her directions--while I have no idea what was said.

I'm very stressed out about it and thought about just quitting the program. I've decided to give it one more semester and if I see that I don't really improve, I'm going to quit. But as I said, it's extremely stressful for me. Getting called on in class is very stressful, because then it becomes obvious that , I don't have any idea what she said. Truthfully, I want to sink through the floor.

My questions for you are--is it my age--have you ever noticed that older people have more trouble learning it? My second question is--have you ever found that some people are just incapable of learning it? Also, what would you suggest I do to make myself better. I will tell you one other thing--I will have a Deaf mentor this semester that I am supposed to spend two hours a week with. That's why I say, if I can't learn it this semester, I don't think I'll go back.

Thank you,
Diana _______


If you haven't done so yet, please see this page:
You might get the feeling that page was written "for you."
As far as other advice:
1. Study the material on your own before coming to class. If the next class session is scheduled to cover "lesson 5" you should pre-study lesson 5's vocabulary as best you can (either from the book, a video, or a tutor) BEFORE stepping foot into class.
2. Ask for a tutor (or hire one).
3. Find out if the instructor has any other class sections and then attend BOTH sections (thus doubling your exposure to the language).  Or attend sections of other instructor's classes.
4. Start with lesson one of my website and study all of the lessons up through lesson 30.
5. Older people can learn sign language, it just takes a lot more effort to do so. It has to do with "myelyn." See:
Perhaps you could ask your local health professional about taking "acetylcholinesterase inhibitors" (AChEIs) about 20 minutes before class starts. Google: "nootropics."  Or look into supplements as "Bacopa" or "Vinpocetine." [Again, check with your doctor prior to taking supplements.]
6. Study first thing in the morning and last thing before bed.
7. Attend Deaf Community events and get as much exposure to sign language as you can.
Take care,
- Dr. Bill

Dr. Bill,
I apologize for never answering your letter after you were so kind to write. I did some soul searching after I wrote you the letter and before you even answered had decided not to continue in the program. I don't check my e-mail regularly and in the hustle and bustle of the holidays, forgot about it.
I decided that the fact that it was stressing me out so bad was a sign that I wasn't supposed to pursue it anymore. But thank you for responding to me and again, I'm sorry I didn't answer. I know you take submitted e-mails and your responses and use them for your website sometimes-you may use mine if you like.
- Diana


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ASL resources by    Dr. William Vicars




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