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How to become proficient at ASL:


 

In a message dated 3/1/2013 1:17:47 P.M. Pacific Standard Time, lnpierson13 writes:
Dr. Bill,
I am just a random person from Lubbock, Texas who wants to learn sign language. I have no deaf family members, and I am not deaf myself...but I find ASL to be expressive, beautiful and fascinating. I would love to be an interpreter someday. I used to teach theatre. I am a stay at home mom these days. My baby is catching on to signs very fast, and it has inspired me to want to learn more and more. I am taking a class at a church.
...How could I go about becoming fluent in ASL, and then possibly a licensed interpreter? What are the steps? Do you have to do it formally or informally?
-- Lindsey Pierson


Lindsey,
Hello :)
The best path to becoming fluent depends on your circumstances. The more free time, money, and access to resources (including opportunities to communicate with Deaf people) you have -- the faster and more conveniently you can become fluent.
If you live near a college and can afford classes then that is one approach.
Another is to marry a Deaf person or adopt a Deaf child (who already knows sign).
A third is to make friends with Deaf people or hire a Deaf baby-sitter.
Certainly informal classes, websites, books, videos, and other resources can be helpful.
Maybe you could participate in an "immersion" program (if there is one in your area). Gallaudet.edu offers some amazing summer immersion courses.  CSU Sacramento does to on occasion (google CSUS CCE ASL Immersion).
Perhaps you can afford to hire a private tutor? If there is a college program around that has higher level courses (ASL 5 and up) you might consider contacting the instructor or program director and asking him if he has any "star" students who are "very good" for their level who might be interested in tutoring you for pay.
As far as becoming a certified interpreter it helps greatly if you live near a college that has an interpreter training program.  You may eventually wish to start volunteering to interpret at your local church (if there are any Deaf people there).  It is easy enough to start with frozen material such as songs or highly structured material such as certain prayers. I recommend you visit www.RID.org for more info on interpreting.  Plus see the "interpreting" entries in the Lifeprint.com "library" section.
Cordially,
Dr. Bill
 



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