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Should I practice ASL in a mirror?

TLDR: Sure, go ahead

An ASL student writes:
"How do you suggest people practice ASL?
My ASL teacher suggested I sign to a mirror."

Sure, go ahead and sign to a mirror. It will help you see what your hands are doing.

All of the mirrors in the world are not going to make any real difference unless you find your "reason."

96% of people who get "inspired" to learn ASL eventually fizzle out.*

The ones who make it (defined here as -- become conversationally fluent) are the ones who develop meaningful reasons to get their hands in the air and sign.

Interpreters who earn money for signing.

Employees who get paid to work with Deaf.

Parents who get to communicate with their Deaf child.

Evangelists, preachers, and missionaries who get a larger target audience and increased attention.

Friends and lovers who get relationship benefits.

Some people find a signing community (either online or local) that gives them enough social benefits to keep them interested over a long enough period of time to reach a level where they can converse in ASL about basic topics.

And, of course, Deaf people ourselves -- we get an efficient, convenient way to communicate that matches our abilities.

So reflect on your purpose for learning sign language.  If it is some vague sense of wanting to be helpful -- or if it is just "curiosity" -- then realize that probably won't be enough to keep you motivated all the way to conversational fluency.  That's totally okay though -- learning a little-bit about a wide variety of topics allows us to more easily discover those topics or directions that will bring us joy in our lives.

As far as your question "How do you suggest people practice ASL?"

It helps to look for and find ways to incorporate ASL into your daily routine thus enabling you to keep up your studies. For example, if you are a news junkie -- instead of reading the news in the morning you could choose to watch Deaf newscasters cover many of the same topics. That way the you still get your regular news "fix" while also getting the added benefit of increased exposure to ASL. Some people develop the routine of going to ASL "Coffee Socials."

As far as expressive practice, I recommend you find a practice partner and use the practice sheets in the lessons at after clicking on the lesson links, studying the individual vocabulary pages, and watching the instructional video for the lesson.
If you can't find a study partner, consider hiring a Deaf person and paying them to tutor you. (Do a search for "ASL tutors near me" in Google or some other search engine and you'll likely be amazed at how many tutors there are out there.
Or hey, use a combination approach: practice with a partner and keep a huge mirror a bit off to the side where you can easily check to see what your face and hands are doing.

 See: ASL Lessons

William G. Vicars Ed.D.
* I know the statistic of 96% because I've taught college-level ASL courses for 30+ years and the the attrition rate between ASL 1 and graduation with a degree in Deaf Studies is rather consistently right around 96%.




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