How Long Does it Take to Learn Sign Language?

Bhavika_P Guide
14 Min Read
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If you want to know how long does it take to learn sign language, it is important that you check their difficulty level. I mentioned earlier that basic sign languages don’t need much time. But studying sign language may require a longer time to learn. However, this won’t be difficult. This varies by person.

Several individuals have specific skills. It may be simple, and some may require a long-term solution for ease. Sometimes one learns signs but may find others difficult to understand. You can then have one-on-one contact. With time the language became more clear. Similarly, age can affect other challenges.

1. How Long Does it Take to Learn Sign Language?

How long does it take to learn sign language? If you are willing to learn sign language, then this question is the first one raised by you. Then, you will get all your answers here regarding learning sign language. However, learning sign language will give you a blissful experience. There are more than 70 million people all around the world who are deaf and dumb.

How long does it take to learn sign language varies from one person to another. It might consume a lot of time, like months, for you to learn sign language and years until you get a master’s in it.

how long does it take to learn sign language
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2. How Much is the Time Taken?

Everyone has their own pace in learning anything; it is no exception to learning sign language. It depends on how long you take to pick up the whole new language and concepts of sign language.

All these depend on how you approach the learning process and the goals you set to achieve within a limited time. It may take three months to three years to master the sign language.

3. American Sign Language – ASL

There is no officially recognised sign language, and different sign languages are used by people in different parts of the world. The sign languages which are known by many people are the British sign language and the American Sign Language.

British sign language came into use way more before American Sign Language, but most countries adopt the features of ASL, which makes it the most recognised sign language for deaf people across the universe.

There is no clarity on when and where ASL originated, but a study suggests that it came into existence 200 years ago by combining local and French sign languages. Even though French sign language was a part of the ancient ASL, now modern American Sign Language and Modern French Sign Language are entirely distinct languages.

American Sign Language Alphabet | Learn American Sign Language Letters


3.1. How does ASL Differ from English?

ASL is totally different from English. ASL has its fundamental features, rules for pronunciation, word formation, word order, word construction, and sentence formation.

For example, an English speaker asks a question by raising the pitch of his voice, whereas an ASL user asks a question by raising his eyebrows, widening his eyes, and tilting his body forward.

Expressing your thoughts through visual language using ASL is way more different from hearing people expressing the same thoughts in Spoken or English. Sometimes the grammar of the sentence differs between ASL speakers and English speakers.

3.2. Fingerspelling in ASL

Fingerspelling refers to a system in which 26 one-handed signs are used to represent the 26 English alphabet in the form of the ASL alphabet. These 26 signs are ordered in a required manner to form words.

A study suggests that 12-35% of ASL depends on Fingerspelling. It is simple to remake the one-handed signs by a beginner, which makes ASL the most efficient sign language to communicate.

An interesting thing to notice is that you should always use your dominant hand to fingerspell for better delivery of your thoughts. It is very important to maintain eye contact with the opposite person when you fingerspell words, and you should never look at the hand which you are using for the purpose.

Sign Languages Around the World


3.3 Levels to Cross

American Sign Language(ASL) is recognised as the Universal Sign Language all over the world. It is the primary language used by the majority number of people who belong to the deaf community spread across the world.

There are no official levels in the learning curve of the ASL language, but there are approximately five levels of proficiency which assure you that you have mastered the skill of using ASL, that are namely Novice, Survival, Intermediate, Advanced and Superior.

Crossing these levels successfully takes a lot of time and effort, but consistent skill practice makes it an easy task. A person who is interactive will be able to cross these levels in a short span of time than a non – interactive person.

3.3.1. Novice Level

The novice level is the level in the sign language group in which you have the ability to recognise and use the learned new language material. You will be able to understand the signed words and phrases. The novice level trains you to master the art of eye contact to understand sign language effectively.

It enhances your ability to fingerspell single words and read fingerspell single words clearly. When you are about to cross the novice level, you will be able to comprehend Wh- questions and sustain a conversation for three to four turns.

3.3.2. Survival Level

The ability to understand sentence-length signed communication marks the beginning of the survival level. You will be able to raise questions appropriately using your sign language skills, and you will be able to respond to Wh- questions.

Your ability to use sign language remarkably increases to a level where you will be able to describe people or events, and you will be able to express biographical information. You will have a good grip on ASL classifiers by the end of your survival level.

how long does it take to learn sign language
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3.3.3. Intermediate Level

The level at which you have the ability to understand and express main ideas from an interactive exchange in a culturally appropriate, completely fluent manner is referred to as the Intermediate Level.

An ASL user will be able to handle some public situations like enquiring details about the availability of a hotel room, purchasing groceries at the grocery store or ordering a meal in a restaurant.

At this level, the person who is learning ASL will be able to understand sentence-length signed communication on familiar topics using all classes. When the learner is about to cross the Intermediate Level, he/she will be able to communicate complex information, such as directions using ASL classifiers.

3.3.4. Advanced Level

Advanced level refers to the level where you will be able to handle unexpected situations with spontaneity. You will be able to understand rapid Fingerspelling, and your speed in Fingerspelling will increase.

The person will be able to modify his speed in Fingerspelling as the situation demands. You will also be able to understand some ASL idioms and use them appropriately.

Your skills increase to a level where you will be able to handle a conversation with more than two other ASL interpreters and signers. You excel in ASL syntax and will be able to use them in correct situations.

how long does it take to learn sign language
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3.3.5. Superior Level

It is the level at which you have the ability to understand and express concrete and abstract topics in an extended course of meaningful conversations using discourse strategies. You will have a good grip on ASL fluency, vocabulary, grammar and comprehension. You will have the ability to communicate with an experienced, native signer or other spoken language user fluently.

By the end of the superior level, you will have better communication, social, cognitive, and cultural understanding in learning ASL. If you cross all these levels, you will be a master in ASL.

3.4. How Long Does it Take to Cross These Levels?

Learning sign language is just as complex as you learn a new spoken language. It takes almost three months to three years to master the skill of sign language. Some face difficulty grasping the hand signs immediately, but it becomes much easier with consistent practice.

Sign language is as complex as the American language or any other spoken language, so committing yourself to the learning process gives you effective results.

A dedicated person who spends at least an hour per day learning sign language masters the basic sign language within 5 to 6 months. If the person is inconsistent in practising and not so interactive to communicate and learn with other sign languages and language users, then it takes a lot of time to understand the basics, which in turn affects his skills.

how long does it take to learn sign language
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4. Ways to Learn Sign Language

There are many ways to learn American Sign Language. The efficient way to master American Sign Language is to learn basic sign language. The best way to learn anything is to train with an instructor, and learning sign language is not an exception for this.

Nowadays, taking private or online classes to learn sign language from your place is possible. The other ways to learn sign language include using YouTube videos or any other applications. These may seem useful in learning the basics, but they are not ideal for mastering sign language.

Interacting with a sign language user helps you understand the basic signs to be used during any situation, making learning American Sign Language easier. It helps you identify and rectify your mistakes when you practise it practically with Speech pathologists. There are also many other online videos, courses and applications to learn sign language with some fun.

how long does it take to learn sign language
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5. Conclusion

Learning sign language helps you communicate with different groups of hearing people despite their native language. Reaching out to deaf people becomes easy when you master the most natural sign language. However, anything new requires a lot of encouragement and determination. Besides, there are many platforms to learn sign language, but learning does not depend on the platform. Rather, it depends on the learning process.

Also, to learn any foreign language well, you must spend sufficient time to learn properly. If you invest enough time and practice properly, you will be able to learn sign language within 3 to 4 months. However, if you give less time, it may take a minimum of 3 years to master the sign language.

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Last Updated on by Janhavi Ramesh Kowligi

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