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Learning ASL is a journey over many years. I started my journey in 1976 when Signing Exact English (SEE) and Total Communication were popular. Now, after 45 years of study, I still must regularly attend workshops and continue learning to maintain my interpreter certification. Workshops may not be required for you, but learn to enjoy the learning process! Continually improve your skill.

Learn to Study Language – Always ask, “WHY?” Why did that person use that sign? Why did that person pause or make a certain facial expression? Why did the interpreter sign that way? Why do Deaf people not understand me? Why did the Deaf person understand me? Remain humble and have the mindset to improve. Never be satisfied with what you know. Become a student of ASL.

Learn by Communication – Fear of the unknown can keep you from communicating. Put fear aside and use the sign language you DO know. The more you sign, the more you will succeed. One now-famous interpreter said, “I just sign until they understand. If they don’t understand, I keep signing until they DO understand.” Just because you signed something does not mean that you were understood. You must sign the way they understand.

Learn by Failing – The problem is not failure. The problem is not trying. Yes, you will sign something wrong. Yes, someone will laugh. Allow them to laugh WITH you, not AT you. The difference is that you laugh also. Fail forward.

Learn by Repetition – Signing well one time does not necessarily mean you will sign well the next time. Remember what you did well and try to do it again. Also, notice what you do not understand. Ask questions. Ask for repetition until you do understand.

Learn to Continue
– Many start. Few continue. Persistence will help you improve. Never give up! Never!

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