How to Be a Humble Student When Learning American Sign Language

Today I will be covering five major tips to help anyone who is learning a foreign language, American Sign Language, with a professional ASL tutor.

After 16 years of observing various American Sign Language students – I noticed a quite of few hurdles that students created which slowed down or sometimes even block their ability to absorb helpful lessons.

1. Develop good habits

Whenever an ASL tutor points out helpful techniques that will avoid solidifying bad signing habits – sincerely put effort in remembering from the very start to avoid developing what I’d like to call as the bad-habit-crutch. It may be disorienting at first because it requires extra effort of concentration to put the good habits of signing skills on daily basis – that’s only because it’s new. After a few months of serious applying of helpful techniques, suddenly it will become second nature to you.

Example: Always pronounce the entire word that you’re “spelling” a word that has no signs for it, or is a name of a person, place or thing. This goes for reading someone else signing to you a new word as well – immediately when you see the letter, pronounce the SOUND of that letter and ask the reader not to slow down too much. You want to develop excellent receptive and expressive finger-talking skills so that it’s fluent.

2. Take care of your PIES

PIES stands for physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual self. Outside of a classroom or an ASL tutoring lesson, take good care of yourself. It seems so simple, but I have seen over and over many students actually neglecting themselves as they juggle to care take their families, jobs, etc.

Do some fun exercises that you enjoy, at least 3 times a week to release stress from your body and it actually clears your mind too. Remember to drink plenty of clean filtered water when you’re exercising in a very hot weather.

Aside from demanding homework, do some fun intellectual exercise that you enjoy doing. My favorite vocabulary building exercise is playing Scrabble game, whether it’s with another person or online. It forces me to memorize a new vocabulary with a new definition and as well as learning how to spell it correctly. Scrabble board game forces me to be creative in problem solving of strategies that other players may place in front of me to block my chances of winning. I lose a lot of games, but each time, I can see I’m getting better in developing a lot of other intellectual methods to improve my game playing.

Always nurture your emotional needs. What can you do to take care of your emotional needs that has been neglected, overlooked or shoved aside? Get a professional counselor if the problems persists in order to help reduce the stress in your personal life. Too many times a lot of students will carry unrecognized emotional issues and will have a break down in the middle of a semester. We are whole beings with multiple needs that consistently need checking in every once in a while to make sure we’re internally aligned.

Everyone has their own concept of definition of spirituality. For some people, it’s very important to nurture their spiritual side – but sometimes life gets so busy and hectic, it gets pushed aside and neglected. Make the time to nurture your spiritual side, whatever it is, so you feel balanced inside.

3. Simple as it may be, but exceedingly important, DO YOUR HOMEWORK on time

A lot of students often rush through their homework or do it as the last minute, thus not giving themselves the fair chance of actually absorbing information that is necessary to understand the topic when presented in the class.

If you’re struggling to understand the material and the teacher cannot help you for whatever reason, be sure to hire a professional ASL tutor who is familiar with the materials to guide you to where you need to go.

4. Practice until blue in the face

I cannot stress the importance of actually putting effort in actually signing your American Sign Language vocabulary in full sentences and repeating yourself until 100% fluent. 100% fluent means being able to sign a full sentences in ASL without any mistakes in it at all.

5. Get help as soon as you can

I’ve seen well meaning students avoid getting tutoring help for much needed clarifications until it was too late. Do not fall for this trap. Everyone needs help from a fluent foreign language expert every once in a while. Do not let questions pile up because it will be harder to untangle as exam nears.

These five tips should help you become a better foreign language student. Re-read these tips over and over until it’s memorized. Developing great habits such as these listed above, will benefit you greatly in the future.

Best wishes in your learning journey!