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American Sign Language for Everyone

Expand your communication abilities and broaden your linguistic horizons with this foundational course in American Sign Language.
American Sign Language for Everyone is rated 4.1 out of 5 by 9.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Greatly enjoying this course! Thoroughly enjoying this course! Dr Silvestri seems like a very warm, friendly person and the information is useful and presented in a logical way. Highly recommend for anyone, but especially those such as myself who are now hard of hearing.
Date published: 2024-06-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from WONDERFUL!!!! I’m a 15 year old sophomore, and I loved this course! It’s true that she did go fast in the beginning, but that’s completely understandable considering that that’s the only language she speaks. This course taught me so much, and walked me through it in a very structured way. By the end of the course, I was practically able to follow along with everything she was saying, regardless of the voiceover. I highly recommend this course to anyone wanting to learn ASL, or if you would care for a refresher. I was genuinely sad when I watched the last lesson, and I will be taking it again soon with my younger sister. I can now hold entire conversations in ASL, and have developed a deep appreciation for ASL and the deaf community. I’m so excited to continue my learning, and I really wish that there were a follow up course: perhaps in the future;)
Date published: 2024-02-26
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Disappointed I'm a little surprised at the gushing positive reviews for this course. I'm sure it's just right for some, but not for me. I begged for this course to be in the Great Courses Plus and, after some time, they finally published a pilot lecture. I loved the pilot; easy to follow, and I actually learned something from that lecture. But I found out that it would take more begging to get the whole course included. I guess there were enough people interested, and I was excited to see it finally included in the mix. But, alas; I am severely disappointed; while the pilot lecture was easy to follow, this course seems to be for people who already have some understanding of ASL. I can't follow any of it; I have no idea which sign goes with which word(s), and the whole thing moves way too fast for my level of comprehension. Immersive language learning has its place, mostly in venues where it's necessary to learn a lot very quickly. That's not what I was looking for, so I guess I'll have to go elsewhere.
Date published: 2024-01-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from LOVING this ASL class! I purchased this recently and am really enjoying Dr. Silvestrri's class! I have zero experience with ASL, so learning the history behind it is really interesting and I am sure will help me get a better understanding and foundation for learning the language. The way she signs allows me to see and pick up on certain words, phrased and gestures easily.
Date published: 2023-12-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent course! I bought it so I’ll be able to communicate with my nearly deaf brother. I ended up giving it to him so he can communicate more effectively with the deaf community and I’m order another one for myself.
Date published: 2023-12-17
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Pamphlet is a terrible! I was seriously calling to report a missing book. But couldn’t get through. When I opened the DVD I FOUND that the pamphlet was inside. The font is so small!!! Apparently, this was not created for people with impaired vision. Not only can I not read the pamphlet but I haven’t found a way to enlarge the print in the Library site. I would not recommend purchasing the DVD set because the pamphlet is not worth the money - which I why I only purchase DVD - for the associated reading material.
Date published: 2023-12-09
Rated 2 out of 5 by from She signs too fast I have reviewed the first disc and she signs as if she is conversing with someone on her level. I am a beginner. It would be helpful to either be able to slow the disc or could she create another course in which she will very slooooowly sign. It appears she is very knowledgeable, but in trying to teach how to sign she is doing so on her level of signing. It appears as if she is waving her hands and arms very quickly and is difficult to grasp how she is doing it. I intend on keeping the course, but will have to pay very close attention to how she is doing it and go over each lesson multiple times. I would not recommend this course to a complete beginner. I learned the sign alphabet years ago, but again, she goes through it very quickly.
Date published: 2023-07-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from American Sign Language for Everyone This course was fantastic, and Dr Silvestri was wonderful and inspirational. I intend to return to many of the lectures for review. My only suggestion would be to provide a visual vocabulary list, either at the beginning of each lecture or in a appendix Lecture File. Dr Silvestri is a phenomenal teacher, but much of her signing (in the intro and conclusion segments of each lecture) was too fast, leaving me to replay constantly, finally figure it out in a future lesson, try to look it up on or even in my ancient sign language textbook. I know it would be a pain to create & film this, but there are many beautiful words that flew past me, especially since sentence structure is different in ASL. Otherwise I loved the course, and I thank Dr Silvestri and Wondruim for providing this necessary information.
Date published: 2023-04-21
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In American Sign Language for Everyone, Dr. Julia Silvestri—a native user of American Sign Language (ASL) and member of the Deaf community—will show you how to use this unique language to meet people, share information about the world around you, express your opinion, and enjoy ASL literary forms. In 24 engaging lessons, Dr. Silvestri will teach you the manual alphabet, and many dozen signs to enable you to converse in this powerful visuospatial language.


Julia Silvestri

Learning ASL is an extraordinary journey, and once you start, you won't want to stop.


Yale University and Columbia University

Julia Silvestri is a Lector of American Sign Language and the coordinator of the ASL program at Yale University. She is also an Adjunct Assistant Professor for the Program in the Education of the Deaf & Hard of Hearing at Columbia University, where she completed her PhD in Physical Disabilities: Deaf and Hard of Hearing. She holds an EdS in Educational Leadership and Administration from George Washington University and has worked as an educator and administrator. Among her research interests are inclusive arts education and language program development.

By This Professor

American Sign Language for Everyone
American Sign Language for Everyone


Gestural Language and Communication

01: Gestural Language and Communication

Explore the elements of gestural language and learn the difference between ASL signs and gestures. You’ll also learn some iconic gestures that are used as signs in ASL, such as “walk” and “hit.” As your professor illustrates, you already have access to a solid foundation of gestural communication.

26 min
The ASL Alphabet

02: The ASL Alphabet

In this lesson, you’ll learn the entire ASL fingerspell alphabet, a coded system for the letters of the English language. You’ll have the opportunity to test your knowledge as you try some letters and blends and learn three-letter words and acronyms.

24 min
Numbers in ASL

03: Numbers in ASL

Explore the world of numbers in ASL and learn how to sign up to 1 billion! You’ll also learn how to sign phone numbers, birthdays, and zip codes, as well as the arithmetic functions of addition, subtraction, multiplication, division—and that all-important equal sign.

34 min
The Importance of Introductions in Deaf Culture

04: The Importance of Introductions in Deaf Culture

To interact with the Deaf community, it’s important to be able to identify your hearing status and your sensory environment. Are you deaf, a child of deaf adults (CODA), someone who became deaf late in life, or an ASL interpreter? Also, discover why your ASL name might be very different than the name you’ve used as an English speaker.

24 min
Facial Expressions and Greetings in ASL

05: Facial Expressions and Greetings in ASL

Explore the fascinating role of facial expressions in signed language, and how the intensity of movements of the eyes, eyebrows, and mouth can change the meaning of a sign. Learn the signs and corresponding facial expressions for numerous positive, negative, and neutral feelings.

22 min
The Linguistic Parameters of ASL

06: The Linguistic Parameters of ASL

In this lesson, you’ll explore the five phonological parameters of every ASL sign: handshape, palm orientation, movement, location, and non-manual signals such as facial expression. Consider how changing even one of these parameters can change the sign’s meaning. You’ll also learn about Pidgin Signed English and Signed Exact English.

27 min
Asking Questions in ASL

07: Asking Questions in ASL

Discover the important ASL structure of topicalization—establishing the topic first and then providing commentary and/or questions. Here, you’ll learn the signs, facial expressions, and syntax for asking questions. You’ll also build vocabulary by learning multiple ways to sign the questions who, what, and how.

26 min
Making Commands in ASL

08: Making Commands in ASL

In this lesson you’ll learn the signs for making commands related to objects and the body, as well as the importance of spatialization in conveying meaning. You’ll also explore the differences in facial expressions as you make commands with your new vocabulary versus the questions you learned to ask in the previous lesson.

27 min
Using Semantic Classifiers in ASL

09: Using Semantic Classifiers in ASL

Discover how classifier handshapes can add meaning to your conversation and help you communicate about an activity whose sign you might not know. In this lesson, you’ll increase your vocabulary about activities you might like to do—watch TV, shop, cook, run, read, and more. You’ll also learn the all-important ASL kiss fist!

24 min
Signing about Food and Dining in ASL

10: Signing about Food and Dining in ASL

Explore the vocabulary and phrase structures you’ll use when discussing food or eating out. Your new vocabulary will include water, eggs, pancakes, pizza, and more. You’ll also learn about DeafSpace, the architectural approach that allows the greatest communication opportunities for those who use a signed language.

28 min
Time Expressions in ASL

11: Time Expressions in ASL

Learn how to express time using ASL in terms of precise hours and minutes, as well as the vocabulary of the days of the weeks and months. Discover how the physical body acts as its own timeline in ASL, using sign placement to indicate the past, present, and future.

30 min
Discussing Location and Transportation in ASL

12: Discussing Location and Transportation in ASL

Did you grow up in a small town or a big city? Did you live in a condo, apartment, or house? You’ll be able to ask and answer these questions and more with the vocabulary in this lesson. You’ll also learn when to use fingerspelling as you refer to a city or state.

28 min
Describing Educational Experiences in ASL

13: Describing Educational Experiences in ASL

Discover the history of Deaf education in the United States. While researchers recognize today that ASL leads to robust language development and builds a strong community, there was a time when teaching ASL was controversial. Build your vocabulary by learning the signs for elementary, middle, and high schools; and curricular subjects, including social studies, business, drama, math, science, and more.

33 min
The Importance of Community in Deaf Culture

14: The Importance of Community in Deaf Culture

Explore the significance of community in Deaf culture, connecting those who are geographically disparate via a shared language and living experience. Your professor will use semantic classifiers as she helps you build vocabulary with signs including near, far, hospital, highway, police station, and more.

34 min
Topicalization and Spatialization in ASL

15: Topicalization and Spatialization in ASL

Just like an English word carries part of its meaning by the way it is said, topicalization and spatialization affect the meaning of ASL signs. Using those tools, your professor will teach the signs for colors, size, and patterns. Your new vocabulary will include bright, light, dark, soft, left, right, center, rough, bumpy, plaid, and polka dots.

31 min
Describing Settings in ASL

16: Describing Settings in ASL

The power of ASL really comes across when describing a physical place; you can get a stronger spatial sense of the environment much more easily than with a written language. Using semantic classifiers as appropriate, your professor will teach signs such as setting, environment, sunrise, moonrise, wind, reflection, cloudy, cool, dry, and humid.

33 min
Describing People in ASL

17: Describing People in ASL

Learn how to describe a person’s appearance and talk about relationships, occupations, and personalities. You’ll discover that ASL pronouns contain no gender identifiers, helping to create an inclusive community. In addition to vocabulary describing height, hair, age, and personality traits, you’ll also learn the signs for nonbinary, gender fluid, transgender, straight, and queer.

33 min
Discussing Social Activities in ASL

18: Discussing Social Activities in ASL

Indexing is another powerful tool in ASL communication. In this lesson, you’ll use indexing and plural classifiers to communicate about groups of people. You’ll also learn to describe your hobbies, interests, and sports with new vocabulary, including chat, party, theater, concert, soccer, hiking, festival, and more.

26 min
Narrative Structure in ASL

19: Narrative Structure in ASL

Learn how to create simple narratives in ASL using the body movements of role shifting to denote different characters and using bulleting to describe sequential action. Discover the specific order of an ASL narrative. Then, then practice with those tools plus new vocabulary including: one day, then, first, second, next, later, and more.

24 min
Storytelling and Handshape Stories

20: Storytelling and Handshape Stories

Discover the fun of handshape stories, in which a limited number of handshapes are used to tell a story. Although most genres of Deaf literature are like that of other cultures—drama, film, storytelling, poetry, etc.—handshape stories are unique to signed language. You’ll also learn some vocabulary to use in your own storytelling: once upon a time, monsters, dialogue, happily ever after, and more.

37 min
Visual Vernacular and ASL Performances

21: Visual Vernacular and ASL Performances

Explore the excitement of Visual Vernacular, another literature genre unique to Deaf culture. It relies on gesture, role playing, iconic signs (as opposed to signs unique to ASL), body movement, and mime to tell a story—often a story that both educates and celebrates the culture. Your professor will share some visual vernacular as well as suggest other videos by famous performers you might want to check out.

30 min
ASL Poetry

22: ASL Poetry

Poetry in Deaf culture is used to share feelings and ideas, to connect as a community, to promote the community values, and often as a tool for advocacy. It incorporates a wealth of visuospatial phonological devices including handshape, movement, orientation, location, and facial expression. Discover the rhythms of beats and repetitive handshapes for rhyming as you experience ASL poetry.

28 min
Symbolism and Figurative Language in ASL

23: Symbolism and Figurative Language in ASL

Consider the use of symbolism in ASL creative literature. Just as symbols are used in spoken and written language as a stand-in for strong sentiments or abstract thoughts, the same is true in the world of ASL. In addition, you’ll learn how to employ contrastive phrase structure to translate and create ASL similes and metaphors in your own creative work.

29 min
Bring It All Together: Opinion Statements

24: Bring It All Together: Opinion Statements

Learn to create compound sentences in ASL using a form of contrastive structure with role shifting to indicate the two phrases or sentences. You’ll also practice expressing your own opinions in ASL with the diamond structure of a topic, supporting details with role shifting to separate the ideas, and then your conclusion.

34 min