Discover Sign Language

This course offers an immersive experience in silence, allowing you to gain a deeper understanding of the perspective of the Deaf community and build your confidence in signing. Through video demonstrations, you will learn not only how to make signs but also how to communicate with facial expressions effectively. By taking this course, you can develop your skills and enhance your ability to communicate with the hard of hearing community.

6 Weeks / 24 Course Hrs
Starting  December 13, 2023
Offered in partnership with your preferred school


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Learning method

Course code: dsl

Discover Sign Language will teach you how to sign basic phrases and complete sentences and how to put it all together, allowing you to introduce yourself and start a conversation. Along the way, you will learn signs for colors, numbers, locations, family, and the activities you like to do.

Throughout the course, you will learn by watching videos that demonstrate how to make the signs and how to incorporate facial expressions to communicate in this beautiful language. This course is taught using the best practices of the industry with a minimum of audio support. Throughout it, you will be immersed in silence, which will help you gain an understanding of the perspective of Deaf people and sign language.

You will also gain an introduction to the world of the Deaf culture and explore topics such as lip reading, baby signs, and the career of interpreting. By the end of the course, when you meet a Deaf person, you will be ready to sign!

What you will learn

  • Learn to create the signs for numbers and letters of the alphabet
  • Learn to sign phrases and expand to complete sentences
  • Understand how to put it all together so you can introduce yourself and start a conversation
  • Learn signs for colors, where you live, family, and the activities you like to do
  • Explore topics such as lip reading, baby signs, and the career of interpreting

How you will benefit

  • Learn to effectively communicate with Deaf people using their language
  • Gain confidence in your ability to walk up to and start a conversation with someone who is Deaf
  • Experience sign language and be immersed in a course that is mostly silent
  • Explore the profession of interpreting

How the course is taught

  • Instructor-led or self-paced online course
  • 6 Weeks or 3 Months access
  • 24 course hours

What is sign language? Is it a real language? How did it develop? In this lesson, you will discover what sign language is and who uses it. This lesson introduces American Sign Language and a basic approach to learning it—signing the numbers 0 to 15.

Master your ABCs as you learn how to fingerspell the alphabet. You will discover how double letters are made when they're inside a word and how they're signed when they fall at the beginning and end of words. You will also learn tips on how to read fingerspelling.

How do you do? In this lesson, you will take the first steps toward having a conversation as you learn how to introduce yourself. In addition to learning the basic signs for this kind of interaction, you will also gain some more strategies for learning and understanding new signs, including the four aspects that make up each sign. While you add these skills to your signing arsenal, you will also learn more about the Deaf community, including what Deaf people expect to learn about you when you meet for the first time, and the role facial expression plays in sign language.

Next, you will build on the introduction you learned in the last lesson and see how to keep the conversation going. You will explore the different customs of conversation in the Deaf community, such as how to know when one person is finished talking and how to take turns. In addition, you will continue to navigate your introduction by adding more information about yourself. Finally, you will gain some additional vocabulary as you learn the signs for colors and numbers 16 to 30.

In this lesson, you will learn more signs to help you continue the conversation you started in the two previous lessons. You will learn about the cherished custom Deaf people have of giving name signs, so you will understand what to call yourself, your city, and your state. You will also gain more vocabulary about objects in your living environment. You will learn to sign the types of dwellings people live in and modes of transportation. In addition, you will add to your knowledge of numbers by mastering the signs for numbers 31 to 66. This lesson closes with a discussion about an important issue in the Deaf community: whether deafness is considered a disability.

Signing becomes a family affair as you learn signs for family members. You will understand how sign language categorizes the signs for each gender and communication in families with a Deaf person. This includes lip reading and other communication strategies. This lesson closes with the signs for numbers 67 to 100.

This lesson focuses on signs for extended family members. You will also learn signs to describe how you're related to them. Start to put together longer sentences to practice using your new vocabulary. You will be introduced to number systems beginning with age and telling how old family members are.

What time is it? In this lesson, you will discover how to tell time as well as sign the days of the week and other time periods such as minutes and hours. You'll learn how spoken languages handle past, present, and future tenses and then examine how sign language does it. Finally, you will discover the impact of the "Deaf President Now" movement had on the lives of Deaf people.

This lesson teaches signs for additional time frames such as yesterday, today, and tomorrow. You will learn signs for indoor and outdoor activities. Then, you will learn signs for your opinion, so you can explain which activities you like and don't like. You will also learn about CODAs—a group of hearing people unique to the Deaf community.

Now it's time to learn the signs for feelings and personality traits, and you will combine these signs with signs learned in previous lessons. You will see how to communicate how you're doing, how to ask how others are doing, and how to describe different personal attributes. You will also learn more about Deaf culture—this time, about physical contact and getting the attention of a Deaf person both nearby and across the room. Finally, you will gain tips for practicing your signs.

In the final lesson, you will learn signs for clothing and hairstyles, such as jacket and long hair. You will learn about classifiers and how to use them with the patterns such as stripes. Then you will learn signs for descriptions such as mustache and beard. You will also explore another important aspect of Deaf culture: teaching hearing babies to sign.

The course concludes with a lesson that teaches you to wish a friend happy birthday, offer a birthday treat, and talk about your favorite animal. You will start by learning to sign the months of the year and how to say, "Happy birthday!" You will also learn some signs for food and animals. This lesson will cover how English is translated into sign language and the role of the professional sign language interpreter. You will even get some tips on using an interpreter with a Deaf person.

Erin Trimble

Erin Trimble holds a Bachelor of Science in American Sign Language/English Interpreting from William Woods University and a Master of Arts in Interpreting Studies degree from Western Oregon University. Since 2003, Trimble has been professionally interpreting across a variety of settings including education, community, and medical. She has been both a staff interpreter and a freelance interpreter.

Instructor Interaction: The instructor looks forward to interacting with learners in the online moderated discussion area to share their expertise and answer any questions you may have on the course content.


There are no prerequisites to take this course.


Hardware Requirements:

  • This course can be taken on either a PC, Mac, or Chromebook.

Software Requirements:

  • PC: Windows 8 or later.
  • Mac: macOS 10.6 or later.
  • Browser: The latest version of Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox are preferred. Microsoft Edge and Safari are also compatible.
  • Adobe Acrobat Reader.
  • Software must be installed and fully operational before the course begins.


  • Email capabilities and access to a personal email account.

Instructional Material Requirements:

The instructional materials required for this course are included in enrollment and will be available online.

Instructor-Led: A new session of each course begins each month. Please refer to the session start dates for scheduling.​

Self-Paced: Your course begins immediately after you enroll.​

Instructor-Led: Once a course session starts, two lessons will be released each week for the 6 week duration of your course. You will have access to all previously released lessons until the course ends. You will interact with the instructor through the online discussion area. There are no live sessions or online meetings with the instructor.

Self-Paced: You have 3 months of access to the course. After enrolling, you can learn and complete the course at your own pace, within the allotted access period. You will have the opportunity to interact with other students in the online discussion area.

Instructor-Led: The interactive discussion area for each lesson automatically closes two weeks after each lesson is released, so you're encouraged to complete each lesson within two weeks of its release. However, you will have access to all lessons from the time they are released until the course ends.​

Self-Paced: There is no time limit to complete each lesson, other than completing all lessons within the allotted access period. Discussion areas for each lesson are open for the entire duration of the course.

Instructor-Led: Students enrolled in a six-week online class benefit from a one-time, 10-day extension for each course. No further extensions can be provided beyond these 10 days.​

Self-Paced: Because this course is self-paced, no extensions will be granted after the start of your enrollment.

Yes! This course is designed to help you feel comfortable conversing with the deaf and hearing impaired community. You'll be taught conversational sign language that will help you introduce yourself and start a conversation. You'll also learn the alphabet so you can fingerspell names and words as well as colors, numbers, and common phrases that will help you form sentences. After completion of this course, you'll be able to sign!

Not necessarily. The Foreign Service Institute classifies the ease of learning a new language based on its similarity to English. While experts do not agree on which category American Sign Language should be placed, it is clear that is not listed in the easiest category because it is not similar to English. However, with dedication and the right training through our Discover Sign Language course, you will be using sign language to communicate in no time!

Hearing loss is much more common than many people think. In fact, nearly 28 million Americans suffer from some degree of hearing loss. Hearing loss increases after the age of 65, and by age 75 nearly 50 percent of people will have at least some hearing loss. Learning sign language can help you better communicate with these people, and even someone in your own family who may suffer hearing loss as they age in the future.

No. Signed languages are no different from languages spoken all over the world. Different countries use different forms of sign language. Our Discover Sign Language course teaches American Sign Language (ASL) which is used in the United States, Canada and some parts of Mexico. ASL is also used in some countries in Central America, Africa and Asia with modifications.

Learning sign language could help you in your job. The Americans with Disabilities Act sometimes requires companies to have an interpreter for deaf or hearing-impaired individuals, so being able to converse in sign language could be a resume booster. Basic knowledge of sign language will also go a long way in showing customers that you care for their needs.

This course will help you converse with the deaf and hearing impaired. You can bridge gaps between yourself and this population as well as open the door to meeting new people. You'll also explore lip reading and baby signs which can help you when working with even more people. It may even give you an opportunity to get involved with volunteer organizations.

Learning a new language can keep your brain healthy and agile. You'll create new connections among neurons which can improve your memory and problem-solving skills as you age. You can also set an example for your children who will be inspired by watching you learn to reach out to a new group of individuals.