Sign language is one of the most widespread forms of communication on the planet. Knowing a form of it, such as American Sign Language (ASL), is a useful skill for even those who don’t rely on it. If you have a family member or friend who is deaf or hard of hearing, learning even a few words of sign language can be helpful.
There are many resources for those who want to learn how to sign, such as YouTube and Lifeprint. But you can also pick from a wide variety of iOS apps that help you learn anywhere.
Though sign language is not universal, the market for apps is heavily skewed towards ASL. Here are the best sign language apps to learn ASL on your iPhone or iPad.
Keep in mind that sign language is very complicated and operates with different syntax than oral languages. If at all possible, practice the language with someone who signs fluently, and allow these iOS apps to supplement your education. This will help you learn the language through immersion.
1. The ASL App
Best for: Understanding more complex interactions in ASL.
If you’re looking for a Duolingo-like experience, check out The ASL App. One of the best features is that it often shows two ASL speakers interacting to simulate a true conversation. In each video, you can drag your finger across the screen to control the speed. There’s also a slow-motion option.
You can even save specific signs to a Favorites folder for quick access. While the app offers a number of different learning modules for free, you can unlock the entire app with an in-app purchase.
Download: The ASL App (Free, in-app purchases available)
Best for: Strengthening your ASL vocabulary.
SignSchool is a great-all around ASL app and offers a number of solid features. One of the best is SignBuilder, which shows random signs so you can improve vocabulary comprehension. There are hundreds of different categories and thousands of signs to choose from. To test your knowledge, there is a multiple-choice game to help review categories.
An ASL Sign of the Day offers a new sign to learn daily; you can get a notification when the new word is available to view.
Download: SignSchool (Free)
3. ASL American Sign Language
Best for: Learning the ASL alphabet and numbers 1-100.
While this app features commonly used phrases in conversation and vocabulary, it’s also a great place to learn the basics. You can learn the complete alphabet and numbers 1-100.
To help test what you’ve learned, there’s also a picture-matching game for both letters and numbers.
Download: ASL American Sign Language (Free, in-app purchase available)
Best for: Language immersion via the keyboard.
If you really want to immerse yourself in ASL, a great option is Signily. The add-on keyboard shows you the sign for each letter.
It’s not the most intuitive way of learning how to sign, since it can rob you of the chance to learn word-specific signs instead of fingerspelling. But the big advantage is that all of the signs are laid out in familiar patterns and go back to regular letters with one touch. Switching between the two should make it easier to memorize the individual letters.
Download: Signily ($0.99)