Wednesday, December 10, 2008

iSign - Animated ASL dictionary for iPhone and iPod Touch

iSign is a tutorial and reference program for American Sign Languane (ASL) designed specifically for the iPhone and iPod Touch. The program contains an animated phrase book of 800 signs.

Each of the gestures is modeled with a 3D character and completely animated. The vantage point for each sign was chosen so that the user can see the details of the hand positions. These are the ASL signs, not finger spellings.

The program allows users to organise signs by category or alphabetically, and to mark favourites. There is also a quiz mode which tests recall either of all signs or of signs marked as favourites.

Screenshot from iSign

A program like this won’t replace classes with a live instructor. It can teach you individual words but not the grammar and syntax of ASL, which is very different from English grammar and syntax. And, of course, it can’t teach you about Deaf culture and history - which is very important to understand when learning any language. But for those who are taking classes, or wish to augment existing knowledge of ASL, it’s a fantastic resource. I wish there were a program like this for Australian Sign Language (Auslan)!

The program may also be of use to supporters and educators of people who use Makaton, Signed English/Signed Exact English (SEE), Pigeon Signed English (PSE)/Contact sign, Simultaneous Communication (SinCom), and all other communication methods which utilise ASL signs but not other aspects of the ASL language. These modified communication methods are often used by children with developmental delays, people with autism, and those with intellectual impairments as well as deaf and hearing impaired people. Parents teaching approximate ASL gestures for Baby Sign may also be interested in the program.

The iDev2 company also has an app which teaches ASL fingerspeling, ABCSign, and a “lite” version of iSign which is free and contains 25 of iSign’s 800 signs. You can try out iSign Lite before purchasing iSign to make sure it fits your requirements.

At the time of writing, iSign was retailing for US$9.99 in the iTunes Store.

Website: iSign

- Ricky Buchanan