Want to Learn Sign Language? Try Marlee Signs

4 years ago

Marlee Matlin started her career by winning an Oscar for her role in "Children of a Lesser God." Lately she's has been part of the excellent TV series "Switched at Birth." The deaf actress teamed up with MEDL Mobile to create an educational app to teach American sign language. The new app is for iPad and iPhone. It's called Marlee Signs.

Marlee Signs Screen Capture from iTunes

Although no one in my family is deaf, we're all interested in sign language. My daughter took it in college, and my granddaughter is taking it in high school. We can all finger spell and even I know a few signs. So when Marlee Matlin started tweeting about the new app, I was watching for it to release. I downloaded it the first day it was available.

The app was touted as free, but that isn't quite correct. You get the app with a spelling lesson, a feature that lets you enter any word and shows Marlee spelling it out, and one "lesson pack." To get additional lesson packs, you have to buy them from the app store. They originally were priced at $3.99, but a few days after the app released, Marlee tweeted this:

The app has some important educational features. You can repeat signs as often as you want to practice them. Deaf News Today reports that,

There is a “Slow Motion” setting for watching the videos at a slower pace and a section called “Spell” which, of course, spells out words using sign.

At The Wonder of Tech, they remind us that,

You don’t need to be connected to the Internet to use this app.

Additional lesson packs include signs for around you, around the home, around town, around the world. Plus there's one teaching baby signs that many parents will love. So many parents use sign with their hearing children before they develop speech, this lesson pack will surely be a best seller.

Marlee Matlin also uses her celebrity and her Twitter account to demand captioning services from all sorts of media providers. At Apps Gone Free, they recommend Marlee Signs and mention Marlee's work for captioning. Apps Gone Free even shows a video of an old Apple commercial starring Marlee.

As it happens, Marlee is also a member of the National Association for the Deaf and the spokeswoman for the National Captioning Institute. And, interestingly, she once starred in a TV commercial for Apple’s Macintosh.

My only criticism of the app – which is actually a criticism of the marketing of the app rather than the app itself – is that it shouldn't have been free. Advertising it as free and then charging for additional lessons didn't sit well with me. I would rather have paid two or three dollars up front and known that additional lessons would carry a charge, too.

Virginia DeBolt, BlogHer Section Editor for Tech
Virginia blogs at Web Teacher and First 50 Words.

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