In times past, a person's only recourse for learning sign language was to visit a school for the deaf or an individual tutor, but advances in technology have allowed the medium of sign language to become more accessible than ever. Computer software for sign language comes in a variety of forms, catering to both adults and children, and allows for learners who are both beginner and advanced to further their knowledge of sign language. There are several types of sign language software that range in both functionality and price, allowing the user to choose what they would like to learn.
The most basic type of sign language software consists of a simple visual dictionary, outlining both the letters--known as sign spelling--and word compositions that form the basis of sign language. Sign language programs are not restricted to American Sign Language (ASL) only, and there are visual dictionary programs available for many languages. This can be frustrating, as there is no universal international sign language. There is a form of international communication called Gestuno, but even this is not a complete language, as say ASL or Spanish sign language.
Another variety of sign language software consists of games that are geared primarily toward young learners. Computer programs for sign language may consist of memory and matching games. Some sign language software even incorporates a video game-like storyline to entice youngsters into learning the subject.
Similarly, there are software programs available to interpret sign language. These programs allow a person to speak into a microphone. The monitor of the computer then displays a visual representation of what was said, with many sign language interpreter programs allowing the forced spelling of words that may not come across clearly.
These programs come in a variety of prices, allowing anyone to choose a software program that fits both their needs and budget. Most libraries or institutions of higher learning have several programs available to loan to those who would like to learn American Sign Language or foreign sign languages. There are also several free demo versions available so that customers may try the sign language software before they buy it.