Developer: MEDL MOBILE
Price: FREE
Version: 1.0.0
App Reviewed on: iPhone 3GS

iPhone Integration Rating: ★★★½☆
User Interface Rating: ★★★½☆
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★★☆☆

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

I have to confess I’ve always thought about learning Sign Language. Thought about but never actually did, much like the average person who wants to learn something. Marlee Signs – an app spawned through a partnership between MEDL MOBILE and Academy Award-winning actress Marlee Matlin – isn’t exactly a functional stand-in for real classes, but it makes a great companion app for anyone interested in learning how to speak with hand gestures.

Marlee Signs is less a travel sized classroom and more of a refresher course. The free app includes a library of seven different lessons including ABC’s, numbers, conversational signing, and more. Each section of a lesson includes a handy re-playable video that shows the proper hand signals and body language, while also giving users the option of swiping left and right to just to other words and phrases. There’s also a feature that allows users to type in any word they want and see Marlee spell it out in sign.

Figuring out how to navigate Marlee Signs is incredibly easy; there’s the Library, Spell tab, Store (for buying more lessons), and an About page for some basic info. The videos and images for the various words and phrases are all very clear and crisp, too. But it still doesn’t take the place of an actual class.

This disconnect is Marlee Signs’ biggest downfall. It’s a comprehensive app with plenty of lessons covering a range of topics available and for purchase, but most of the time the gestures go by far too fast for anything to sink in. These videos display the basic movements just fine, but none of the close-ups or slowed-down images needed to really learn any of it is present. Again, it’s more of a companion piece for a real course than a pocket classroom.

Even without much in the way of teaching potential I still think Marlee Signs is worth a look from ASL hopefuls. It’s possible to pick up on one or two things, but I believe the app’s best purpose would be to act as an introduction and guide rather than a teacher.

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