You can now learn sign language by watching GIFs

If you’ve been thinking of learning a new language, you don’t need to look any further than an unexpected but beloved website. You can now learn sign language on Giphy, because the site is good for more than just finding the perfect GIF to accompany your witty Facebook status or tweet. On Thursday, Giphy released a library of 2,000 GIFs featuring different words and phrases from American Sign Language.

The GIFs were created by cutting videos from the educational series Sign With Robert, complete with text descriptions that make them look like looping flash cards.

"GIFs, as a visual format untethered from audio, makes them a perfect medium for sign language," said Hilari Scarl, director and producer at Sign With Robert told Mashable.

"The GIF format has the ability to loop infinitely, so it's perfect for learning new signs. [It] doesn't require the back and forth of hitting play, rewind or repeat," Scarl explained.

You can easily find the library on Giphy by searching “Sign With Robert.”

Wallis Millar-Blanchaer, a video artist at Giphy, and Stephanie Weber, a Giphy studios coordinator came up with the concept when they decided to brainstorm ideas about how to use GIFs to facilitate a more inclusive type of education.

"Wallis suggested sign language GIFs in an initial brainstorm, which we immediately stuck with, as it's such a visually engaging language and would be well expressed in GIF form," Weber said. "And the looping format makes it a perfect tool for learning through repetition."

Giphy partnered with Sign With Robert to cut existing videos into individual words and phrases, which were chosen by looking at Giphy users’ top search terms.

In order to ensure the accuracy of the signs, the Sign With Robert team reviewed and approved each GIF.

The exaggerated facial expressions are an essential component of ASL.

"Many people misunderstand the facial expressions of sign language users and think of them as being 'animated' or 'emoting,'" Scarl said. "Facial expressions are an important part of grammatical information and the linguistic structure of ASL. Facial expressions distinguish between interrogative and declarative sentences, modify adverbs, convey emotional tone, define spatial relationships and much more."

There are approximately one million deaf people living in America, and this new manner of learning ASL will undoubtedly reach a large audience thanks to Giphy’s popularity.

It could also benefit the community’s well-being — Scarl points out that doctors, nurses, police, and emergency workers could potentially save lives by knowing just a few signs.

So next time you’re looking for the perfect T. Swift or cat GIF, take a few minutes to learn some ASL words. There’s never been a more fun, accessible way to learn a new language.