A GIF can be more than a well-timed punchline for a tweet or group chat. Now, the looping clips can be used to teach people new languages. As Mashable reports, GIF provider Giphy has launched a new "channel" containing more than 2,000 educational sign language clips. They're all dead simple: just the hand movements and a text caption explaining what they mean. These bite-sized flash cards have been pulled from Sign With Robert, an instructional series for American Sign Language (different versions are used throughout the world). The hope is that people will pick up a word or two by sharing them at convenient moments online.
"The GIF format has the ability to loop infinitely, so it's perfect for learning new signs," Hilari Scarl, director and producer for Sign With Robert said. "It doesn't require the back and forth of hitting play, rewind or repeat."
It's unlikely that you'll learn sign language through GIFs alone. But it's a clever way of promoting a truly life-changing skill, and could encourage more people to study the language in greater depth. For many, Giphy is the go-to GIF repository, so there's a good chance these loops will surface as people conduct their usual searches. Sign language GIFs have been done before, but now they're more likely to have a real impact on the web.