Research has proven ASL students who actively sign and practice signing with others requires 4 hours or more per week.
To be a successful ASL student - you need to apply yourself. What does that mean? It means you need to physically sign every single day, at least a good 3 to 4 hours a day. (I personally recommend 20 hours a week, no joke). You also need to be adaptable mentally to constantly tweak your interpreting processing skills and getting used to various types of signers. Research has proven ASL students who actively sign and practice signing with others, requires of 4 hours or more per week. That's great if you have Deaf peers to practice with. But in reality, most of my ASL students, deaf or hearing, cannot find fluent ASL signers. Lots of deaf and hard of hearing folks tend to sign contact sign language or total communication or signed exact English which is NOT helpful for ASL students needing to learn ASL. A lot of ASL students are frustrated in not finding other willing deaf peers in their community to sign with on frequent basis to build a solid foundation of mastering ASL. For those who have found some deaf signers, sometimes they're often being instructed with contradicting inputs that clashes with current ASL linguistic courses or ASL classes taught by skilled ASL teachers.
I encourage my ASL students to meet as often as they can, time and budget permitting, in order to receive a well balanced training. By that I mean learning both expressive and receptive skills. Most ASL classes are one way mode - most ASL teachers do a lot of lecturing and demonstration, very few hands-on ASL dialoging practice with classmates and without much individualized helpful feedback for improvement. I'm learning now that many ASL interpreting programs test ASL students by videotaping and then send back a text only feedback, which I think is not real helpful. There's even now long distance ASL interpreting programs with very little interaction - a lot of mental studies of philosophies and theories and linguistic analysis but ASL students are frustrated with the lack of hands on ASL practice with other fluent ASL peers.
An ASL student also has to make the time and focus intently, especially for ASL interpreting students - remember you're going to be interpreting 8 long hours daily - whether it's free lance in person field work or at a video remote interpreting centers (VRI). If you can't handle studying ASL with an ASL Mentor or peers a few hours a day, then perhaps interpreting 8 hours 5 days a week is not the right career for you.
It's best to be prepared and fluent in a foreign language before you delve in a demanding career. The investment you put into ASL mentoring sessions will pay off in the long run. It could prevent from being fired as some of my past ASL students suffered from, not realizing that they had to be a high-advance ASL fluent signer --- many cannot become a teacher for the Deaf due to being below the required level - level 3+ or higher.
To become a better ASL student/mentee --- do all the assignments I give you. Complete them fully. Learn to self-critique yourself with a video-camera - rehearse 20 to 30 times if needed before demonstrating me your work.
You'll have to actually need to memorize ASL vocabulary and ASL concepts of English phrases. You'll need to physically memorize how precise movements and palm orientations are manipulated. This requires DOING.
As mentioned before, many people do not have enough exposure to Deaf people to have daily receptive exposure. Muscle memory is hands, yes, but it is body and eyes and ears as well, An excellent practice forum is PBS and/or other educational TV/Radio. First, (any lucky interpreter will agree with this,) find out the content of the show you will use for content practice.Use your research tools (Google, Wikipedia, books, whatever) to prepare yourself (at least) for vocabulary. I specifically have not said you will be watching, because you are learning how to process complex language before you at an instant. "LUCKY" is a phrase I use because, preparation time (PREP) is rare for an interpreter. For example, if the interpretation job is at a podiatrist, an interpreter can expect a discussion about feet. What else is talked about is up to anyone's guess. Film yourself as you hear the content. Push yourself to not stop and start over and go for a half hour. Now with the sound off, voice interpret what you saw.
Write down or videotape your flaws. Was your fingerspelling clear? Did your body move in ASL grammar? Did you lose some of the content?
Sometimes shows have written scripts that you can obtain. Best that the show recorded and close captioned. After you have voiced you own version of what you've interpreted, you can replay the content and freeze as needed and compare the captioning (tends to be accurate on prerecorded educational topics) with your interpretation.
Where did you fall flat? Was your lag too long because you don't know the English vocabulary you heard in your content? Was your error or brain freeze because you have no idea what that looks like in ASL? How well was your NMS in sync with your ASL sentences? Were you able to remain professional looking (I call this "the mask") How well were you able to memorize English concept and quickly interpret them into accurate high-advanced ASL?
This kind of practice daily reinforces the brain to begin thinking bi-lingually. Sign while you drive? Sure - muscle memory is a good thing. Try fingerspelling while you drive fluently and effortlessly? Sure. It keeps your body thinking in two languages.
You'll have to actually need to memorize ASL vocabulary and ASL concepts of English phrases. You'll need to physically memorize how precise movements and palm orientations are manipulated - sometimes it takes weeks, sometimes it takes months, and for me personally, sometimes it has taken a struggle to fluently express some signs, years! (If you're wondering what signs it was - it's "rude" and "chew your head off" - that's the best English equivalent I could come up with).
It's mandatory that you be extremely patient with yourself (and with me) as I break down a complex concept into manageable ideas that may not make sense now, but in the future it all will click together fluidly. Together we can climb the ladder to success!