Sign Language Words: American Sign Language for Beginners

Sign Language Words: American Sign Language for Beginners

Successful communication in American Sign Language (ASL) begins with learning to sign the hand alphabet, numbers 1-10, important expressions, and important one-word questions. And since good communication also includes manners, learning some basic things and etiquette for deaf people is helpful as well.

Signing the manual alphabet

Learning the manual alphabet in ASL will help you when you don’t know a sign as you begin communicating. If you don’t know the sign for something, you need to use the manual alphabet to spell the word, or fingerspell. Check out and practice the manual alphabet:

Hint: If you need to spell a word with two letters the same, make a small jump between the letters or simply move the repeating letter a little.

Signing numbers 1 through 10

In ASL, knowing how to sign the cardinal (counting) numbers helps you in everyday situations like banking and making appointments.

Pay attention to the way your palm is facing when you sign the numbers. From 1 to 5, your palm should face yourself. For numbers 6 through 9, your palm should be facing the person reading the sign.

Signing essential expressions

Practice signing these basic expressions in ASL to meet and greet people, join in on conversations, answer questions, and be polite and courteous.

One-word questions in American Sign Language

Signing one-word questions in ASL is a way to initiate small talk, get to know people, and gather information. When you sign these one-word questions, look inquisitive; the facial expression will come naturally when you are genuinely interested. Also, tilt your head and lean forward a little as you sign the question.

Deaf etiquette dos and don’ts

As you become more confident in your ability to communicate through ASL and begin to meet Deaf acquaintances and form friendships, keep some simple etiquette dos and don’ts in mind.
To get a Deaf person’s attention, tap them on the shoulder or flick the light switch.
Let a Deaf person know that you can hear and that you’re learning ASL.
If you’re at a Deaf social function, allow the Deaf friend you came with to introduce you to others.
Introduce yourself using your first and last name.
Converse about sports, the weather, politics, pop culture, or whatever else you’d discuss with your hearing friends.
Don’t barge into a Deaf person’s house because you think they can’t hear the doorbell.
Avoid ordering for a Deaf person in a restaurant, unless they ask you to do so.
Never try to correct a Deaf person’s signing or lecture them that they don’t sign the way your instructor does.
Don’t initiate a conversation about a Deaf person’s hearing loss. Asking such questions implies that you think of the person as broken or inferior.