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American Sign Language:  Notes on signing



100: The sign "100" starts with an index finger (not an "L" hand nor a "D" hand) and changes into a "C" hand (or sometimes an "X" hand).

A: The thumb on the letter A should be alongside the hand (it should not be jutting out).
AGE: Instead of signing, "I/me 25 YEAR OLD" you can sign "I/ME OLD 25" or save some time and effort by signing I/ME OLD-25_[numerical-incorporation: don't sign "OLD" but rather start the sign 25 on the chin and bring it forward and down to your normal finerspelling position]
ALWAYS: This sign sometimes is done by drawing a circle in the air and then moving the hand forward in a "Y" handshape. The "Y" handshape is not necessary. It isn't wrong, but it isn't "needed" either. You can do the sign for always by just circling and index finger (pointing up) in the air.
ANIMAL: Each hand in the sign ANIMAL pivots in toward the other hand and then out toward your sides, then repeats. It doesn't pivot up and down.
ARE: The sign ARE is not used in ASL.
BALD: There are four very common signs for BALD. The sign for BALD that is done on top of the head uses a circular movement. Any other movement is likely to result in amusement due to similarity to or being suggestive of one of the versions of the sign for “gay.”
BANANA: Use small, quick movements. Do the sign rather than miming the peeling of a banana.
BATHROOM: The "T" sign is sufficient to mean "bathroom." You don't need to add the BOX sign after the "T" sign to indicate "room." Some signs such as "BEDROOM" do use the BOX sign (in combination with BED), but BATHROOM just shakes the "T" and doesn't add the BOX sign.
BATHROOM: Use the T-handshape version of the sign "BATHROOM." If you sign BATH-ROOM (the sign BATH followed by the sign ROOM) it would mean "bathing room."
BATHROOM: Uses a "T" handshape that twists or shakes. Note this sign doesn't need a separate sign for "room." It is understood without a separate sign.
BIKE: Use "S" hands not "A" hands.
BOOK: The sign for BOOK tends to have a double "opening" movement. The sign for open-a-BOOK tends to have a single movement.
CAFETERIA: Taps to each side of the chin.
CALIFORNIA:  The sign for "California" is based on the sign for GOLD (the version that still uses a "Y" handshape).  GOLD is a "multiple meaning" sign. California is known as "The golden State" so the sign GOLD does double duty to mean both "gold" and "California." The specific meaning depends on context.
CAN: The sign "can." Both hands move downward at the same time in one smooth solid motion.
CANDY: While some people sign "SUGAR" or "SWEET" to mean "candy," it is important to know the standard "CANDY" sign that twists an index finger on the cheek. That way you could sign, "CANDY SWEET, WHY? SUGAR!"
CAR: Do NOT initialize the sign CAR when taking an ASL test. Initialization with a “C” instantly causes this sign to be considered “Signed English. Either use a small repeated movement and “S” hands (as if holding the steering wheel), or just spell it C-A-R. Many Deaf just spell this concept because it is so convenient.
CAT: The sign cat starts with an open "F" or "8" handshape and then closes the "F" or "8" handshape as you slide the hand an inch to the side, and repeat movement. Do not "rub" the fingertips together.
CEREAL: Change from an index finger into an "X"-hand twice as you move your hand in front of your mouth toward your non-dominant side, make sure to end in an X handshape.
CHAIRS: The direction of the fingers indicates the direction of the chair. So be careful about sticking your chairs facing the WALL. I suppose that is okay if they are looking out the windows.
CLASS: The sign CLASS is held a bit higher up than "HOW." The sign CLASS uses more of a horizontal circular movement. The sign HOW uses more of a forward rolling movement. The hands in CLASS tend to separate out as they trace the perimeter of a circle. The hands in HOW tend to stay together, touching at the knuckles as they roll forward.
COLD: The movement is both out to the sides then both in toward the middle, repeated. (Not up and down. We don't want this sign to look like CAR or DRIVE.)
COLLEGE: The sign COLLEGE starts with the palms together and then rotates the top hand up and away from the bottom hand.
COLOR-"What_Color?": When asking what color something is, furrow your eyebrows.
COLOR: When you sign color with furrowed eyebrows, it is generally interpreted as "what color?"
COMPUTER: When doing the version of this sign that is on the wrist or forearm, make sure to use a slight circular movement not a back and forth a sliding movement.
COOK: The sign cook uses flat hands. The base hand doesn't move. During high-speed fluent signing often the dominant doesn't make contact with base hand, but for more deliberate signing the dominant hand slaps down onto the base hand (palm to palm) and then the dominant hand flips over. If you curve your hands it could be misunderstood as HAMBURGER.
DEAF: The sign DEAF moves an index finger from near the ear to near the mouth. You can also move it from near the mouth to near the ear. It is commonly done either way in the Deaf Community. But in general I do it from near the ear to near the mouth. If you actually touch the ear and/or place the finger "on" the mouth or lips it would be a "non-standard" way of signing Deaf. While that might be appropriate for some circumstances in which you intentionally wish to exaggerate this sign -- it would not be appropriate for everyday conversation to actually touch the ear or the lips with the finger. Instead you should just touch the cheek near the ear and the cheek near the mouth. In faster more skillful signing, the movement tends to be very short.
DEAF: The sign Deaf uses an "index" finger handshape. (Not an "L" handshape, nor a "D" handshape.)
DEAF: Uses an index finger not a "D" handshape. If you use a "D" handshape it means "Dorm."
DO-("What do?") The "what-DO?" sign doesn't need to be followed by the "WHAT" sign. That is redundant. The what-DO sign already includes the meaning of "what."
DOCTOR-[medical] vs DOCTOR-[academic] For example: "Dr. Vicars" is not a "medical doctor" and thus should be signed by spelling "D" and "R" then "VICARS" or using the namesign of a "V" to the temple.
DOUBLE_LETTERS: One approach to doing double letters during fingerspelling is to slide, slightly bounce, or reform the second letter slightly to the side. When doing double letters, the movement is toward the outside not toward the inside. If you are right handed you would move further to the right.
E: When you do the letter "E" in general I recommend that you use the "closed" version rather than the open version. It looks more natural than the open form. The closed version (fingertips resting on side of thumb) is better accepted in the Deaf Community. The "open version" of the letter "E" is sometimes called a "Screaming E" because it sort of resembles an open mouth "screaming." If you do an "open E" it is like announcing "Hey I'm a HEARING PERSON!" If you do the letter "E" closed (with the thumb touching the fingers) but "rounded" it looks too much like an "O." So I recommend you bend the thumb and rest the fingertips of your index, middle, and ring, along the top of your thumbnail and and first knuckle. The letter "E" actually has several versions that are influenced by the preceding letter in your fingerspelled word. If the preceding letter is an "N" then the "E" will often rest the tips of just the index and middle fingers on the thumb.  If the preceding letter is an "M" then the "E" will rest the tips of the index, middle, and ring fingers on the thumb.
EGGS: The sign Eggs uses an "H" handshape, not index fingers.
ENGINE: The fingers are bent (not straight).
FALL (as in "autumn): The movement is done by the dominant hand. The non-dominant hand is in a "5" handshape (as if representing a tree) and doesn't move.  The dominant hand brushes downward along the "trunk" of the tree as if representing leaves falling.
EQUAL, the palms are each facing in, not down. The tips of the fingers come together.
FAVORITE: When signing favorite, use a jabbing motion not a brushing motion.
FEEL: is done in the middle or a bit to the dominant side of the chest, (not on the belly).
FEW: The sign FEW only uses one hand. Start with a palm-back “A” handshape and move it slightly to the outside as you extend the index, then the middle, then the ring, then pinkie fingers, in a smooth movement. (As if counting a few items).
FINGERSPELLING: "Double letters": Suppose you are spelling the name "Debbie." The double letters "BB" in Debbie would look better if you used a small slide rather than showing each individual letter. It depends on the "letter" involved. For example, for the name "Jennifer," I tend to reform the "N" letters rather than slide them.
FINGERSPELLING: BOUNCE: When fingerspellling pretend that your elbow is on a table (not for real, but just imagine). Note how with your elbow on the (imaginary) table your hand doesn't bob up and down in the air as you spell? That helps to make sure your hand doesn't bounce up and down as you spell words.
FINGERSPELLING: POSITION: When fingerspellling, keep your hand within about 8 to 16 inches from your face. If you hold your hand too far to the side or too low it makes it hard to read your fingerspelling and see your face at the same time.
FINGERSPELLING: While fingerspellling, keep your hand in the same place except for the small slide for the double letters. You don't want to end up way off to the side.
FINISH: This sign uses the "5-handshape" on each hand (fingers spread).
FLORIDA: The concept of Florida is expressed by spelling "F-L-A."
FLOWER: The sign flower uses a flattened "O" handshape,
FOOD: The sign "FOOD" uses the same contact location each time. (It doesn't actually have to make contact either.) If you change the contact point you could end up looking like you are signing a "low" version of "FLOWER." So, do the sign FOOD at the center of your mouth for both movements.
FROM:  The dominant hand should be the hand that "pulls back."
FUTURE/WILL: The sign FUTURE doesn't touch the head.
GO: The sign GO uses index fingers (not flat hands).
GOAL: Slightly elevate the non-dominant hand. Then move the dominant hand toward it in a firm movement but don't actually touch the non-dominant hand. Note: you can indicate "long term goals" by holding the base hand further out and using a larger movement.
HAIR: Uses an "open F" handshape that closes into a normal "F" handshape.
HANGERS: If you are referring to hanging up clothing, make sure to elevate the "hanging up clothes" sign a bit.
HARD: uses a single striking motion onto the back or side of the non-dominant "S" or "bent V" hand.
HAVE: Uses "bent-b" handshapes that touch the chest.
HE/SHE/HIM/HER: When indexing an absent person it is best to default to your dominant side (rather than pointing across your signing space).
HEARING: The rotation of the sign HEARING is up, out, down, and back in again.
HERE vs WHAT: The sign HERE uses a very slight circular movement [forward, side, back, forward]. The sign WHAT uses a bit of a hunch, the fingers are spread out more, and there is no circular movement
High School: This sign is done by doing the letters "H" and "S."
HIM/HER: uses only one hand
HORSE: The sign HORSE is generally only done with "one hand" (not two hands). Adult Deaf skilled signers do the sign HORSE with only one hand in everyday conversation. In the Lifeprint lessons this sign is demonstrated with only one hand. If a student does this sign with two hands indicates that the student needs to spend more time reviewing the lessons and not relying on old information and/or outdated sources. The only time I'd suggest using two hands on a sign such as HORSE is if you were telling a very animated story to very young children, (such as in a pre-school situation = "motherese").
HOW-MANY: The sign "HOW-MANY" doesn't need the sign "HOW," instead it just uses the sign MANY but changes the movement. Instead of moving forward, HOW-MANY moves upward a couple of inches. Additionally, the facial expression for "HOW-MANY" is a "Wh"-type facial expression wherein the eyebrows are narrowed. You may see some people signing the sign HOW-MANY by using both signs (HOW and MANY) but they are wasting effort.
I: ASL doesn’t use an initialized version of the sign “I.” (That is "Signed English.) The sign for "I" in ASL is done by pointing at yourself with your index finger, or it is incorporated into the beginning location of certain verbs such as " I-GIVE-him" wherein a separate sign for "I or me" is not needed since the sign starts near the body and moves toward "him." Do not use the palm of the hand unless you mean "my."
IN: When signing a phrase like, "I live in …(such and such a place)" you don't need to do the sign "IN." Just drop that sign. If you do sign “IN” for that type of sentence it turns your signing into “Signed English” and causes you to look like you don’t know ASL.
INDEX_FINGER:  The index finger handshape is different from a "D" handshape. The "index finger" handshape wraps the thumb across the front of the compacted hand (with the index finger sticking up).  The "D" handshape touches the tip of the thumb to tip of the middle finger (or middle and ring fingers) thus creating a hollow hand. Make sure you use an INDEX finger handshape and not a "D" handshape when doing such signs as "SIGN" and or doing the number "1." (Since the number "1" uses an index finger handshape and not a "D" handshape).
INDEXING: When setting up the people in your story, it is important that you don't put one person on top of another. For example SHE and YOUR. The sign YOUR is done toward the person watching you sign. The sign SHE is generally done off to the right (but can be elsewhere if some other referent has already been established off to the right, or if the person (SHE) is visible in the area you can point in her direction. The sign YOU would be done in the direction of the person to whom you are conversing.
INITIALIZATION: “Over initialization of signs” happens when you overdo the use of the initial letter of an English word as the handshape of an ASL sign. Over initialization causes a person’s signing to appear “English-like.” For example, the sign if a person puts an “F” on the sign for “AUTUMN/FALL” it turns the ASL sign into a “Signed English” version. Adult native Deaf signers who are socially active in the Deaf Community do not initialize the sign “FALL” with an “F” handshape. Thus if you initialize your signs it tends to causes your signing to look “odd.” Many signs however are commonly initialized in ASL. How do you know which ones? You take lots of classes and/or spend thousands of hours interacting with skilled adult native signers.
IS: ASL doesn’t use the sign “IS.” When signing something like "My name is Jane," you should simply sign MY NAME J-A-N-E.
K: The letter "K" needs to be done in such a way that it looks different from a "V."  Do not do a "V" with the thumb in the middle.  To make a "K" point your index finger straight up and point your middle finger mostly forward.
KNOW vs THINK: The general basic sign "THINK" uses a single index finger that touches the forehead (a bit to the side). The sign "KNOW" uses the fingertips of a bent hand. (A bent hand is like a "b-hand" (thumb alongside, not tucked under) that is bent at the large knuckles (bent, not curved).
LIKE: The ending handshape of the sign LIKE is an "8" handshape. To do the sign "LIKE" right -- you need to extend the ring and pinkie fingers as well as the index finger.
LIVE: Use "A" handshapes instead of "S" handshapes.
LIVE: I recommend you avoid excessive initialization. If your local instructor or friend insists you do "LIVE" with an "L" there is no need to argue, just do it the way the locals do it, but keep in the back of your mind that the more you initialize signs, the more it looks like you are signing English and not ASL.  While the "L" version is "okay," the "A" version is considered "more ASL" by many adult Deaf native ASL signers. This isn't a "right or wrong" issue. It is simply the way the Deaf Community is starting to move: More pride in our language equals less of a desire to cause our language to look like the language of the dominant society. That in turn leads to active efforts (by many) to avoid "initialization."
MAKE: Uses "S" handshapes
MEET: "Did you meet ____?" When doing a "Did you meet _____?" type question, your eyebrows should be up (since it is a yes or no question). Also the dominant hand moves toward the stationary non-dominant hand. The non-dominant hand should be off to the side a bit to indicate a third-person pronoun/classifier.
MEET-you: Do not touch the tips of the index fingers. Use "index finger handshapes - not "D" handshapes.
MEET-you: The dominant hand starts from near the body, palm-side facing forward and moves toward the non-dominant hand. The non-dominant hand is held out from the body palm-side facing toward the body and doesn't move during this sign.
MILK: Opens and closes from a "C" into an "S" twice. Your arm doesn't move up and down. The location of the sign is out from the body and not near the chin at all. (We don't want to be misunderstood as meaning "HOW-OLD?"
MILK: uses only one hand. Opens and closes from a "C" into an "S" twice. The hand doesn't move up and down, it just closes twice.
MINUS: The “take away” version of the sign MINUS should end in an “S” handshape.
MOST: The sign most uses "A" handshapes. The non-dominant hand is stationary. The dominant hand starts below the non-dominant hand. The dominant hand moves upward and past the non-dominant hand. The dominant hand usually brushes against the non-dominant hand.
MOVEMENT: REPETITIONS: In general signs tend to have only one or two movements. Sometimes well-meaning teachers repeat the movement of a sign three or more times so that their students can better catch how the sign is moved. Unfortunately the student may think that the sign is indeed repeated multiple times. For example, perhaps the instructor teaches the sign “BANANA” and shows the “peeling” movement 3 times. That is not how the sign is produced in everyday signed conversation between native Deaf signers. While it is true that if you interview 10 native Deaf signers regarding the sign for BANANA you will likely see a variety of handshapes and movement paths but for the most part you will only see two movements not three. It is a matter of efficiency.
MOVIE: The sign for movie uses a side to side twist, the fingers do not "flutter."
MY vs I: The sign for MY is a flat hand. The (ASL) sign for "I" is done by pointing at yourself with an index finger.  To sign "My name is..." you can use:  "MY NAME ..." to sign "I am Jane," just point to yourself with an index finger then spell your name.
NEIGHBOR: This sign has several variations. For clarity you should add the PERSON (non-initialized) sign to it to distinguish the sign from the sign NEAR.
NUMBER: The sign for "number" uses a twisting movement prior to each contact.  Compare and contrast this sign with the sign for "more." The sign "MORE" doesn't twist it simply makes contact.
NUMBER: 23: Make sure you are familiar with the "fluttering middle finger" version of the sign "23."
NUMBER: 25: Make sure you are familiar with the fluttering middle finger version of the sign "25."
NUMBERING: See: http://lifeprint.com/asl101/pages-layout/numbersdiscussion.htm
NUMBERING: In general, when done as isolated signs, numbers 1 through 5" should be done "palm back." Depending on the situation though, numbers 1 through 5 are sometimes done palm forward. For example, when they are part of a series of numbers, when you are doing "time of day" signs, when you are signing ages, and when you are trying to emphasize something. Some teachers will mark you wrong if you do numbers 1 through 5 palm-forward. So find out what your local teacher wants since some teachers are particular about wanting numbers 1 through 5 palm back when they are done as isolated numbers.
NUMBERS 1 - 9 do not twist unless you are trying to do $1, $2, $3, etc.
NUMBERS: "2" - The non-emphasized number 2, when done in isolation is done palm back with the index and middle finger spread. (It looks like a backwards "V," -- NOT a "U".)
NUMBERS 1-5 are palm back when done in "isolation." They are palm forward when done in a series of other numbers such as a two or more digit number, a phone number, a street address, or a zip code.
NUMBERS 6 through 9 should be palm forward.
NUMBER 15: The thumb points out to the side and doesn't move. The four fingers bend at the large knuckles, twice.
NUMBERS 16 - 19: When signing the numbers 16 - 19 the twist is toward the front not toward the back.
NUMBERS 16 - 19: The "ten+six, ten+seven, ten+eight, and ten+nine" version of numbers 16-19 is "okay." It is simply one more variation. But note that the initial "10" loses its internal movement and becomes simply an "A" handshape, pinkie-side down and then uses a single twist as it changes to a 6, 7, 8, or 9.
NUMBERS: 20: The number 20 looks like a "G" that closes twice.
NUMBERS: 23 through 29 are palm forward.
NUMBERS: The numbers 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, and 29 are done "in place." There is no (or almost no) sideways movement in these signs.
NUMBERS: The recommended version of numbers 24, 26, 27, 28, and 29 all tend to look like an "L" as the first digit followed by the 2nd digit. For example: "L4" would be "24." But don't think of it as an "L" – it is just a handshape that can mean many things and in this context it indicates that the number you are talking about is in the "twenties." An "okay" but not recommended way to sign 24, 26, 27, 28, and 29 is to show a palm forward "2" followed by the other digit.
NUMBERS: When doing 2, 3, 4, 5, (and similar numbers) make sure to spread the extended fingers a bit. (We don't want a "2" to look like an "H" or a "U," nor do we want a "6" to look like a Boy Scout hand-sign.
NUMBER 100: Start with an "index" finger, not a "D"-handshape.
NUMBER: 100: Do the number 100 with more of a "C" shape after the "1" not an "E" handshape.
NUMBER: 1,000: The dominant hand does the movement. It should start as a "1" handshape and then form a bent-hand and touch the fingertips to the palm of the flat base-hand.
OLD:  The sign for old starts as a palm-back "C" hand and then changes into an "S" hand.  (It doesn't start as a palm-up open-B hand that changes into a flat-O hand -- that means "Jew.") 
ON: The sign "ON" is rarely used in ASL. You do not need it for concepts such as "I live on Yancy Street." Nor do you need it for concepts such as "I work on Mondays."  In both of those situations you can just drop the sign ON since the meaning is clear without it.
ON-TIME: The sign "ON-TIME" is done somewhat like the sign for TIME, except "ON-TIME" starts higher, does a sharp movement downward, makes contact but doesn't stop, and bounces back up about six inches.  The sharpness of the movement and high bounce off of the wrist emphasize that we are discussing punctuality and not just "time."
OR: When comparing two things, you can express the concept of "or" by using a side to side body shift.
PEOPLE: Either do this sign with the palms pointing downward or forward but not inward. (The middle finger of each hand points downward or forward but not toward the other hand.) Some people circle the hands backwards, some circle the hands forwards, do it however you see your instructor or local Deaf do it.
PREFER: On the "body based" version of PREFER at the beginning of the sign the tip of the hand is actually touching the body and then moves to the side while turning into an "A" handshape.
Question Mark: If you are using your facial expressions correctly the question mark sign doesn't need to be shown each time you end a sentence. We already know you asked a question because we can see it on your face. We only need to add the question mark if the sentence structure is such that there may be some doubt that we are asking a question. Sometimes we add a question mark for emphasis but it is not a part of "every" signed question.
RECENTLY: Uses an "X" handshape, pointing backwards. The handshape extends and flexes the index finger a couple times.
RESTLESS-sitting/ANXIOUS: The base hand extends the index and middle fingers. (Two fingers, not just one.)
Rhetorical-WHERE: When asking a rhetorical question such as "I work where?" You actually raise the eyebrows instead of lowering them. That is because such a rhetorical question really means: "Do you want to know where I work?" That is a yes or no question and thus should have eyebrows up not down. If you were really asking someone where they work, then yes, of course you would furrow your eyebrows, but when asking a "rhetorical question" you are expecting the other person to actually respond and tell you where you work. Rather you are hoping they will lean forward and pay attention.
RIGHT-side: If something is on your right and you are "right hand dominant" then you will want to turn the thumbside down and pat toward the right with your palm facing right. (It is a bit of an awkward sign) but the point is the palm-side of your hand indicates which side the referent is on. So if it is on your right and you are right handed you are going to have to twist your hand till the thumb is down and then pat toward the right.
SCHOOL: Keep the hands flat. Don't curve the hands or it looks too much like "marriage."
SECRET: Taps the middle of the chin twice.
SEE-her: can be done with one hand, palm back, moving toward the right.
SENIOR: When signing "senior" as in a "senior" in high school or college, both the dominant hand and the non-dominant hand should be in "5" handshapes.
SEPARATED: Uses "loose C" hands or "Curved hands" that change to "A" hands. If you use a "D" handshape it means "Divorce."
SHE is generally done off to the right (but can be elsewhere if some other referent has already been established off to the right, or if the person (SHE) is visible in the area you can point in her direction. The sign YOU would be done in the direction of the person to whom you are conversing.
SICK: The sign sick makes contact using the middle fingers not the index fingers.
SIGN: The standard sign for “SIGN” as in “signing,” uses “INDEX” finger handshapes, (not “D” hands).
SIZE: The sign for size or measure uses "Y" hands, not "A" hands with the thumbs extended. Stick out both the pinkie and the thumb on each hand.
SLEEP: The sign for "SLEEP" only uses one hand.
STORE: Do the sign store in the neutral area in front of your chest and/or stomach. Don’t hold the sign at "head level" or it will look odd.
TEACHER: Do not use a grabbing movement. Just position your hands near your forehead in squashed "O" shapes. Do not actually touch your head. This sign is often started much lower. The sign TEACHER tends to use only one forward movement in the "TEACH" portion of the sign followed by the downward (person) movement. This is a compound sign and thus internal movement is dropped.
TELL: Uses an index finger that starts palm back with the pad touching the chin and then the hand is moved so that the tip of the index finger moves forward and down in an arc.
TELL-me: starts with and Index finger held about four inches in front of the chin and then moves in and grazes the chin with the tip of the index finger. The tip of the finger continues moving until it makes contact with the chest.
TENNESSEE: When signing " Tennessee" you just spell "T-E-N-N"
THANK-YOU: The sign doesn't use the base hand. If you use the base hand it may be confused with "GOOD."
THEM: The concept of "them" is expressed via a short sweeping movement. If you use a jab it generally means "he, she, or it." (Since you jab at a singular place in the air.)
THINK: Feedback: The general basic sign "THINK" uses a single index finger. The sign "KNOW" uses the fingertips of a bent hand. (A bent hand is like a "b-hand" (thumb alongside, not tucked under) that is bent at the large knuckles (bent, not curved).
THINK: The general basic sign "THINK" uses a single index finger. The sign "KNOW" uses the fingertips of a bent hand. (A bent hand is like a "b-hand" (thumb alongside, not tucked under) that is bent at the large knuckles (bent, not curved).
THIS: When referring to "this room" you would simply point downward prior to signing ROOM. When signing "this afternoon" use the "NOW" sign with the sign AFTERNOON.
TOILET: The default interpretation of the "BATHROOM" sign is "bathroom" rather than "toilet." It is true that this sign means both concepts but for everyday interpretation we interpret it as "bathroom."
TONIGHT: The sign "TONIGHT" uses a combination of NOW and EVENING.
UPSTAIRS: The sign UPSTAIRS uses two quick jabbing movements of the index finger. The location (place in space where you do the sign) is generally no higher than your head. If you just do a single movement it would mean "up" but not upstairs.
W: Do the letter "W" palm forward. (Unless you are signing "Wednesday." When signing Wednesday the advanced form of the sign is palm "up/back" --the palm pointing over your shoulder actually-- the fingertips are pointing forward/up). But in general "W" is palm forward and somewhat to the left (if you are right handed) for comfort reasons. (It hurts to have it "directly" forward.)
WATCH: When referring to watching something in a casual manner, use the bent-L handshape version of this sign. See: http://www.lifeprint.com/asl101/pages-signs/06/you-finish-watch-titanic.html
WEATHER: The palm orientation for the initialized version of "WEATHER is palm forward (and maybe a little bit palm down-but mostly palm forward).
WEB or WEBSITE: The sign for "WEB" varies. A safe way to express it is to spell "W-E-B." Some people sign it as "WW." This is a shorted (lexicalized) form of the idea of showing W-W-W (the handshape, location, and movement are actually very similar to the how we sign the number "66." This is different from the sign "INTERNET" which uses the "five"-handshape on each hand with the middle fingers bent at the large knuckles.WHEN: The sign for when tends to use a clockwise movement.
WH-type QUESTIONS:  Wh-type questions such as those using signs like WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, WHY, HOW, and HOW-MANY use lowered eyebrows (unless they are rhetorical questions, or the greeting "How are you." Those are exceptions to this rule).
WHERE: The movement is in the wrist and not in the large knuckle.
WHICH uses "A" handshapes with somewhat loose thumbs. (Raise the thumbs a bit.) So it doesn't look like "DRIVE."
WHAT-KIND: The sign "WHAT-KIND" uses a forward, down, back, up rotating movement. (Not the other direction).
WORK: In general, the citation form of the sign WORK uses a double movement and the base hand doesn't move. If you move both hands downward it could be misunderstood as "HABIT." During high speed signing of phrases, you may indeed see the sign work done with a single movement.
X: The thumb is NOT tucked in when doing the letter “X.” It just takes too much time. While it is true that some old ABC charts showed it tucked in, doing so just isn’t efficient for actual everyday signing. Instead the thumb is bent just enough to make slight contact with the middle finger. The only time I can remember actually signing anything that tucked in an “X” was back when computer chip manufacturers came out with a chip called an “MX.”
YEAR: "one year": The sign "ONE-YEAR" starts with the number one on the dominant hand. Then as the dominant hand moves around the non-dominant hand it changes into an "S" shape.
YES/NO Sentence Type: Yes or No type questions should generally end with the eyebrows up. When signing YES/NO Sentences, (sentences that can be answered with a yes or no), for example if you were to ask someone "Are you married?" – you should raise your eyebrows. So, remember, if asking a question that can be answered with a yes or a no (such as “Do you have a picture of your family?”) you should raise your eyebrows.
YESTERDAY doesn't drag along the chin. It touches, then arcs out a bit and backward and then ends with a touch. It can use either an "A" hand or a "Y" hand. (Check with your local Deaf to see which they prefer.) You will see it either way in the wider Deaf community, but most ASL teachers prefer for their students to avoid using excessive initialization.
YOU vs YOUR: The sign YOU points at the referent with an index finger. The sign YOUR points toward the referent with the palm of a flat hand.
YOUR. The sign YOUR is done toward the person watching you sign. The handshape is a “flat hand.” The palm is toward the person to whom you are signing. The fingertips are pointing upward.
 


K: Make sure to articulate your K's so that they don't look like V's. Make sure the middle finger points forward enough to distinguish the K from a V.

SIGN: Use "index" fingers for the sign "SIGN" (not "D" hands), same for the number "1" and the number "1,000."
03 / THREE: The number "3" uses the thumb, index, and middle fingers (not the index, middle, and ring fingers).

08 / EIGHT: Make sure to articulate your 8's clearly. Sometimes you have a sticky ring finger that resists pointing upward.
22 /TWENTY-TWO: The number 22 uses a "V" hand not an "L" hand. (Perhaps you've picked up a regional variation but in general "L" is not commonly used for the number "22."

22 / TWENTY-TWO: The bounce is toward the dominant side not the weak side.

 

CALIFORNIA: comes from near the ear (not so much the cheek). Memory aid: California is the golden state. People wear gold ear rings. The (older and still best) sign for GOLD points at the ear and then signs "YELLOW." This sign has evolved over the years to use mean "California" (sometimes starting with a "5" handshape as the middle finger of the five handshape points at the earlobe.

MEET: "to-MEET-you" can be shown with one sign (if done directionally). You don't need to add the separate sign YOU if you hold the non-dominant hand away from your body (with the palm-side facing back).

 


Double Letters: When doing double letters, do them toward the outside. For example, if you are going to spell MASS (short for Massachusetts) or CHESS (as in the game of "chess") when you get to S's you move the hand slightly to the right (if you are right handed).

@ or AT: The "AT" sign (as in @) is used only for email addresses or similar typography. It is not used for sentences such as "I work at the library." For such a sentence you would sign: "I WORK LIBRARY" or "I WORK INDEX LIBRARY" or "I WORK NANTUCKET LIBRARY" "I WORK WHERE? LIBRARY."

FISHING vs "cast your line": The sign for FISHING uses a double movement. The movement is much smaller than "to cast a fishing line."

THIS: The sign for "THIS" (as in "THIS CITY BOOKSTORE how-MANY?) uses only one hand (not two hands).

VEGETABLE: There are a couple ways to do vegetable. If you do the pivot version the palm should be palm forward (not palm back).

WHO: The index finger circling the mouth version of WHO is a lesser used version that seems to have been more popular in the "old days" but isn't as popular these days.

 

Compare: HELLO vs DON'T-KNOW
Compare: DEAF vs HOME
Compare: ANY vs OTHER
Compare: WANT vs HAVE
Compare: K vs P
 


From JR:

A number of you are signing in English word order for everything and including unnecessary elements from English structure in your signing such as AND, IN, or direct English phrases that are much better conveyed in ASL structure.

In addition, I'm seeing a lot of English mouthing. Granted many Deaf people do mouth, especially when signing with ASL students, however the more you mouth the more you are thinking in English and handcuffing yourself to English word order. Unlock the handcuffs and unlock the visual imagination. Exploit the possibilities of ASL in how you structure your bios. Let go of English. See the story as a visual film on the screen of your mind. Now work from that and create directly into ASL. Forget English.

First make sure your setting the stage with your timeline of past to present and the chronology of what happens in ASL. It will make things clearer for now if you don't jump back and forth between time periods. Next think about how to exploit the use of space. ASL is a visual/spatial language the more you use those elements the more your stories will rely on ASL structure and become visually interesting and engaging. Use that contrastive structure that you learned in ASL 1 to compare and contrast anything relevant to your story. For example as a common theme people often in their past encounter ASL or Deaf people, get curious and then when they take ASL or get close to Deaf people realize something new. Set up the past vs. the present and future clearly throughout the story. Use placement and spatial aspects to demonstrate transformation or contrasting ideas or to indicate different characters in the story-- be consistent with your placement. Think VISUAL. Think SPATIAL.


Now, for two words on rhetorical questions: facial expression. Many of you are attempting them, using WHY? or WHEN? but you are not using appropriate facial expression. Rhetorical questions use an eyebrow raise and particular body posture, if you just sign WHY without the accompanying grammatical facial and body expression it doesn't work. Pay attention to the pacing and flow of the phrases you are stringing together so that pauses occur between phrases and not awkwardly in the middle of phrases otherwise the whole discourse becomes choppy and difficult to follow. Also, often you are overusing this structure without real purpose. Rhetorical questions are often meant to draw attention to a particularly interesting or surprising point or to emphasize something for a purpose. So try using these kinds of structures more strategically.


Remember those conjunctions like HAPPEN, WRONG, etc from your ASL 3 & 4 classes? Consider using these in appropriate ways as connectors in the discourse. Think about what you have learned in your ASL structure class about the differences between ASL grammar and English grammar and aim for ASL.


Facial expression is so important…for grammatical aspects such as rhetorical structure, as well as for tone and visual interest. If you have a blank face, your audience has already tuned out. Practice enough so that you are not thinking about what you are going to say next or thinking about the content but you are flowing with your expression naturally.


In terms of the practicalities of the video---Most people did a good job in this regard. Here are just a few reminders: Make sure there is nothing visually distracting in the background of your video. Wear a color that contrasts well with your skin in the lighting you will be filming rather than so that your hands are easily visible. Make sure the camera is in focus and framed as close up as you can (FATHER/NOW) without cutting off the signs.
 


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