ASL Lessons | Bookstore | Library | ASL University Main ►
TALK: The American Sign Language (ASL) sign for "talk"
There are many ways to express in American Sign Language the concept of talking or speaking.
Which version gets used depends on context and intended meaning. Also not all signers prefer the same sign for specific concepts.
The right sign for "talk" depends on your meaning.
If you mean "talk" as in "He was talking," then you can use the general sign for "talk" that uses a "4"-hand and taps the chin twice.
TALK / "TALK-(speaking) / "talking" [generally means "talking with voice"]
Sample sentence: Is talking with your voice permitted in this class?
Another common version of the general sign for talk is:
If you mean "talk" as in "They were talking to each other last night" you can use the version of "talk" that I refer to as "TALK-with." This means to have a dialog. While this sign also leans toward voiced (non-Deaf) communication this version is worth learning because it is the basis of many other signs such as "communicate," "interview," "total communication" and other related concepts.
TALK-with / dialoging / talking back and forth
Here is a "side view" of "TALK-with." (Either that it could be or a front view of "I was talking with him.")
TALK-with (side view)
Note: You can initialize this sign with "i" handshapes to mean "interview." See: INTERVIEW
If you mean "talk" as in two or more people were "chatting" you can sign, "chat."
This version is a good one to use when referring to two or more Deaf people talking to each other.
Sample sentence: Do you like to chat with Deaf people?
There is another common way to sign "chat." This other version uses an alternating up and down movement. This is a good version to use in reference to Deaf people socializing, "talking," or chatting.
CHAT (version 2) / socially chatting with one another / two or more people talking casually
For some notes regarding the sign for "chat" see the "chat" page at: CHAT
Also see: TALK-WITH
See: HERMIT-("Talking to yourself")
Use the wiggle version whenever you need to convey a meaning "ongoing talking" / a stream of words coming forth.
She kept talking. She talked at length. The woman was talking on and on about her favorite topic.
In ASL we also see the both "wiggle" version of TALK and the double tap version used in referring to the ability to speak.
In ASL the "wiggle" version of TALK is very commonly used to refer to the process of an interpreter voicing a message.
A single "tap" of the sign TALK generally means you are using it as a verb form of "talk" but t he rest of the sentence is important in deciding the exact meaning of the single tap version of TALK.
Also, if you use TALK in a compound (for example "SWEET-TALK") the sign TALK will tend to reduce to a single tap version. Another common of movement reduction is the "TALK-ABOUT" sign.
Use a double tap version as a gerund (or in other words as a noun formed by a verb) or an infinitive "to talk." For example:
"IF YOU VOICE AROUND HEARING PEOPLE THEY TRY TALK YOU." (Uses the double tap version.)
In real life, from real signers you will see quite a few people use the sign "TO" after the one-tap version of TALK. (I personally don't teach that structure to my students but it is "out there.")
Often to mean "talk" you should use a totally different sign.
If you mean talk as in to share comments about something then use the basic "STORY" sign (done small and casually using "open-F" > "F" handshapes or "open-8" > "8" handshapes).
If you mean talk as in discuss something then use the DISCUSS sign.
If you mean talk as in communicate then use the COMMUNICATE sign.
If you mean talk as in two or more signers having a chat then use the CHAT (chat with) sign.
If you mean to talk back and forth in a way that each person is presenting ideas and concepts and then use the INTERFACE (back and forth) sign.
If you mean talk as in give a talk or a speech then use the "LECTURE / give a speech" sign.
If you mean talk as in "talking to myself" then use the HERMIT sign.
If you mean a lot of random talking going on then use the two-handed, raised hands, open-close (clam like movement) loose-C > closed-C, sign.
Tip: Just because you see or learn a specific version of a sign from your teacher or a book doesn't mean your teacher or the author knows only one version of a sign. Most teachers and ASL authors know multiple versions of common signs.
Here's an example of using a double tap version of talk in the phrase "I can talk." See: See: https://youtu.be/5ynzLzdjcIQ?t=150 (around the 2:30) moment.
For example see: https://youtu.be/tfmAblNvr8E?t=128 for an example of the double tap version being used as part of the term "Google Talk."
Or see this example of "talk to" as in "talking to horses" https://youtu.be/_7qzJW9DU4s?t=230 (then back up to the 3:30 mark for a bit more context).
Or this example of the term "spoken" (around 2:15 or so) https://youtu.be/32oTN0XBKSA?t=130
Or see https://youtu.be/QRiCWNhDHYk?t=431 for an example discussing the ability to talk.
Or see: https://youtu.be/5MHIAFXYoGw?t=514 for yet another "double tap" usage.
Here's a skilled interpreter using a multi-tap version of TALK: https://youtu.be/YGpjHzIAJcQ?t=190
* Want to help support ASL University? It's easy: DONATE (Thanks!)
* Another way to help is to buy something from Dr. Bill's "Bookstore."
* Want even more ASL resources? Visit the "ASL Training Center!" (Subscription Extension of ASLU)
* Also check out Dr. Bill's channel: www.youtube.com/billvicars
You can learn American Sign Language (ASL) online at American Sign Language University ™
ASL resources by Lifeprint.com © Dr. William Vicars