To effectively communicate with sign language, you need to know basic sign language words and phrases. Just like spoken languages, there are a variety of sign languages used around the world. American Sign Language (ASL) is used throughout North America, including the U.S. and English-speaking Canada.
ASL is a complete language, which means that you can communicate just about anything through signing. Those who are deaf and hard of hearing, as well as people with functional hearing, use ASL to converse in a rich and expressive way. If you’re interested in learning how to sign, this list of sign language words for beginners is perfect for you.
ASL for Beginners
ASL beginners usually start with learning the alphabet. The 26 letters of the English alphabet can be conveyed through signs in ASL, and words can be spelled out through sequences of signs. This is called “fingerspelling.” Want to give it a try? Figuring out how to fingerspell your own name is a great place to start!
Below, you can find a handy diagram that shows how to sign the ASL alphabet. You can always use these letters when you don’t know how to sign an entire word. If you need to spell a word that has the same letters back to back, make a slight bounce or sliding motion between the repeated letters.
Now that we’ve explored the alphabet, we can move on to words and phrases!
Sign Language for Beginners: Common Expressions
It’s not always practical to spell out words for everyday interactions. That’s where these expressions come in handy! You can use common expressions to meet people, show your appreciation, and communicate with friends.
Asking Questions with Basic Sign Language Words
A single word question can keep a conversation flowing and help you get to know others. An important part of asking questions with sign language is using your face to look inquisitive while you sign. When asking a yes or no question, the eyebrows are raised. With questions that may incur a more detailed response, the eyebrows are lowered.
The following video guide from Victoria, an ASL teacher, covers many important phrases, including basic questions like these!
Basic Sign Language Words and Phrases for Kids
It’s recommended that parents expose their deaf or hard-of-hearing children to sign language as early as possible. At most hospitals in the United States, newborns are tested for hearing loss so that parents can encourage language learning as soon as possible. Language skills develop alongside cognitive and social skills, and teaching your child ASL — or learning it with them — is a great way to grow together.
There are certain words and phrases that are especially important to know when communicating with children. Some of these phrases include: “I love you,” “What’s wrong?” and “Good job!” Watch Bill Vicars of Lifeprint.com walk through some of the most important phrases to know as a parent.
To expand your ASL vocabulary even more, watch Dr. Bill run through 100 sign language words for beginners:
Other Sign Language Fundamentals
If you’re new to ASL, there are some important facts you should know about signing. First off, ASL goes beyond hand gestures alone – facial expressions and body language also play a critical role in communication. For example, we’ve seen that you use your eyebrows when asking a question.
Next, you should know that ASL is not used worldwide. Other sign styles such as British Sign Language (BSL) differ in many important ways, although it’s still possible for some trans-lingual signers to communicate in a basic form. Cultures around the world have developed their own ways to communicate via sign, and it’s interesting to learn how people communicate in languages other than ASL.
The Best Way to Learn ASL for Beginners
As with learning any type of language, it takes time and persistence to develop communication skills through sign. While learning a few basic sign language words is easy, mastering ASL takes years of practice. One of the greatest developments in ASL learning has been the ability for teachers, students, and friends to connect via webcam. Online ASL lessons make it possible to build sign language skills from anywhere in the world.
While lesson videos, books, and online resources are a great tool for learning vocabulary and the fundamentals of ASL, there is no substitute for working one-on-one with a teacher. Private lessons allow for real-time feedback and personalized lesson plans, so your sign language skills can reach their full expression.
Ready to take your ASL skills to the next level? Find your sign language teacher today!
ASL chart source: dummies.com