sign language numbersSigning numbers, especially large ones, can be tough in American Sign Language. While numbers one through five are a no brainer to represent with our hand, even for hearing folks, things get a little unusual at six through ten, and then even moreso around 11 and beyond. No worries, though! This guide will teach you some basic etiquette regarding sign language numbers, how to actually sign numbers all the way up to 100, and link off to some useful charts and other resources to help you in your sign language studies.

For more, check out part 1 of this introductory American Sign Language course. This primer guide to learning sign language can also help you get started.

Sign Language Numbers: Etiquette and Tips

With every language comes a new set of etiquette, best practices, and regional tips that make communication that much smoother and more efficient. Sign language is no exception.

For numbers 1-5, it’s best practice to sign them with your palm facing you, and the back of your hand facing the people you’re signing to. It’s acceptable to sign numbers with your palm facing forward if you’re trying to emphasize the number to someone, or if you’re signing out a series of numbers.

Then there’s the case where some letters share similar or identical signs to letters. You can differentiate by mixing in some subtle motion (like tapping fingers together to indicate the number) while signing for the number, to clarify that you don’t mean the letter variant of the sign.

Another potential for confusion is how to sign numbers based on context, like dates.  If you want to sign 1820, as in the year 1820, you might be tempted to sign for 1-8-2-0. Instead, you’d sign 18 and then 20 separately, since that’s how people normally read date formats. The safest bet is to sign it the way you read it.

Context is very important when it comes to communication, and can fill in a lot of blanks when you’re having trouble or have made a mistake. If you’re committed to learning sign language, it might also be helpful to pick up a course on body language training. There are tons of ways the human body – from facial expression to posture – can aid communication non-verbally, even outside of sign language.

Sign Language Numbers 1-10

The most basic foundation of learning is memorization. Of course, on top of that comes a deeper, natural understanding of the material, but if you can’t remember all the concepts and little details involved, really absorbing that knowledge becomes a much huger challenge. For help, you can check out this course on developing a magnetic memory; a valuable skill when learning a new language. If you think you’re ready for those numbers, then let’s get started!

From here, face your palm forward, if it wasn’t already.

Sign Language Numbers: 11-100

Here’s where things get tricky. Remember, palm back for 11-15.

16-19 are also palm back, but with a twisting motion.

For more numbers, you can consult’s huge list of visual sign language number charts here. The specific signs and motions start to get more complex beyond 20, but 1-20 is a good place to start learning some of the signing conventions that will carry on to the larger numbers. Feel like moving on from numbers for a bit? Check out this guide for some basic sign language phrases.

You can also consult this handy language guide for tips on how to teach yourself a foreign language.

American Sign Language students also learn

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