Sign language is an amazing form of non-verbal expression that can be valuable to learn, even if you’re not hearing impaired, or don’t have a hearing-impaired person in your life. You never know when you might need to use it.
Whether you’re just starting out with American Sign Language, or have been practicing it for a while, here are some useful American Sign Language phrases that you can use every day.
For more, check out this introductory course on American Sign Language.
Sign Language Resources
Many of the phrases below are referenced from LifePrint.com, an excellent resource for those learning American Sign Language. For more, this course on improving your communication skills has an excellent lecture on the different forms of communication, including that of the visually and hearing impaired.
While it won’t teach you actual sign language, this course on unlocking the secrets of body language is a great supplementary source of tips regarding non-verbal communication.
You can also check out this guide on how to start out learning sign language, as learning any new language can be a daunting task.
Sign Language Phrases
Each phrase below will have a link to a video from LifePrint.com illustrating the motions, along with a brief description of the motions involved in case the video isn’t working. Good luck, and keep practicing!
Squint eyebrows, point with index finger, make the “two” sign with both hands, with index and middle fingers closed, and criss-cross them, tapping the right hand over the left.
Point to your ear with an index finger, then the corner of your mouth, then point to the person you are asking the question to to with the same index finger.
Point one index finger parallel to your lips, an inch or two away, and make a few quick circling motions before pointing, with the same index finger, to the person you are asking this question to.
Flatten both hands, with your fingers together, and touch the tips level with your chest, making a triangle shape with your palms. Point with your index finger to the person you are asking the question to, and make fists with both hands, palms facing you, and make a motion as though you are tightening shoelaces outwards, level with your chest.
Using an index finger, point at the person you’re asking the question to, then make two fists, and bang the heel of your palm against the top of one fist (between your index finger and palm) twice, then wag an index finger in the air.
Bring one hand up to your chin, and make a motion as though you were grabbing an imaginary beard and pulling it down, then bring that into a pointing motion, using your index finger on the same hand, towards the person you’re asking the question to.
Make a motion with one hand as though you were scratching downward on your chest once, hand slightly clawed and palm facing you, then bring it back up and use your index finger to point to the person you’re asking the question to.
Point at the person with an index finger, then bring the same hand back to your chest, with your thumb, middle finger, and pinky slightly clawed in, and your index and ring fingers extended, pointing to yourself this way. Then bring the same hand downward, palm down, into your other hand, which is chest-level with the palm facing up. With your upper hand, clap down once slowly, then flip it and place it, palm up, in the palm of your lower hand.
Point at the object, then look to the person you’re asking the question to and put the same hand towards them, palm forward, as if in a “stop” motion.
Wag an index finger in the air, then spell out the name of the person you are trying to locate. In the example video above, the signer asks where Bob is, signing B-O-B to reference Bob. Don’t forget to check out this American sign language guide for some tips on fingerspelling.
Point at the person with an index finger, and bring the same hand down into your other hand, clasped downward palm to palm and about chest level.
With both hands, make a quick, golf-clap-like motion, then bring your right hand up and point with your index person at the person. Transition that into a pointing motion, outward to the right, with both hands, using your index fingers. Then, point at the person once more.
Press both palms together, one facing upward and the other facing downward. Swipe the downward facing palm outward, then bring both hands up, index fingers pointing upward, with the outermost hand with its back to the person you’re signing to, and bring your hands together in this sign.
Point at the person with an index finger, and bring this up into a flicking motion on the side of your head, before bringing the motion outward and pointing with the same index finger, palm up, to the side.
Here’s a long one to end on! First, point at the person you’re signing to. Then, quickly bring your pointing hand down into the upward-facing palm of your other, then quickly bring it back up, as if shuffling cards. Very quickly bring the upward-motioning hand to your eye, cupping it as though holding a telescope. Then, with the index fingers of both hands, motion up and down, then quickly bring your right hand up to your head with all fingers except your thumb and pinky folded in.
Learning sign language is the same as learning any other language. It takes practice, and dedication. Check out this course on how to teach yourself a foreign language for some applicable tips. There’s also this course on how to quickly learn vocabulary words.