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Basic Sign Language Words: A Beginner’s Guide

Using Sign Language words

Discovering the world of sign language offers an opportunity to foster understanding, empathy, and inclusivity within the Deaf community. This comprehensive guide provides an introduction to basic sign language words, empowering you to embark on a journey toward fluency in this powerful non-verbal language.

Getting Started with Sign Language

Sign language encompasses much more than hand gestures alone, as it is a complex and expressive mode of communication that incorporates facial expressions and body language. Recognizing and embracing this holistic approach is fundamental when embarking on your journey to learn sign language.

Basics of Sign Language

Sign language serves as a visual medium of communication, employing hand shapes, movements, and facial expressions to convey meaning.

It is important to note that sign language is not universally consistent and varies across countries and regions. In the United States and parts of Canada, American Sign Language (ASL) is widely used.

Dispelling common misconceptions, sign language is not a mere translation of spoken language but possesses its own distinct syntax, grammar, and rules. For instance, ASL follows a unique structure known as TIME + TOPIC + COMMENT, which differs from the SUBJECT + VERB + OBJECT format employed in English.

Importance of Facial Expressions and Body Language

Facial expressions and body language play a crucial role in sign language, serving as essential elements that convey additional meaning. In sign language, facial expressions function as adverbs, adjectives, or even punctuation marks, providing context and nuance to the signs being used.

For example, a raised eyebrow can indicate a question, while a tilted body can signify the direction of an action. By incorporating these non-manual markers, sign language becomes a more nuanced and expressive form of communication.

Basic Sign Language Words for Beginners

doing sign language words

Starting your journey into learning American Sign Language can be intimidating, but breaking it down into basic words can help ease the process. Here are some frequently used words in American Sign Language (ASL):


Greeting others is a crucial aspect of communication in any language, including American Sign Language (ASL). In ASL, the sign for “Hello” involves a saluting motion starting from the forehead and moving outward Greetings in ASL | ASL – American Sign Language. To express “Good morning” in ASL, you would sign “good” by placing a flat hand on your chin and moving it downward towards your waist, and then sign “morning” by signing from the chest outward, mimicking the rising sun Learn ASL: Good Morning, Good Afternoon, and Good Night in American Sign Language

Basic Words

To say “yes,” form a fist with your hand and gently move it back and forth, resembling the motion of a nodding head. The sign for no is formed by taking your first two fingers and tapping them against your thumb, resembling a mouth making the motion of saying ‘no.’ How to Sign Yes and No ASL 

A simple please can go a long way. The sign for “Please” is conveyed by rubbing the flat palm of your hand in a circular motion against your chest. “Thank you” in ASL means you touch the fingers of your open hand to your chin and then bring them forward as if blowing a kiss. Sign the words PLEASE, THANK YOU and YOU’RE WELCOME – how to Sign Language.

“Help” is performed by forming a flat shape with one hand and a thumbs-up with the other hand. You then place the ‘thumbs-up’ hand on top of the other hand and lift it upward. How to Sign – HELP – Sign Language.

Remember, practice makes perfect. Repeatedly practicing these signs can help you remember them better.

Easy Sign Language Words for Kids

Teaching sign language to kids can be an enjoyable and educational experience, benefiting their communication skills and promoting empathy and understanding. Here are some simple words to help them get started on their sign language journey:


Kids are often drawn to animals, making them excellent starting points for ASL. For example, to sign “dog,” you can simulate patting your leg and snapping your fingers, mimicking the action of calling a dog Learn How to Sign the Word Dog. To sign “cat,” you can drag your fingers away from your face, imitating the movements of cat whiskers Cat in Sign Language, ASL Dictionary for kids.


Teaching children to express their feelings in sign language can empower them with a valuable communication tool. To sign “happy,” they can place both flat hands on their chest and move them upward, symbolizing a feeling of joy. For “sad,” they can move both hands downward in front of their face, depicting a sense of falling or downward emotion. American Sign Language: Happy & Sad


Learning to sign family members can be an enjoyable and meaningful activity for children. To sign “mom,” they stretch out their fingers and place the thumb on their chin. Similarly, for “dad,” they can use the same handshape but touch the thumb to their forehead instead. Sign – MOM – DAD – GRANDMOTHER – GRANDFATHER – How to Sign Language


Food-related signs are practical and can be incorporated into daily routines. To sign “eat,” simply mimic bringing food to your mouth. For “drink,” form a ‘C’ shape with your hand and lift it to your mouth, as if holding a cup. Remember, repetition and practice are key when teaching children sign language, so encourage them to use these signs in everyday communication. How to Sign – FOOD – EAT – DRINK – Sign Language – ASL

How to Sign Words in Sign Language

Now that you know some basic words, it’s crucial to learn how to sign them correctly. Here are some tips to ensure you’re signing correctly:

Correct Techniques and Practices

Maintaining smooth and precise movements is crucial in sign language. Choppy or tense movements can alter the intended meaning of a sign. Additionally, paying attention to the correct placement of signs is essential. Some signs may differ only in their location. For example, the signs for “mom” and “dad” are distinguished by whether the hand is placed on the chin or forehead. Practicing proper form and placement will help ensure accurate and effective communication in sign language.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

It is important to refrain from using spoken language while signing unless one is proficient in both spoken language and sign language. Mixing the two can result in a phenomenon called ‘sim-com, or simultaneous communication, which can lead to incorrect grammar in American Sign Language.

Additionally, it is advisable to avoid looking at your hands while signing. Instead, maintain eye contact with your conversation partner to ensure effective communication and to properly understand their signs and non-verbal cues. By focusing on your partner, you can create a more meaningful and inclusive conversation in sign language.

The Importance of Continued Learning

learning sign language words

Learning American Sign Language is an ongoing and enriching journey that goes beyond acquiring basic words. It opens up a world of opportunities for effective communication and deeper understanding.

By dedicating oneself to the ongoing learning and practice of sign language, individuals can foster stronger connections, break down communication barriers, and promote inclusivity in various workspaces.

Embracing sign language as a continuous journey allows for personal growth, cultural appreciation, and the ability to engage with a diverse community in a meaningful way.

The Benefits of Mastering Sign Language

Fluency in sign language opens doors to effective communication and connection with a diverse range of individuals. This skill can have significant professional benefits, particularly in fields such as education, healthcare, and social work, where interaction with Deaf or hard-of-hearing individuals is common. The ability to communicate in sign language can enhance career opportunities and facilitate meaningful relationships with clients, students, and colleagues.

Embracing sign language fluency goes beyond acquiring a new skill. It enriches personal and professional experiences, promotes inclusivity, and enhances overall cognitive abilities.

Resources for Further Learning

Embarking on your American Sign Language journey is made easier with the abundance of resources at your disposal. Online platforms provide a range of options, offering both free and paid courses that cater to different learning styles and proficiency levels. These platforms allow you to learn at your own pace and conveniently fit sign language lessons into your schedule.

In addition to online resources, libraries and bookstores offer a wealth of comprehensive sign language books and instructional materials. These resources can serve as valuable references, providing detailed explanations of signs, grammar rules, and cultural nuances.

Local community centers often host sign language classes, providing opportunities for in-person learning and practice. Joining these classes allows you to connect with fellow learners and engage in hands-on activities that facilitate skill development and fluency.

To further enhance your sign language proficiency, consider joining sign language groups or communities. These communities provide a supportive environment where you can interact with experienced signers, practice your skills, and receive valuable feedback.

A Deeper Dive into Sign Language

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s delve a bit deeper. Sign language is more than a communication tool for the Deaf and hard of hearing community; it’s also a cultural identity.

Sign Language and Deaf Culture

American Sign Language holds immense significance within Deaf Culture, serving as more than just a means of communication.

It stands as a powerful symbol of identity and unity among Deaf individuals. When one shows respect for sign language, they are demonstrating respect for Deaf Culture and the Deaf community as a whole. By embarking on the journey of learning American Sign Language, you not only develop valuable communication skills but also wholeheartedly embrace a dynamic and distinctive community.

Deaf Etiquette When Using Sign Language

When engaging in conversations with Deaf individuals, it’s essential to observe proper etiquette. Maintaining eye contact while signing demonstrates politeness and active engagement in the conversation.

If you encounter a sign that you’re unfamiliar with, don’t hesitate to ask for clarification. Most signers are patient and understanding, willing to explain or demonstrate the sign again. Additionally, it is crucial to respect the signing space and never interrupt a signing conversation by crossing through the line of sight between signers.

By following these etiquette guidelines, you can foster meaningful and respectful interactions with Deaf individuals.

Ready to Learn More American Sign Language?

Taking on the journey of learning sign language offers numerous rewards, including improved communication skills, heightened empathy, and a richer appreciation for a vibrant culture.

Mastering the foundational sign language words is a crucial initial step. However, it is essential to maintain consistency, practice diligently, and continue expanding your knowledge. Embrace the adventure of sign language learning, knowing that there are countless opportunities for growth and connection along the way!

Frequently Asked Questions

Is sign language universal?

No, sign language is not universal. Each country or region has its own unique sign language. Others, such as British Sign Language or Chinese Sign Language, exist to cater to different people around the world.

How long does it take to learn sign language?

The time it takes to learn sign language varies depending on the individual’s dedication and practice. It could take anywhere from several months to a few years to become fluent. Attending a sign language class will definitely help.

How do you communicate with someone who is Deaf but doesn’t know sign language?

You can communicate with them using written notes, visual aids, or speech-to-text apps on a smartphone. Additionally, new technologies are being developed every day to help communicate with the Deaf community.

What are some resources for learning sign language?

Resources for ASL include online courses, community classes, books, and sign language groups.

How can I improve my sign language skills?

Practicing regularly, taking advanced courses, and interacting with fluent sign language users can help improve your skills.

Are there sign language classes for beginners?

Yes, many community centers, colleges, and online platforms

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