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Sign Language Basics for Beginners

Updated on September 2, 2009

Sign Language Basics You Must Know as a Beginner

You may think Sign Language basics for beginners has a lot to do with the signs themselves, but that is only a small part of it.

You've made the decision to learn Sign Language...Yay! Now let's make sure you start off on the right foot. OK, the mistake a lot of newbies to the language make is trying to go too fast! I know you are excited, but there are some things that you MUST know before you lift a finger. Trust me you will be glad you have these things in mind once you really start getting into the nitty gritty of Sign Language.

Now, if you are learning Sign Language at home these tips are especially important for you. This information will clear up a lot of confusion, and make your journey to fluency a lot less bumpy.

So, let's get started with those tips for Sign Language Basics for Beginners!

Beginner Sign Language Basics #1

American Sign Language Is Not English

Uh huh, you read that right. Although American Sign Language uses English words it does not follow the same grammar rules as English. If you were to try to speak American Sign Language out loud sign-for-sign, it would not make a lot of sense to your ears.

Think of it as trying to translate Spanish word for word into English. It does not make sense to us as English Speakers because Spanish has different grammar rules. Same thing applies to Sign Language.

So this is a biggie to Keep in mind when you are first starting out.

Beginner Sign Language Basics #2

Sign Language Is Not Universal

Well, push me down and call me Edna. That's right, you can't learn American Sign Language and then go to France and speak to a Deaf person who is French. Unless of course they have learned American Sign Language.

So, if you want to learn Spanish or French Sign Language, well, you will have to learn both of those languages. Sorry :(

But, the good news is a lot of other countries learn American Sign Language as a foreign language, so chances are you may meet someone you can communicate with. All is not lost.

Beginner Sign Language Basics #3

Handshape in Sign Language Is Very Important

One thing that I notice when I teach Sign Language is some students have a hard time making the handshapes correctly. This may take more practice for some, because your hands are not used to making these shapes.

This is why it is important to learn the correct shapes at the very beginning so you do not have to unlearn any bad habits. In Sign Language sometimes the slightest variation can change the meaning of a sign completely.

The best thing you can do to remedy this is Practice! Practice! Practice!

Learn the Sign Language alphabet backwards and forwards. This will help you a great deal once you start putting words together and when you start reading other peoples signs.

Beginner Sign Language Basics #4 - Practice, Practice, Practice!

If you are just starting to learn Sign Language, getting in the habit of practicing your Sign Language alphabet everyday is a great start. Use this video to get started.

Be sure to watch how he forms the letters and sign along with the video. He also gives some great tips on how not to sign the letters, pay attention to these as well.

Eventually, you will want to begin your own video library at home. I have been signing since the age of two, but I still buy videos to keep my skills up.

Sign Language Numbers Practice

Are You Learning Sign Language? Share with Us!

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    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Well, I am. I know the mom, dad, Me/I, think, and tune it out. x] I'm hoping to learn more so I can be more social, Even with people with can't hear. :D

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I don't know how to sign, but I have massive respect for people who can do it...It's great how sign language is now being integrated with many news shows etc.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      i love to sign to deaf people

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I have been slowly picking up sign language from my friend's mom (she is an interperetor for 911 calls for the deaf) and this is helping me understand her better! Its a slow, but steady process. Now whenever I talk, I sign while im talking to associate the words with my fingers! It really helps :)

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I have been wanting to learn sign language. I think learning would be great. Not just to say things to people that don't know it. But I would love to learn it in case i ever come across someone that signs. You never know.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      no , but it's a good lense

    • Johanna Eisler profile image

      Johanna Eisler 

      7 years ago

      I've been learning sign language for the past eight years, and I continue to learn on a regular basis. It's not surprising - I'm still learning English, too, and that's my first language. I LOVE ASL. It has enriched my life more than I can describe. It as also widened my circle of dear friends to include many who use my new language. I am honored to be able to interpret for some of them, and grateful that so many deaf friends have taken me to their heart.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      My nephew is hearing impaired. My sister has a daycare & has incorporated sign language into her curriculum. The children LOVE it!! We can't seem to find flashcards for different shapes, though... Any ideas?

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      im trying to learn sign language at home , would you recommed a books or dvd for me?

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I'm back to lensroll this to

      Sign Language Numbers 1-10

      Sign Language Family Signs

      Sign Language Food Related Words

      Sign Language Animal Signs

      Teaching Sign Language in Daycare Schools

      Drop me a line sometime, I would love to get to know you better.

    • youcansign profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago

      Thank you !Yes, you are so right. The research is astounding! My oldest sister (who is deaf) has three children and they all are always the brightest kids in the class. They had to begin learning sign language out of necessity, but there is no doubt that this has been big boost to their development. I strongly advocate teaching children Sign Language, it can only help them in the long run.

      Thanks for the lensroll.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Please join my Baby Sign Language Facebook Page if you have an account?

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Terrific lens! I am always pushing parents to use sign language with their children. 25 years of research doesn't lie, children who know sign have higher IQ, read sooner and have a visual concept beyond that of a non signing child. Great work! You must be new here because I have never seen your lenses before.

      I am going to lensroll these to:

      American Sign Language Alphabet

      American Sign Language Colors

      Sign Language Songs

      Sign Language in Daycare School


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