Friday, July 5, 2013

ASL - 22 Basic Signs You Should Know

Vonda Hamilton is a passionate missionary with the Deaf and hard-of-hearing through Expressions of Emmanuel.  She just recently started her own blog, which has two purposes.  First, to publish articles educating the hearing about communicating with and sharing the Gospel with the Deaf; the Deaf are an unreached people group – there are over 250 million Deaf and only 1-2% are Christians.  Second, to publish videos and Bible devotionals for the Deaf to “see,” since they cannot hear.  She asked if she could share an article on my blog and I was delighted to have her as a guest blogger.  For more articles on learning sign language, visit her blog at  More information on her ministry is available through the YouTube channel “expressionsemmanuel” and by “liking” their ministry page "expressionsofemmanuel" on Facebook. 
Sharon Reece

#1) “Sign Language”

To make this sign, make the thumb and index finger on both your hands in an “L” shape and point them, like guns, at each other, almost touching.  Twist them around each other and pull apart.

If you want to love and become involved in deaf ministry, you need to learn the precious language of the people.  Make it your goal to excel with the language!  How can you improve your sign language skills?  

Be with deaf people!  When a hearing person learns sign language, they need to always sign to the best of their ability in the presence of a deaf person.  If you know sign language and don’t sign when a deaf person is nearby, you are being rude. Hearing people need to include deaf people. 

#2) “Love”

To sign “love,” make two fists and cross them over your chest.

God’s commands are all summed up in one word – love!  So your purpose in being involved should be to love deaf people.  “Love one another.” 1 Corinthians 13:2

#3) “Jesus”

This sign is made by putting your middle fingers into the palms of each hand.  

This sign reminds of the nail prints in His HANDS!  We need to learn that sign because we need to bring people to know the love of JESUS, or we have missed God’s point to help people see that Jesus want to be their Savior and their Lord!

#4) “Saves/Salvation”

This sign is made by two arms with clamped fists that are pulled outwards, crossing past each other.  

This sign of salvation is important because it originates from the idea of two fists tied down together in 
bondage.  You need to know that sign so you can show people what Jesus’ work on the cross came to do – to save all who call on the name of the Lord!

#5) “What is your name?"

Two hands, palms up, in a slightly clawed shape, moving back and forth mean “what.”  “Your” is a flat 
palm directed toward a person.  “Name” is two fingers (index and middle) on top of the same fingers on 
the other hand.  

Use sign language to get to really know deaf people!  Become friends with deaf people!  Know and 
love the deaf!  Let the deaf know and love you!  Remember, knowing someone’s name shows love and 

#6) “Welcome”

Take your dominant hand (the one you write with) and with it flat and palm extending upwards (out in 
front and to the side of you), bring your hand and arm nestled to your side.  

This is an important sign because you want to extend a warm welcome of love, kindness and belonging 
to deaf people!

#7) “With/Together”

“With” is your two thumbs up, clenched together.  The sign “together” is the same shapes moved 
around in a circular motion. 

If you are to minister to any specific people group, including the deaf, it is imperative that you work 
with – not above or over – but with the deaf!  Since the deaf know firsthand the needs of the deaf, they 
can really help you be effective. God wants us to work together as equals.  That is why the two thumbs 
are on an equal plane.  We need to humbly work together.

#8) “Belong/Unite/Unity”

This sign is done by clasping two “F” hand shapes together, connected by the pointer fingers and the 
thumbs.  That connection sign means “belong,” “of,” “connect,” and “unite.” When you move that 
shape together in a circle it means “unity.”  

If we are going to have effective Deaf Ministries we will need to have unity.  In John 17, Jesus cried out 
in prayer for the church to be unified.  That should be our heart’s cry, too!

#9) “Please”

Take your dominant hand and stretch it out flat with your fingers together.  Place it on your chest and 
move it in a circle.  This sign can mean different things with different expressions.  If you have a pleading look, it means “please.”  If you do that sign with a pleasant expression it means to be pleased or to enjoy. 

These signs are important because having manners always makes ministry more successful!  Always 
seeking to rejoice in the Lord and enjoy yourself as you serve Him should always be your goal!  You want to hear God say, “Well done, I am well pleased with you my good and faithful servant.”  Learn to sign and live out the word “please” and you will be blessed in your ministry!

#10) “Thank you”

You take either one or two stiff flat hands (fingers together) and extend them outward to people or God 
in a motion similar to blowing kisses.  

If a deaf ministry is going to be great we need to thank God for the blessings and challenges, as well 
as thanking others for their help and deeds of kindness.  Jesus was serious about the importance of 
thankfulness!  We should be, too!  (Remember the lepers in Matthew 11?)

#11) “Pouring out your heart to one another”

This is more of a mimed sign.  You take your two clasped hands over your heart and open them up and 
extend them outwards if sharing with another person, or upwards if talking to God and bring that sign 
back and forth in the same motions – showing the hearts truly sharing.  

God wants koinonia, the Greek word for “deep fellowship!”  Everyone longs to share on a deep level.  
Romans 12:0 says, “Be devoted to one another in love.”  Helen Keller, who was deaf and blind, said, 
“Blindness separates people from things, but deafness separates people from people.”  Does deafness 
separate people from God?  Of course not!  But in the heart of the deaf, just like anyone, there is a 
longing to share deeply.  Christians, whether deaf or hearing, need to reach out and share Christ’s love.  

We can only do this well if the church seeks to be unified and love one another. The church then must love the lost!  This takes pouring out our heart in prayer to God and sharing on a deep level together.  People are tired of surface relationships.  Let’s help people have a deep relationship with God!  Let us each strive to grow closer to God and offer the world the freedom of pouring out their hearts to God to know Him deeply.

#12) “Hold”

This sign is important to know because there are always distractions in life and you don’t want to look 
away from the deaf, ignoring them for every sound you hear or every hearing person that speaks to you!  Losing eye contact and looking away without asking to “hold” is very rude!

For the sign “hold,” take one fist arm upright and move it slightly up and down.  If you sign “please 
hold,” you show respect, and after addressing a pressing interruption you can finish your conversation. 
If it is not a pressing interruption, ask the other person who wants to talk to please “hold.”  This sign will 
help you show respect to all.

The sign “hold” can also be a variant of the sign trust!  If the same hand shape moves slightly up and 
down while you look to God with a trusting expression (as if holding onto an imaginary rope) it will 
signify holding on with faith in God!  If we want to endure and be faithful in Deaf Ministry, we must hold 
on to God’s unseen hand!  Only He can hold us and give advancement for His Kingdom!

#13) “See with your eyes” and “See with your heart”

When the deaf learn God’s Word, they receive it through their eyes!  The sign “see with your eyes = 
receptive skills” is done by taking your dominant hand and taking the index finger, middle finger, and 
thumb and making a clawing motion with the thumb resting on the corner of your eye.  The same hand 
shape is made over the heart (the area that everyone says is your heart!) with your thumb leaning 
against your chest to signify seeing/hearing with your heart.  

These signs are important because we need to receive God’s Word fully and “hear” with our heart.  
But, it is also important to be a good listener and learn to read sign language well so that you can truly 
communicate on a deep level with deaf people.  Many deaf people are frustrated when people only 
want to use expressions signs but don’t care to strive to understand what the deaf have to say. 

Learning to sign and read sign language requires time and patient effort.  Make it your goal to sign and read sign language!  God can empower you to communicate!  Ask Him and keep growing.  Make sure to “see” with your heart and your eyes!

#14) “Peace”

This sign is made by two flat palms touching each other which then twist downward to each side of 
one’s body to represent the calmness – like the calm after the storm. 

It is a lovely sign that represents what God wants in our lives.  Jesus calmed the storm.  Life is 
challenging.  We need to share the peace that the Prince of Peace, Jesus, gives.  We need to promote
love and kindness in deaf ministries.  Romans 12:16 says, “Live in peace with each other.”

#15) “Joy/Happy”

You sign “joy” by having two open thumb flat hands moving in an upward circle in front of the chest, 
with a joyful expression on your face. 

We need to rejoice in the Lord! We need to spread joy.  If we want blessings to fall on our Deaf 
Ministries, we need promote joy!  “The joy of the Lord is my strength!” (Nehemiah 8:10)

#16) “Hope”

Deaf mission work can be discouraging for both deaf and hearing Christians who are seeking to share 
the Gospel!  You might see Deaf Ministries grow and shrink.  You might invite lots of people to come and do outreach and have absolutely no one show up!  But don’t be saddened!  You are sharing Jesus, our Blessed Hope!  He will give you hope in the sharing of His love!  He promised that He will harvest souls.  We just have to share.  If your deaf ministry is just starting out or is very small, don’t despair – God is pleased when we share with even one lost sheep.  A deaf ministry is a worthy undertaking if it only reaches just one soul!  But also press on, for God can help you reach others, too!

To sign “hope,” you take two flat upright hands and bend them in half at the sides of your head and 
slightly above your head (one hand is higher than the other) and you look upwards with anticipation.  
We need hope and vision to march ahead sharing Christ!  “Be joyful in hope,” (Romans 12:12) and 
“Where there is no vision, the people perish, but he that keepeth the law, happy is he!” (Proverbs 29:18)

#17) Patience

To sign patience, you take the thumb of your dominant hand and rub it down under your nose straight 
downward over your lips and to the bottom of your chin.  

When working with people we need to be patient with each other. Romans 12:12b says, “Be patient when trouble comes.”  We need to be patient as we share the Gospel with deaf people and their families.  God is patient, so we should be, too!  “God is being patient with you!  He wants everyone to change their heart and life!” (2 Peter 3:9)  HAVE PATIENCE!

#18) “Support”

Take your dominant fist straight upwards, underneath your other fist, which you want to position 

Rally the whole church to support  the  local Deaf Ministry, as well as other deaf mission organizations. 
If the whole church does not “roll up their sleeves” and help reach out with the Gospel, then how will 
the deaf hear?

There are an estimated 250 million deaf people in this world, yet only 1-2 percent of that number are 
Christians!  The one to two percent of the deaf population who are Christians need the support of 
the whole church to reach out to massed of deaf people who need to know Christ.  We must all work 
together supporting one another to share the Gospel!

#19) “Anyways/Regardless/It doesn’t matter”

This is one of my favorite signs.  You take two flattened hands (palms facing towards the body), slapping and hitting past each other several times.  

This sign does not mean apathy.  It doesn’t mean you don’t care about people.  It means that you carry 
on in spite of the challenges.  Many “little” challenges will not mean much in the span of eternity.  

Forgive!  Move on in spite of the challenges.  Romans 12:17-19 says, “If someone does wrong to you, do not pay him back by doing wrong to him.  Try to do what everyone thinks is right.  Do your best to live in peace with everyone.  My friends, do not try to punish others when they wrong you, but wait for God to punish them with His anger.  It is written: ‘I will punish those who do wrong; I will repay them,’ says the Lord.” Do not repay anyone evil for evil!

#20) “Pray”

Put your hands together, palms touching! 

“Be faithful in prayer!” (Romans 12:12b)  The challenges, no matter how big, won’t be insurmountable 
when you trust God in prayer!  God allowed David to conquer the giant!  God will help you conquer, too, in your  deaf mission work when you pray.  Romans 12:16c says, “Pray at all times!”

#21) “Flexible”

Take your dominant hand and clasp the tips of the fingers of your other hand (which is positioned 
sideways) and bend those fingers! 

In God’s work – you must be flexible!  God is the Potter and you are the Clay!  Be ready for the 
unexpected challenges at times and also unexpected blessings!  Be ready and be flexible so that God can “tweek” you to do whatever He wants you to do to get His purposes accomplished.  

When working with deaf people, you will find various signs!  Even in sign choices, be flexible and use the signs that the deaf people in your life use!  Be flexible in the Potter’s Hands and He will do great things with you!

#22) “Continue”

To sign “continue,” you take your thumbs, facing away from your body, make the thumbnail and thumb 
touch the adjacent thumbnail and thumb and push the thumbs that are held together outwards.  

Deaf Ministries can be tough, but together we must continue for God will bless our efforts if we don’t 
give up.  “And let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season we will reap a harvest if we faint 
not.” (Galatians 6:9)

So, continue on!  See what the Lord will do in you, with you, in spite of you, and for you to bring Him 
glory!  If you continue serving the Lord, you will see deaf people come to Christ!  Enjoy learning and 
using these twenty-two signs and also remember, John 4:35 says, “Open your eyes.  Look at the fields 
that are ready for harvesting now!”

If you found this article helpful, check out another guest post done by Vonda Hamilton, "Ten Tips on Working with the Deaf" posted at Deviation from the Norm.

Thank you, Vonda, for this informative article. 


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