Are your ASL fingerspelling skills up to par?

Are your ASL fingerspelling skills up to par?

Fingerspelling is the litmus test for signing skills.

Are you fingerspelling everyday?

Are you struggling to figure out if your ASL skills are improving at all?

As I said, fingerspelling is the litmus test for your signing skills, your signing ability.

Conversational ASL: What to Do When You Don't Know a Sign

You’re thinking about going to a Deaf event… finally.

You’ve been practicing, working up the courage, and have decided you’re going this week… but oh hell, what if I’m signing something and my mind goes blank… or I don’t know how to sign something??

So you want to be confident and capable with conversational ASL, but you’re not sure what you should do if you’re signing along and don’t know a sign!

In this video I show you 3 quick fixes for when you’re stuck and nearing panic.

(P.S. in an upcoming video I’ll go over what to do when someone signs something to you and you have NO IDEA what they just signed)


You’ve got 3 options and none of them include not going to the Deaf event and signing with people.


1) Describe what you’re trying to say with other signs.

Explain what you mean with the signs you do know. For instance, you want to sign what your hobbies are. 

You don't know the sign for hobbies, so you maybe sign THINGS MYSELF LIKE DO and then continue on with the thought. 

(Surprise! That’s pretty close to how you actually sign it (ENJOY + list)


2) Use classifiers to show it

Show what you mean with classifiers. 

I would recommend a mix of signs + classifiers (or just pure classifiers) to show what you’re trying to say.

For instance, you want to talk about the process of building a fire, but ohmygosh, that's a lot of signs you don't know, but you don't want to just drop the conversation awkwardly and skulk away in shame. NO! 

You know what to do! 

Explain it, show it, with classifiers. You can use the signs you do know, describe with signs, and use those classifiers to show what you mean. 


3) Fingerspell it

You may be thinking, well shouldn’t this be my first choice? Not really.

Use this last.

If you're pretty well versed in ASL and have been using it for quite a while, then yeah, this can be your go-to method. 

However, if you're new, I'd discourage you using this method every single time. 



Okay, I lied, there’s 4 options.

The 4th is my preferred method:


4) Fingerspell + describe

This is a combination of method 1 and 3. You can do this one of two ways. 

Describe the sign or concept, then fingerspell the word, term, or phrase. 


You can fingerspell the word, term, or phrase and then describe it using signs. 

For instance, the term, Ring of Fire.

You can sign what this means-- the volcanoes, etc, etc and then sign THAT NAME WHAT? fsRING OF FIRE 

Or you can do this: 

fsRING OF FIRE KNOW?  then describe with signs 


For yourself, you do this: 

  1. Fingerspell a word + KNOW + describe
  2. Describe + THAT NAME WHAT? + fingerspell


Word of warning

Remember you do not make up your own signs!!!!! You can set up a sign or abbreviation for the moment in that one conversation, if it’s something you’ll be talking about over and over again, but it’s not an official sign and should be used one time.


Your challenge

Pick two methods -- okay pick 1 of the first 3 and then the 4th method -- and practice these methods on a few concepts you're not sure how to sign. 

Share your results in The ASL Club and maybe you can learn the new sign as well! 

I've got a worksheet with some words, phrases, and concepts you may not know how to sign right now. Use them to complete your challenge! 

After that, you'll have several to use throughout your ASL practice time. 

Will you do that? 



QUESTION of the day:

Which of the first 3 methods will you try first? What is a sign or concept you don’t know how to sign? Scroll through the comments and, even if you know the sign for it, reply to others and share how you’d sign it using methods 1, 2, or 4.




ASL Receptive Practice: Where Do I Look When Someone Signs to Me?

When someone is signing do you look at their hands, their face, the body, their eyes?

If I look at their eyes, I’ll miss what they’re signing!

If I look at their face I’ll just try to read their lips and miss their signs.

If I look at their hands, is that rude?



Where to look when someone signs to you


Here's the answer to all these questions:

Look at the neck.


Say what!?



You’re not staring at the neck, you’re looking in that area. You get the hands, the shoulders, the face all in one glance.



Think of it like driving a car.

You look out your main windshield (the neck area), and every few seconds or moments, you’ll flick your eyes to the rear view mirror, the side mirrors, and out your side windows.

All the while returning back to your windshield.



When watching someone sign, you’re not going to be flicking your eyes around like crazy.

You want to take in the scene and look at specific areas when appropriate. Fingerspelling, look more to the hand without losing sight of their face/mouth.


When possible, make eye contact. When they’re being ultra expressive, make sure you pay closer attention to their face.


How to be receptive friendly

This is also why you, as a signer need to have a smaller signing space than you think.

Keep it tight in here in this box to help others to see the whole view.



Sometimes I refer to watching someone sign like looking into those old magic eye pictures. Now, I was never ever ever able to see one of them, so I’m just basing my analogy on what everyone told me to do.


Relax your eyes and see the entire picture without staring intently at one spot.


The exception would be when you need extra clarification (like repeated signing because you missed/misunderstood something).


ASL receptive practice how to

Your next steps are to practice your new receptive gaze as much as you can while it's fresh in your mind. 

Watch videos in ASL and practice looking at the neck area, while keeping a wide gaze on the other areas of the signer. Slightly flick your eyes to the important areas, as well as make eye contact where possible. 

The more you practice the more natural and comfortable this will feel. Soon you'll realize you're making eye contact quite a bit, as well as understanding everything they're signing at ya! 

That's when you know it's par-tay time! 


Receptive practice video 

I went an extra step so you didn't have to do anything crazy, like do a Google search, or a YouTube search, and wade through crummy videos-- I made a receptive practice video for you!! Yes YOU! It's a short video that gives you a chance to try out the new skill and see how you do. 

You can watch the video as many times as you'd like, or move on to longer videos when you have the time. 

It's FREE to watch, just click the big pink button, enter your email and you'll be taken straight to the video



Where have you been looking when watching folks sign? Did you watch the practice receptive video and try out your new skills? How’d it go?






ASL Questions: Learn ASL Grammar

Wanting to learn how to sign questions in ASL? Watch the video to find out how to sign ASL questions, see plenty of examples of WH questions and Yes/No questions, and get the free workbook to practice different sentences on your own. Super helpful and super awesome! 

I bet you woke up today and asked yourself “why!?!?!!”

Okay, I’m joking.


It is true that we each go through our days asking mini questions. Questions to ourselves, questions for others.

For instance, “why did you pour baby powder all over the carpet?”


Your goal for ASL is to become conversational.

Well, that means you need to know how to ask all sorts of questions.


Today, we’re going to cover the top 2 types of questions-- WH questions and Yes/No questions.

Be sure to grab the FREE practice workbook underneath the video before you head out.



2 basic rules for ASL questions:






Time = tense

Topic = main subject

Comment = what you’re talking about in reference to the topic

Question = the wh-question word -or- the y/n question word.


Related: Sign Language Sentences: The Basic Structure


WH Question Signs

Here’s a list of the signs you’ll use when asking a WH-type question.

  • WHO
  • WHAT
  • WHEN
  • WHY
  • HOW
  • FOR-FOR (what-for)
  • WILL


Do you remember what your eyebrows are supposed to do?

Furrow your eyebrows, as if you’re thinking [ thinking emoji ]. You’re also going to jut your chin out a bit. Nothing crazy!!


Related: WH-questions video


Yes/No Questions

For Y/N questions it’s whatever the question is and you add your y/n question eyebrows which are….. ? UP and tilt your head slightly forward.

For instance: PARTY GO?  SHOE LIKE?


The question part of the sentence is the LAST word, and sometimes it may be the last 2 words, depending on the question and length of the sentence.


Ask Questions in ASL


Let’s take some English sentences and translate them into ASL.

#1 Do you like fish?

TIME = none

TOPIC = fish

COMMENT = like

QUESTION = do you


2 variations:




I’d sign: FISH LIKE? to keep it short and sweet.


#2  Are you going to the library tomorrow?

TIME = tomorrow

TOPIC = library







#3  Do you know where the museum is?

TIME= none

TOPIC= museum


REFERENT= you, it





#4 Why is that man staring at me?

TIME= none

TOPIC= man

COMMENT= that, stare

REFERENT= that, me





#5 Are you sure the party starts at 6:30?

TIME= 6:30PM

TOPIC= party

COMMENT= start

REFERENT= you, it




** or **



sign language questions wrap-up

The rule of thumb for questions is to keep it simple. You probably noticed that I didn’t use all the referents or even all the comments. Perhaps the question word was a bit different than what was listed.


Don’t freak out.

You want to drill down to what the real meaning is and sign that and let the rest fall to the side. You don’t need it.


I’ve got a mini-workbook with questions for you to try this out yourself to really get a feel for how to do this.



Remember if you work on the questions on paper and really start to feel comfortable with the concept, when you go to sign with Deaf folks, the questions will come to you naturally and you won’t have to worry that you’re doing it wrong.

In upcoming videos we’ll be going over more types of ASL sentences!


Make it a habit to sign questions (either in your mind or for real) when you hear a question being asked or when you ask a question.


This is the #1 habit that helped me get from average signer to a professional signer today.

Soon, you’ll be able to sign any question, like:


Question of the day: Do have any questions about signing ASL questions?? Ha!

Sign Language Sentences: The Basic Structure

Sign Language Sentences: The Basic Structure

Did you ever diagram sentences?

Ohmygersh, I lurv diagramming sentences.


I could do it all day long and be happy.

Call me crazy.

ASL grammar, while being intimidating to English speaking folks is actually straightforward and easier than English grammar.

You just need to know the parts and their places. Rearrange the words into a new order and wham, an ASL sentence is born.

It’s totally therapeutic.