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

Test your new skills out on this practice video…

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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?