10 sign language phrases to teach your friend

[Image Description: A thumb, outlined in white, signs “10” with accompanying text that reads: “KODAheart’s [10] Sign Language Phrases to Teach Your Friends”. In the background is a photo of three hands in a row against a black background. The hands are signing “A,” “S,” “L”.]


Introducing new signs and phrases to your friends, family, and community members is a great way to encourage deeper relationships with members of koda-deaf families!  Jumping into an ASL course may be a bit intimidating, but small steps may help non-signers to develop a foundation for language and communication. Here are a couple useful phrases to get started!

1) Introductions: Meeting your deaf family members for the first time may be intimidating for your hearing friends who are unfamiliar with the deaf community/culture. Teach your friends how to introduce themselves with the phrase, “Hi my name ______.” Show them how to fingerspell their name. If they are up for the challenge, teach them the entire alphabet.


2) GreetingsOnce they have mastered fingerspelling their name and introducing themselves to your family, share some common greetings like,  “good morning,” “good afternoon,” and “good night.”  


3) Typical answers to common exchanges: Begin by showing them common responses like “good” and “fine.” As they interact more frequently with the deaf community, they will expand their use of phrases, communicating additional feelings like “excited” or “happy.


4) Expanding Vocabulary: Share the resources and tools to acquire more signs to communicate. One strategy to learn new words is to ask for clarification when presented with an unknown sign. By asking for an explanation of a particular sign or phrase during a conversation can help gain understanding and build their vocabulary.


5) Asking for clarification: When learning a new language, often there will be times when the message conveyed is not clear. this could be due to speed or clarity of the sign produced. Share some useful methods of gaining clarification such as asking for the phrase to be repeated or asking for help.


6) Being polite: Good manners are important in any language and culture! Show your friends how to be polite by teaching them how to say “Please,” “Thank-you,” and “You’re welcome.” Something very handy in all situations.


7) Answering With Yes and No: By adding “yes” and “no” to their signing vocabulary your friends will be able to answer most questions thrown their way! Being able to provide a helping hand when setting the dinner table or answering questions like “would you like another serving?” go a long way to encourage your friends to jump in the conversation.


8) Sharing Likes and DislikesSharing likes and dislikes are great conversation starters and a great way to build common ground! A helpful tip: when asking questions that have a yes/no answer to them is to keep your eyebrows raised while asking.


9)   Meeting someone new for the first time: Your friends meeting your parents or your parent’s friends for the first time? Acknowledge the exchange or politely end a conversation with a “Nice to meet you.” Your friends can also use the sign “same” as a way to agree with a thought or an opinion.

10) Good-byes: A simple wave goodbye will do. Another common phrase  is “see you later” .

Use this list as a starting place, there are many online resources that can foster continued language development. We recommend Handspeak, Lifeprint, ASL That, and Theaslapp to get started. Keep in mind that language and culture are frequently intertwined. As friends, family, and community members begin learning ASL, they may have additional questions about cultural differences that arise. Check out another KODAheart 10 list: 10 Koda Tidbits to Share with New Classmates, for some answers to these questions. Share with us! What are some strategies you have used with non-signing friends? Send them to us at:onekodaheart@gmail.com.


*We recognize that this 10 list focuses on signs in ASL, however it is our goal to expand this list to common phrases in other signed languages for kodas and their families to use across the world.