Environment

How to Negotiate a Signing Environment When Learning Sign Language

Walk through:

Whenever possible, opt to go around, rather than through a conversation. If there is no choice but to pass through a conversation, pass quickly so the signers won’t be interrupted. Don’t hunch down or wait to be acknowledged by the signers. This disrupts their exchange, since it is much more visually distracting. While not expected, you may sign “excuse me” as you pass through.

Use touch:

When your path is too narrow to pass between several groups of signers, then it is customary to press someone’s shoulder or upper back, and they will move aside while remaining engaged in the conversation. Avoid tapping, unless you need a person to move more than a few steps aside. Tapping prompts the person to turn toward you, breaking their conversation.

Ask the person to move:

People can sometimes unknowingly block your view. If it isn’t possible to adjust your position so you can see, you should ask people to move by pressing their shoulder in the direction that would clear your view.

Conversation Strategy: Asking what is the sign:

As you learn American Sign Language, you might forget some signs or need to use signs other than those taught in calss. To ask for a sign you’ve forgotten or don’t know, use the phrase “ask what is the sign”.

The strategy is that person A demonstrates five different strategies to ask for a sign. Then person B and C give various responses.

Pointing to Object: The strategy for this is for Signer A to point to the object and ask for a sign. Then Signer B gives the sign, and then Signer C confirms Signer B’s answer.

Each of these strategies and tips will help you in your signing environment.

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