In this guide, you learn some cultural etiquette so that you won’t feel tongue-tied when speaking to the deaf. You’ll find out sign phrases for hello, how are you?, and many other basic conversational phrases that will help you to feel comfortable and confident to make a connection with deaf people in any type of social situation.
Some questions you may experience when first meeting a deaf person may sound too personal or direct to you. However, realize that this is the cultural means of gathering information. The purpose of this direct questioning is to find common ground needed for communication and also for the possibility of developing a relationship. Deaf people will try to find the connection or relationship you may have with them, interpreters, and the signer community.
English: Where do you live?
CS: WHERE YOU LIVE?
English: My home is in New York City.
CS: MY HOME N-Y-C.
English: Where are you from?
CS: WHERE YOU FROM?
English: I grew up in a house in New Jersey.
CS: GROW-UP HOUSE N-J.
FARM, REALLY (TRUE), DOESN’T-MATTER, WHICH
Repeating the sign, REALLY with a questioning facial expression implies are you really sure?
Fingerspell A-P-T for apartment and C-I-T-Y for city.
When socializing with a deaf person, you’ll want to ask him how he’s doing and also chat about what you’ve been up to. You’re building a relationship with the person.
to begin a relationship, find common ground, hobbies, topics of interest, and fun things you both like to do. Once you find a topic that you can converse about, you will be able to build on the relationship.
English: How are you?
CS: HOW YOU?
English: Fine. What’s up?
CS: FINE. WHAT’S-UP?
Some parts of America sign FINE once; and other parts sign the hand movement twice.
English: Everything’s the same; nothing’s new.
CS: EVERYTHING SAME (MUNDANE) NOTHING NEW.
OLD, KNOW, WHAT-DO, PLEASE, TELL-ME, INFORM-YOU
The directional verb sign TELL-ME moves in the direction from you to me. Another example is INFORM-YOU; the movement of this sign starts from me and ends at you in the pronoun space.
However, do not confuse signers by signing the three separate signs for YOU, TELL, ME. This will appear in English as you, tell you, me.
Fingerspell N-W-S for news, Y-S for yes (when emphasized), and N-O for no (when emphasized).
With these basic sign language phrases you can start a great conversation. Good luck, and happy signing!
From The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Conversational Sign Language Illustrated by Carole Lazorisak and Dawn Donohue