Learning sign language or simply looking to improve upon your abilities? Take a look at our list of handy (pun intended) tips to help you better learn sign language.
1. Know the alphabet
When learning anything, it's essential to start with the basics. In this case, we need to learn the alphabet of the language that we're signing. Make sure you've practiced the basic alphabet of whichever sign language you're choosing to learn or practice. It goes without saying that these are the building blocks to signing like a pro!
2. Relax your hands
Some people claim that they "talk with their hands". Well, for those of us who talk using sign language, this saying is quite literal. Not only is keeping your hands relaxed important for our form, but also essential when it comes to speed and tiring your hands out. Signing by nature is a tiring means of communication, especially if you're guilty of having stiff signing hands. Relaxing your hands means that you're able to sign at a greater speed, with more clarity, and for longer.
3. Be clear in your form
Following on from the second point, it's essential to keep your form in mind at all times. This involves finding the middle ground where our hands are simply relaxed and composed - neither rigid nor sloppy. Keeping your form in check is a considerate way to ensure that your message is completely understood by the end receiver.
4. Practice on camera
Some of us learn best when we're able to review our work. This counts when it comes to signing too. Recording yourself signing on camera is an effective way to pick up on the points of weakness in your technique which you or others may have not noticed otherwise.
5. Watch others
If you're fourtunate enough to be a part of an active community of d/Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing people, it's likely that you have been exposed to others signing on a regular basis. Choosing to remain active in such communities will allow you to watch and practice your signing and improve in a casual setting. If you're not active in a d/Deaf community environment, do not fear - there are plenty of resources available for free online which you can watch.
6. Use facial expressions
Facial expressions are a great tool to use when it comes to communication - they are essential in conveying tone and feeling when talking, and are even more important when signing. Need some proof? Look at the story Charlie Chaplin tells with his facial expressions and body language.
7. Take classes
Whether you're a beginner who's learning to sign for the first time, or a veteran who needs to brush up on their form, classes are a great way to help you perfect your signing technique. Signing classes are worth the investment - they allow you to practice in a group or individual environment where your skills can be evaluated by a professional, rather than in a social environment where there is less of a focus on the
8. Practice everywhere!
Some of us choose to only sign when we're in an environment that prompts us to. For example, some may only sign whilst in the company of their d/Deaf community, or at a signing class. As we know, practice makes perfect, and the more practice that you can do in front of others, the better! Immersing yourself into all things d/Deaf culture is another great way to help you to inadvertently improve your skills.