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The soft brush of right palm against left. The mixture of shapes and signals that somehow fit together to form words. It’s the silent beauty of sign language.

It’s a testament to the human spirit and our ability to communicate whatever the circumstances. We succeed where our hearing fails.

It’s an extraordinary way to speak without sound, a method of communication that requires the speaker to be actively, physically involved in what they have to say.

So, whether you’re already in the process of learning American Sign Language or are just here to dip your toes in the silent waters of sign, we’re here to help. Here are five basic sign language phrases to get you started!

The Gift of Choice

When sign language is not our only way to communicate, we often fail to realize the value of certain tools, such as audio transcription or cochlear implants.

Next time you find yourself in that situation, don’t worry about what to say or how to say it. Just use these common phrases in sign language instead!

Sign Language Phrases to Help You Say Hello


It’s easy to forget what a gift hearing can be. We greet each other without a second thought, taking for granted the ability to hear the other person’s response.

To say hello silently, bend your thumb towards the palm of your hand and keep your fingers pressed close together. You’re currently signing the letter “B”. Next, raise that hand to your forehead and then away again in a sort of salute.

I Know a Little Sign

Use this phrase to show the person you’re communicating with that you might not be ready for any deep philosophical discussions in sign language just yet.

Start by pointing to your chest to signify “I”. Then, with your fingers pressed together and bent halfway towards your palm, move your hand towards your temple for the word “know”.

To show the word “little”, hold your index finger and thumb about half an inch apart with your remaining fingers curled against your palm, as if to say “it was this small”.

For “sign”, point both index fingers towards each other, then rotate one hand over the other towards yourself.

What’s Your Name?

When we can hear, we may even find it difficult or awkward when trying to communicate with those who can’t. We might struggle with what to do or how to act.

But instead of worrying about making a fool of yourself, take a deep breath and get the conversation started by asking their name. 

Extend both your index and middle fingers on both hands, tap the middle finger of your dominant hand on the index finger of your non-dominant hand twice, and then point to the person you’re speaking to.

Nice to Meet You

First, brush the palm of your dominant hand over the palm of your non-dominant hand in a sweeping motion.

Then, with the index fingers of both hands extended, bring your hands together so that the back of your non-dominant hand is facing the other person.

Thank You

Start near your chin with your thumb extended, your fingers pressed together and your palm open towards you.

Moving your whole forearm (from elbow to fingertips), lower your hand to about chest level so that your palm is now facing upward. It’s as simple as that!

Give It a Go!

The best way to learn is to practice, practice, practice! Master these basic sign language phrases and then slowly work your way towards learning more complicated phrases.

You’ll be ready for that deep philosophical conversation in no time!

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