A Question From a Reader…

Question:  Is there such a thing as a “dominant” and “non-dominant hand-rule?

Answer:  The answer is “Yes”.  American Sign Language does have “rules” about dominate-hand usage.  The hand you write with usually becomes your dominant hand when signing.  For example, if you are right handed, the signs that require movement will be made with this hand.  However, when signs require the use of both hands, the dominant hand does the movement while the non-dominant hand is used only as a support.  For example, the word HELP requires the use of two hands.  The non-dominant hand rests in the palm of the dominant hand, and the dominant hand then lifts (moves upward) to complete the sign.  Also, there are times when both hands will be doing the exact same movement.  A good example here is the word CONTINUE.

Obviously, there will always be some exceptions to this “dominant-hand rule”.  For example, my first sign language teacher insisted that I must always use my right hand as my dominant.  Now, for those who know me, I am a very strong left handed user.  In fact, most of my family is left handed, but trying to be a good student, I did not object to the teacher’s requirement.  From that day forward, I started signing with my right hand being the dominant one.  However, on occasion, I will sign something like “throwing a ball” with my left hand, and not with my right.  For simple signs like “ball”, it is okay to sign with either hand.  You won’t go to sign language prison if you do this.  However, the more consistent you can be with your dominant hand, either being left or right, the better your sign clarity will be.

The most important thing about sign language is that your expressed message needs to be understood by the receiver.  So, a challenge to you the next time you are conversing with a person in sign language is to notice how many signs you express using the wrong hand.  Then, come back and share your numbers with us.  We would love to receive your follow-up.

Thank you to this reader for sending us this question.  If you have questions that you would like to see answered in this blog, please send them to us at [email protected] .