It’s All in Your Face!

American Sign Language (ASL) has many unique attributes that helps signers with the understanding of expressed thoughts and ideas, such as the usage of facial expressions.  Now, not everyone will have their “face” (facial expressions) on all of the time.  However, the more expressions you exhibit, the greater the chance your message will be understood.

On occasion, deaf individuals may ask for clarifications because facial expressions are not present.  Now, if this were to happen, do not feel insulted, nor should you consider it rude.  Instead, change how you are signing the message, and merely add more facial expressions. Your facial expressions show if you are sad, mad, shocked, surprised, disappointed, happy, jovial, etc.  Use them to the best of your ability.

Another feature of American Sign Language (ASL) that is critical to command while communicating with a deaf person is the use of your eyes.  While engaged in a conversation with a deaf person, you should be looking at the deaf person the entire time while conversation is taking place.  However, if for any reason, you break eye contact, it is considered rude.  Now, I can just imagine what you are thinking as a hearing person.  There are numerous times when we hear something, and we automatically look to the source of the noise for an explanation.  However, you have to try your best to break that habit of looking away when you hear a noise, or if someone is calling your name while you are conversing with a deaf person.   So, if someone is calling your name, or trying to get your attention while you’re signing with a deaf individual, what can you do in this situation?  (Can you just feel another poll coming up?).

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Another way to use your eyes while conversing in ASL is with eye gazes.  You may be talking about a certain person in the room, but the deaf person doesn’t quite follow who you are referring to.  So, with a quick and swift eye gaze over to the person you are (so secretly) talking about, you can let the deaf person know who it is, and make it easier for them to follow the conversation.  You can also use your nose and head in the same sense.  For example, a mere twitch of your nose can be used to indicate a person “over there”, which is similar to a tilt of the head to point out the presence of someone.  Who knew that learning American Sign Language could be this much fun?