General tips

On this page we are going to share the things we learned in hopes to help others through this learning process.

sign for asleep

1. Differences between Signing English (SE or SEE) and A.S.L. – Our intention is to provide a free sign language dictionary and not accentuate differences. Signing English (SE or SEE) is more literal word for word, where as A.S.L. is more literal thought for thought (concept driven).
Signing English (SE or SEE) uses the English sentence structure and grammar. A.S.L. not only has its own vocabulary, but also its own grammar that differs from English. Many of the signs of (SE or SEE) are based on A.S.L. just modified or expanded to offer more precision. For example the use of affixes such as the word asleep, seen above

sign for me and I

2. single vs plural words
When making signs of words that are single the hand is usually stationary for example, me, or I – personal pronoun. see above

sign single use

or man. see above

sign for us plural use

When making signs of words that are plural you use a sweeping motion such as for us (seen above);

or you can do the sign more than once or with a slight hop to the right as with: men.

sign for went option 2

3. Making up signs – When you discover words that you use often but have no signs for, make them up. We have made some signs up. This is part of learning any sign language, finding ways to communicate that work for you and those around you, do what works for you, none of this is written in stone. There are some guide lines for making up words.
An example of one word we made up is the word “went”. We made up before we found that S.E.E. uses the past tense of “go” for this word, but we found we like to use an initialized action similar to “send”. So here is our version of went above.

word option 1

4. Word options – Signs often vary from one community to another.  If you learn a sign on this site and meet someone who uses a different sign for the word, don’t panic, just ask them what it means. When given options for a single word, which one you use is up to you and the community you are with.  For example the word “best” above and to the right

inflection general tip
sign for inflection General Tip 5

5. Inflection or expression of words – When making the signs, think about acting out what you are trying to say.  Just as when you talk and use face expressions and tone in your voice, you use the same facial expressions and maybe exaggerate the signs some to add emphasis to words.  Most of the time signs are made with smaller movements but you can exaggerate the signs. Use natural body jesters, such as shoulder shrugs (example: perhaps above left), etc.
Some signs are like playing charades, like boat or comb above right, etc.

tree with words on it General Tip 6

6. Where to start – When you are just beginning to learn sign language it is helpful to start with the words you use the most. If that seems overwhelming start with the list of the 500 most used words* in the English language. According to some sources there are over 170,000 modern words and over 47,000 obsolete words in the English language. Some resources suggest there are over 600,000 English words. It is impossible to have enough signs for all those words. The average person speaks between 12,000 and 20,000 words. The higher the level of education the more words an individual uses. Some report that Shakespeare used more than 30,000 words in his written works. S.E.E. boasts that if you learn their basic words and add the use of affixes and compound words, one could have over 60,000 signs. Though they do have some words we never use, as they are in an area of interest that we just do not have part in. #

*  – 500 most used words
#If you are interested in more information about how many words there are in the English language check these out:

sign for all
sign for all

7. Finger spelling – Finger spelling is a part of every sign language system so, it is good to practice spelling words with the sign alphabet.  When finger spelling if you have double letters such as CC or LL move your hand slightly to the right a little to indicate the second letter.
The first graphic above: is what the sign “all” looks like when someone is signing to you.
The second graphic above: is what the sign “all” looks like when you are signing it, the mirror image

SEE General Tip 8

8. Practicing – If you want to practice signing and there is no one around try signing in front of a mirror.  You can also use your web cam if you have one and set it to not flip the image.

SEE General Tip 9

9. Speaking when signing – Whether you mouth the words (or speak them) when you sign or not is really a personal choice.  We have done it in either way depending on the situation. Between two people who are familiar with sign language they usually do not mouth the words.

sign for give

give option 1 (original sign)

sign for give directional 1

give directional 1

sign for give directional 2

give directional 2

10. Direction of signs: The “give” sign as well as many others can be directional, meaning you can point your hands in the direction of the person intended, example 1. You can reverse this sign (start with your hands out and roll them back to yourself) to indicate someone giving to you, example 2.