Once your hands learn to move a certain way, why not learn as many signs as possible that have the same way of moving your hands with just the handshape changing?

To start the process of building a sign language vocabulary, 250 plus signs have been organized into 31 sign family groups.  The sign families are composed of signs having a similar movement.  For listing purposes the sign families have been organized on the drop down menu based on whether the dominant hand moves, both hands move, or one hand “sets the stage” as the dominant hand moves.   Additionally, on the drop down menu you will see “Handshapes”.  There are a few more handshapes, besides the manual alphabet, that you will want to know before you check out the groups.

There is a video of a family member or myself showing the signs in all of the sign family groups. There is also a brief  description of how to make the signs for each group.  Watching the video will help with clarity of the movement description.  (We are all right-handed , therefore our right hand is our dominant hand, so left- handed viewers keep that in mind when watching the videos and reading the movement descriptions!).

All of the signs are found in one of the four sources: Random House American Sign Language Dictionary (5,600 signs edition), aslpro website, lifeprint website, and a sign language classroom book Signs of the Times.  This is important to mention as different regions of the country have their most commonly used signs.  The rule I followed in asserting myself as a late-deafened person, who uses signs in English word order to enhance communication, is if I found the sign in print and I liked it, I would use it.   Therefore, I selected signs that are easiest for me and my family to remember and sign.  Our focus as a family is to communicate with each other.

I encourage my family to say the word when they make the sign as speechreading helps me to understand and allows for variances in signing.  Saying the word for the sign also helps as one sign can often be conceptually used for numerous English words.   For example, signing  “I understand” can be used for many English expressions: “I get it” “I comprehend”, “I follow”, “I grasp”, etc.  Conceptually using a sign can really help you to build your sign to English vocabulary.