Getting to Know One Another
Once you have learnt how to make basic introductions in sign language you will want to be able to converse more readily with people. This will mean you will need to learn all of those signs you need for getting to know one another. These signs are ideal for a beginner because a conversation where you are getting to know one another is as formulaic as any conversation can be, so you will be expecting the kinds of answer you will normally get.
As there are many different sign languages in the world, in this article we will concentrate on those signs in British Sign Language. Some of these signs may be the same or similar to other sign languages, but it is easier to concentrate on one, just as you would a spoken language.
BasicsBasic phrases for introducing yourself are covered in the greetings and introductions article. But if you want to get to know someone rather than just passing the time of day with them there are more basic words and phrases that you are going to need to learn.
Question words will always come in useful for such occasions - as what, where, who, why and how can always be pieced together with other words to make basic questions - the grammar may be incorrect but you will be understood and then can learn the grammar at a later date.
What - this sign is acted by wagging the index finger from side to side, like shaking a finger at someone.
When - is demonstrated by putting your fingers against your cheek and touching each of the fingers against it.
Who - is similar to what but the index finger moves in a circular motion.
Where - palms are held open facing upwards and moving in a circular motion.
Why - the index finger is touched against the opposite shoulder of the person speaking.
How - the hands are held with palms facing upwards and fingers interlocking.
Building on the FoundationsYou will need more words to build on these foundations so you can ask things like 'What is your name?', 'Where do you live?', 'Who is your husband?', 'What to do you do for a job?'. All of these questions have set structures in sign language as they do in English but first you must learn the vocabulary you will need.
For living questions, the word for address is made by rubbing the middle finger against the shoulder. Age is said by fluttering your fingers in front of the face. Favourite is a good word for getting to know people and is said by holding your hands as fists and thumbs pointing towards your mouth before sweeping them down and turning the thumbs horizontal. The sign for hobby and interest is the same - clawed hands rubbing up and down the chest. The word for work is hands held open, with one hand making a chopping motion onto the other.
Of course, these words merely scratch the surface of what you will need to know to be able to have a fully fledged conversation with someone in sign language. But they at least give you a starting point, and when you begin to learn grammar you will know the words you need to string together to make sentences. In the meantime, the words allow you to have a basic level of communication with other sign language speakers.