Lesson: writing your first ASL sentences

In this ASL writing lesson, you will learn how to recognize symbols and their meanings in ASL writing; to write your first two sentences; and to read aloud other partner's two sentences in ASL (if you have a partner doing this lesson together).

First, look at the basic ASL sentence below:

I love ASL in writing.

You might feel a bit overwhelmed at first. Don't worry. It's going to be much easier than you first thought. You will find that it makes sense to you shortly.

I love ASL in writing explanation.

See the image that explains the meaning of these symbols. First of all, remember that reading ASL is from the signer's perspective, not a listener. It's the same way a writer scribes from the author's voice. That is, an ASL-speaking person reads written ASL from the author's voice (expression).

The sentence is glossed as "IX-me KISSFIST fs-ASL".

Terminology: Digibet in ASL writing is equivalent to alphabet; digits are the ASL equivalent of the English alphabetical letters. In ASL, there are over 50 handshape primes, plus a set of movement symbols, and locative symbols; comparatively, there are about 42 phonemes in English. The number of phonemes is reduced to 26 letters. It wouldn't be surprising that the number would be also reduced a bit in ASL writing.

ASL sentence name

First the second ASL sentence above.

In the first sentence, you might recognize the first symbol as you just previously learned. Some of you might recognize the second symbol (if you already know some basic ASL vocabulary in the signed form). It's NAME (verb). The third part in this sentence is a fingerspelled name: JOLANTA.

ASL sentence name explanation

That is, it's glossed as IX-me NAME fs-JOLANTA.

Now try and write down your first two sentences as follows: "IX-me NAME [fill in your first name]". Writing your name digit by digit (handshape by handshape), using the digibet below based on the alphabetical letters. Because, you either probably don't have a signed name or you probably haven't learned how to write ASL symbols for your signed name.

ASL digibet

Next, write the second sentence: "IX-me KISSFIST [fill in one word]." You can either write the ASL word (see if there is a written word in ASL in the ASL dictionary) or write the fingerspelled English word.

Once you are done, you and your partner can switch each other's piece of writing. Read and decipher them, especially the fingerspelled part of a name. Also, read aloud in ASL.

Done! If it's your first ASL sentences, congratulations!

Student comments

Students: "It feels like a puzzle game." It's a common experience of the students.