LISTEN in sign language

How do you listen without hearing? Eye! Deaf people listen with eye as hearing people listen with ear.

ASL signs for 'listen'

"How do you sign 'listen' in American Sign Language?" There are two versions of it -- one for the hearing listeners and another for the deaf listeners. The difference of the signs is the location -- one relates to listening via eye and another via ear.

Definition: to give one's attention to a visue; to give attention with the eye; attend closely for the purpose of h-eyeing.

Pronunciation/articulation: Dominant "C" handshape, palm facing left, points toward the dominant ear. You may sometimes see a signer using the "L" handshape with the thumb pointing toward the ear.

[Video contributed by Tad Keller, 2018.]

Definition: to give one's attention to a sound; to give attention with the ear; attend closely for the purpose of hearing.

Related words


Antonyms: IGNORE, DISREGARD, DEFY, FLOUT. go in one ear and out the other.


Cartoon by Roy Delgado
Cartoon by Roy Delgado.

Listen typically evokes an association with ear or sound. It's actually more to do with the attitude and attention rather than hearing.

"The problem is not that the (deaf) students do not hear. The problem is that the hearing world does not listen." -- Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, American civil rights activist, Minister. 1988. This quote refers to the Deaf President Now: a student protest/movement in 1988.

In circa 2001 in an painting class at the university, a hearing instructor looked at my work in progress. He blew out his hands in exasperation with a facial expression as he walked away while speaking to the interpreter who translated to me something like, "Those (hearing) students don't listen and don't follow the instructions right. She is deaf and she follows the right instructions through a third-party information!"

Deaf signers can listen out of peripheral vision, too, that sometimes a hearing person thinks they ignore. For example, while a native-signing Deaf mother was very busy attending to her coda (child of Deaf parent) toddling around, her hearing partner talked in ASL. He was upset, "Hey, why you don't listen?" She sharply replied, "I do! I listened out of peripheral vision."

Baby listening very well

The ASL-speaking baby Juli listened very amazingly. See how deeply she listened with full alertness in the video.

[near future video]

The baby eagerly looked at her mother for the ASL word (sign) and then looked at the picture in the book and back and forth.

The post describes the development of gaze shifting, gaze-following, and gaze-turning, especially the fun gaze turn-taking games with her through mirrors in my documentation.


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