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It's Not All In The Hands

Now, which area should the listener focus on? Should it be the hands? The face? The mouth? Generally, the listener should look at the area of the face, but keep in mind to shift your view outside of the focal area when necessary. Although we do a lot of talking with our hands, our faces do the talking too. When you listen to a person voicing their words, you can easily identify the speaker's tone. Tone can range from low to high, soft to firm, fast to slow, upbeat to monotone. When speaking ASL, you will be able to catch tone visually by watching the signer’s face. With practice, the listener will be able to capture the signs around and outside of the face.

Signing Space

late/not yet

This is a difference in mouth shape. If you focus on the hand only, you would think it is the same sign, but the difference is shown in the shape of the mouth.

understand/don’t understand

Both are the same signs, but the head shakes to show negation for don’t understand. This is why you should be sure to look the overall space.


Both signs are very similar, but the facial expressions are different. When you sign competitive, your face will look like it is ready to compete.