Start Learning American Sign Language (ASL 1 – Unit 2)

ASL 1 – Unit 2

In this unit, you will be learning American Sign Language numbers and Deaf Culture.




Conversation Practice

If you are learning American Sign Language with a partner, practice this conversation together:

A: Hi, my name is (your name). What is your name?
B: My name is (your name). Nice to meet you.
A: Nice to meet you.

If you do not have a partner, practice signing with Cristian! In the video below, Cris will be person A. Pause the video when prompted, and reply as person B.

Numbers 1-10

The numbers used for counting are called Cardinal Numbers.

Watch the video clip below. Mando is going to model the numbers 1-10. Practice signing each number.

Number Practice 2.1

Turn to page 4 in your workbook. In the video below, Mando and I are going to sign 10 phrases. Write down the 2 numbers signed in each phrase. The first one has been done for you.

When you’re finished, check your answers in the back of the workbook. Go back and review the questions you missed.

Fingerspelling Practice 2.2

Turn to page 4 of your workbook. In the video below, Cristian will fingerspell 3 names for each question. Two of the names will be the same and one name will be different. Circle the name that is different. The first one has been done for you.

When you’re finished, check your answers in the back of the workbook. Go back and review the questions you missed.

Practice fingerspelling these short words:


Practice these words until you are comfortable signing them. This is just to get you to start spelling!

Lexicalized Fingerspelling

Lexicalized fingerspelling (sometimes called “loan signs”) is fingerspelling that looks more like a sign rather than a fingerspelled word. These are 2-5 letter words that are commonly used and have their own special movements.

Here are some examples of words that are commonly lexicalized:

#APT (apartment)
#DO-DO-(“what do”)

You would use the lexicalized version of a sign if:

  1. You want to emphasize a point.
  2. You want to use directionality (i.e. GIVE #BACK-(signing toward a specific referent).
  3. You want to make a comparison (spell on different hands).

In the video below, Cristian will demonstrate some common lexicalized words.

As you watch the video, make sure that you recognize how these lexicalized words are different from normal fingerspelling.

Reading Assignment

In DJSC! A Student’s Guide to ASL and the Deaf Community, read Step 2: Learn About Deaf Culture and Step 5: Learn the Terminology. If you are going to be a part of the Deaf community, you need to understand the culture of the Deaf. These readings will get you ready for attending Deaf Events and getting involved in the Deaf community.

If you do not have DJSC! A Student’s Guide to ASL and the Deaf Community, you can read this article on Deaf Culture. This article is not as detailed as the book, but it will give you the basic information about Deaf Culture.

End of Unit 2

One more unit down! You’re doing great!

Are You Enjoying the Class? Share Your Thoughts!


  1. Profile photo of Tori Abbott
    Tori Abbott

    When Christine signs she often holds her non-signing hand at her elbow. Is this standard practice or just how she does it? Thank you, I am LOVING these courses!

  2. Remy

    Would it make sense for you to sign “PLEASE SIGN SLOW” rather than just “PLEASE SLOW” for “Can you please sign slower?” Or is the “SIGN” implied by the context of talking?

    1. Michelle Jay

      Hi Remy, You can sign “PLEASE SIGN SLOW” but SIGN would most likely be implied by the context.

  3. Gabe

    The sighner was going a little to fast for me. Please explain how to say SENTENCE for me please. Thank you!

    1. Michelle Jay

      Hi Gabe, Great Question! SENTENCE is signed with two F handshapes starting together (thumbs and index fingers touching) and then moving apart, sometimes with a small shaking movement.

  4. Reace

    Hello, I was wondering if, besides just memorizing them all, there is an easier way of remembering the letters for finger spelling? Like some sort of memory phrase or something.

    I’m not saying I don’t want to memorize them, but I was wondering if there was any easier way. I’m perfectly fine with sitting down and memorizing them.

    1. Michelle Jay

      Hi Reace, The best way to learn the letters for fingerspelling is to memorize them. This way, you are able to practice and gain faster fluency since you don’t have to rely on remembering a special phrase first. I recommend memorizing them the best you can, then while having the fingerspelling sheet in front of you, practice fingerspelling words from the dictionary from memory. If you get stuck, just glance at that letter on your sheet and move on. This practice will have you fingerspelling fluently in no time!

    1. Michelle Jay

      Hi Alex – The middle finger of your dominant hand starts vertically in the fist of your non-dominant hand, pops out, then your flat dominant hand hits the top of your non-dominant fist. 🙂

  5. Alana White

    Lexicalized fingerspelling confuses me, so you only you only use the lexicalized version if you want to emphasize a word? And can only certain words be lexicalized?

    1. Michelle Jay

      Hi Alana – Yes, only certain words can be lexicalized. You can use the lexicalized version for many reasons – sometimes the lexicalized version is the preferred sign (for example, #BUS is more widely used in ASL than the initialized sign for BUS).

  6. Stacy

    I’m confused about the sign for FINGERSPELL. In one phrase it looked like she was moving her fingers almost like on a typewriter, then in another phrase, it looked like she was moving her hand in a circular motion with her hand kind of in the sign of “F” Are there 2 signs?
    Also I had learned that APPLE was signed with your knuckle and in the video, it’s with your thumb. Are both correct or did I have it wrong?

    1. Michelle Jay

      Hi Stacy, Thank you for your comment! The sign FINGERSPELL is made by wiggling the fingers of your dominant hand as you move your hand to the side. What you are seeing is a natural variation between signers. And yes, both versions of APPLE are correct, but signed with the thumb is the more “English” version of the sign that was used by one of our deaf signers in one of the lessons. APPLE signed with the knuckle of your index finger is considered the more ASL version.

  7. Aj

    I have a question, what is the difference between understand and don’t understand? I’ve seen two different signs and I was really curious.

    1. Michelle Jay

      Hi AJ, The sign DON’T UNDERSTAND is usually just signed as UNDERSTAND while shaking your head.

  8. Alex Ruby

    I can’t seem to understand the difference between the sign “FOOD” and “EAT”, is there a difference? Also do I need to open my mouth to sign it? Thank you.

    1. Joey

      As far as I have been taught there is no difference, in the same way “drink” as a noun and as a verb are the same sign? I don’t know if you need to sign it with an open mouth but I don’t think you have to, or they would have made a note about it

    2. mjay

      Hi Alex and Joey,

      Actually, as you will learn in the next unit, there are noun-verb pairs in ASL – like FOOD and EAT or CHAIR and SIT. You will find that nouns are normally signed with two movements while verbs are signed with one.

      And no, you do not need to open your mouth to sign FOOD or EAT. 🙂

      Hope this helps!

      God bless,

      Michelle Jay

    3. Angela

      “Eat” your fingers comes up to your mouth once… “Food” your fingers tap your chin twice. No you don’t need to open your month to sign it.

    4. Ashlynn

      For the sign FOOD, you tap your chin twice. For the sign EAT, it’s only one tap. I’m just learning sign, so I don’t know if your mouth should be open or not.