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How to Give Directions in American Sign Language

When giving or getting directions in American Sign Language (ASL), you need to keep two things in mind. Get these direction-signing strategies down, and you can tell people exactly where to go and how to get there:

  • Try to start with a point of reference that’s familiar to both of you — such as a store, restaurant, or bridge — then give the directions.

  • Go from big to small; from general to specific. For example, in the U.S., you sign from state to city to neighborhood to street to house number.

This table groups signs for compass points and other directional signals. (Notice that the handshapes you use are the first letters of the words.)

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The following examples show you how to sign directions in perfect order:

  • English: My house is west of the store.

    Sign: STORE — MY HOUSE WEST

    image1.jpg
  • English: Turn right twice.

    Sign: RIGHT — RIGHT

    image2.jpg

    Notice that you don’t use once, twice, and so on; you simply sign right two times (twice).

To give directions, you often establish relationships — don’t worry; you don’t have to commit for very long. This table lists the signs for the situational relationships you use to give directions.

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The sign for "straight" is also the sign for “sober” — the sentence’s context tells you which one the signer means. This same B handshape is used to sign the direction to turn onto a street.

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