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It is common for new signers to feel as though they do not sign well enough to talk with Deaf people. But unused signs are never seen. Practice and use signs to improve.

Admit Your Level – Realize every skilled signer was once at your signing level. No one was born signing. Language must be learned. You must learn one step at a time.

Accept Your Mistakes – No person will ever sign perfectly. Even Deaf people make signing mistakes. Learn to laugh at yourself when you are wrong. Learn and improve.

Activate Your Signs – No person can see the signs you are thinking. Practice the signs you know with a Deaf friend or a skilled signer. Talk about sports, hobbies, food, etc. Signing involves communicating with your hands and “listening” with your eyes. Conversation helps you practice both. Try turning off your voice and thinking in signs.

Ask For Help – Many Deaf people or other signers are willing to help you learn. Ask for their help. Let them correct your signs. Watch how they use their face when signing. Ask them to help you use your face with your signs.

Acknowledge Your Limits – If you do not understand a Deaf signer, put your pride aside and ask him to repeat, slow down, or explain. Do not blindly nod “yes” when you really do not understand. Every signer has limits.

Appreciate Deaf People – Realize that Deaf people are people. The person is more important than the language. Become genuinely interested in Deaf people and develop a friendship based on more than just sign language!

Confidence comes as a series of successes. Learn in small steps and never stop. Instead of saying “I’m not good enough,” practice your newly-learned signs with all your might (Ecclesiastes 9:10). You will become “good enough” much faster than expected! I did and you can. – jb

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