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American Sign Language: Differences between signs taught by different teachers

Perhaps you wonder why different ASL teachers teach different signs for the same concept. Or maybe you have noticed that there are differences between the signs taught by your ASL teacher and the signs used by your Deaf friend. You may have even noticed that some of your Deaf friends sign differently from each other!

There are a number of reasons that could explain the differences between what you learned from your Deaf friend and your ASL teacher or what you learned from your first ASL teacher and your second ASL teacher.

1.  Regional Variation: Signs vary from place to place.

2.  Instructor incompetence: Perhaps whoever taught you didn't know what they were doing.

3.  Student Error: Perhaps whoever taught you knew what they were doing but you misunderstood what you saw and thus you learned it wrong.

4.  Poor Memory:  Maybe you learned it right but are remembering it wrong.

5.  Multiple right versions:  Some signs have multiple "right" variations.  I might be doing a variation of a sign that is different from what you learned (even though both variations are correct.)

6. Different Language:  You might have learned "Signed English" or some variation of a manual communication system that is different from "ASL."

You might want to go look up certain signs in multiple ASL dictionaries (the printed paper kind) and compare those signs with what you see at  On the individual vocabulary pages for individual signs I often list several variations or versions so it is good to scroll down on the page to see what else I may have written about such signs..

My lessons and information are fairly accurate (considering that I have a doctorate in this stuff, am married to a Deaf woman, have been teaching ASL for a quarter century (yah, I'm old), am h/Deaf (which is a way of indicating that I'm hard of hearing, culturally Deaf, and live in the Deaf world). But hey, if you see something on "Lifeprint" that you are "sure" is wrong or in need of expanding, feel free to dig up my email from my contact page and let me know what it you feel needs fixing and I'll look into it right away.

Dr. Bill Vicars

You can learn American Sign Language (ASL) online at American Sign Language University
ASL resources by    Dr. William Vicars

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