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Using American Sign Language at the Movies

written by: Heather Marie Kosur•edited by: Tricia Goss•updated: 2/7/2013

Signers must learn specific vocabulary to be able to talk about the movies. The following article describes some helpful ASL vocabulary. Also available is a printable study sheet of the vocabulary in the article.

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    ASL at the Movies

    Signers who use American Sign Language as their primary means of communication must learn specific vocabulary to communicate successfully at the movies. For example, ASL signers must use different signs to discuss different types of movies such as comedies, horrors, and romances. The following section provides descriptions of the motions used for some basic signs needed by ASL signers at the movies.

    Movie – Hold the left hand at chest level with the palm facing the body and the fingers apart. Place the right palm on the left palm with the fingers apart. Sweep the right fingers back and forth with the palms touching.

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    Useful ASL Vocabulary

    Comedy Movie – Begin with the right hand shaped with the index and middle fingers pointing out straight and touching, the ring and pinky fingers on the palm, and the thumb on the ring and pinky fingers. Then touch the right index and middle fingers to the bridge of the nose. Swipe fingers down to the tip of the nose twice. Finally make the sign for movie.

    Credits – Form the right hand with the palm facing down, the pads of the index finger and thumb touching and pointed down, and the middle, ring, and pinky fingers spread open and pointing to the left. Touch the index finger and thumb to the top of the right side of the chest. Then move the right hand down to the middle of the breast.

    Horror Movie – Begin with the hands in fist with the right hand in front of the right armpit and the left hand in front of the left armpit. Make a horrified facial expression. Then open the hands with the palms facing the body, the fingers apart, and the fingertips facing the opposite hands. Move the hands toward each other twice. Finally make the sign for movie.

    Popcorn – Begin with the hands held in front of the body at chest level with the palms facing up. Place the middle, ring, and pinky fingers on the palms of the hands with the thumbs folded on top of the fingers. Rest the index fingers on the thumbs. Lift the left hand to shoulder level and point the index finger up. Lower the left hand and index finger back to chest level while lifting the right hand to shoulder level and pointing the index finger up. Repeat motion with both hands.

    Preview – Begin by forming the right hand with the ring and pinky fingers folded onto the palm, the thumb resting on the ring and pink fingers, and the index and middle fingers spread apart to form a V. Place the right hand on the face with the index finger touching above the right eye and the middle finger on the right cheek. Move the right hand straight forward in front of the face. Then hold the left hand in front of the body at chest level with the palm facing the body and place the right hand behind the left hand with the back of the right hand touching the left palm. Finally sweep the right hand up and toward the right ear.

    Romance Movie – Begin with the hands in fists with the thumbs pointing up. Hold the fists in front of the left armpit with the bottom joints of the hands touching each other. Move the thumbs down to touch the index fingers twice while moving the fists from in front of the left armpit to in front of the heart. Finally make the sign for movie.

    Seat – Begin with the left hand held in front of the body with the middle, ring, and pinky fingers folded onto the palm, the thumb resting on the folded fingers, the palm facing down, and the index finger pointing straight to the right. Form the right hand with the ring and pinky fingers folded onto the palm, the thumb resting on the ring and pink fingers, and the index and middle fingers together and bent at the knuckles. Then tap the right index and middle fingers on the left index finger twice.

    Soda – Begin with the left hand held in front of the body at chest level with the palm facing the body. Curve the left fingers toward the body and curve the left thumb away from the body to form a circle. Spread the fingers of the right hand apart with the palm facing down. Insert the right middle finger into the circle formed by the left hand. Then quickly remove the right middle finger and quickly slap the right palm on top of the circle with the fingers still spread open.

    Ticket – Begin with the left hand at chest level with the palm facing towards the body and the left thumb pointing up. Form the right hand with the ring and pinky fingers folded onto the palm, the thumb resting on the ring and pink fingers, and the index and middle fingers spread apart to form a V. Bend the right index and middle fingers at the knuckles. Then insert the left hand between the right index and middle fingers and tap the right hand against the left hand twice.

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    Downloadable Vocabulary Sheet

    The accompanying printable vocabulary sheet of ASL vocabulary for use at the movies is available for download at At the Movies ASL Vocabulary Sheet.