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on August 17, 1999
I use this book to teach Sign Language classes and think it is great. Dr. Costello has a thorough introduction to the language in the beginning of the book. The chapters are broken into "families" of signs, with clear illustrations. At the beginning of each chapter are three "basics" of ASL useage, which introduce the student to not only the vocabulary in the book, but also the way in which the language is used. It's a great book, and her background gives her every right to write a book like this. BTW, if you're interested in a children's Sign Language video, contact me. I am producing one that you may love!
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"Signing: How to Speak with your Hands" will serve many purposes on your signing bookshelf: it's a jam-packed dictionary, introductory grammar text, thorough guide to the non-manual aspects of signs, plus a little historical background thrown in for good measure.

Each dictionary-style entry not only depicts the sign clearly (both starting and ending handshapes), as most books do, but describes the handshape(s) and actions involved in text. PLUS, there is a written "hint" provided for many of the words defined (wherever possible, ie the more iconic or literal signs).


For EGG, the definition shows a picture of the start and end handshapes for the EGG sign. Text reads: "Begionning with the middle-finger side of the right hand across the index-finger side of the left "h" hand, drop the fingers down and apart from each other." The accompanying hint reads, "Hint: Breaking an egg into a bowl," which this motion resembles.

For SYRUP, the hint is "wiping syrup from the lips"; for FIRE, "shows flames rising."

This book groups words thematically into sections, not alphabetically, but rather in categories, like Health, Food, etc. Each section is a treasure-trove of signs, which may be overwhelming to the beginner, but which means the book will not quickly outlive its usefulness.

Each section begins with a few quick grammar points, and grammar is also integrated into the definitions wherever applicable. Grammar points cover topics like the signing space, symmetrical signs, placement and the nonmanual aspects of signing like repetition, emphasis and facial expression.

This book uses an extremely durable binding, which is perhaps its best feature, as you'll be referring to it again and again. It's built to last and will be a lasting addition to your ASL bookshelf for years to come.

NOTE: A previous reviewer has commented that this book over-emphasizes English grammar. I haven't seen that tendency in the book, however, it does perhaps under-emphasize ASL grammar. There is some discussion of noun-adjective order, and some discussion of use of tenses, but nothing I could find about ASL sentence order. I feel the book sidestepped this issue altogether so as to focus on imparting the basics of sign.

You will learn to speak with your hands, as the title suggests, however, if you're new to ASL, you'll probably need to move on eventually to a book that more comprehensively covers ASL sentence structure and "conversational" ASL.
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on August 4, 1997
This book was chosen as the textbook for the "Basic I" sign language class in the signing ministry that recently started at our church. In the six weeks that we have been using it, along with having a gifted teacher, we have progressed to the point where our class was able to understand most of the signs that were used at a play we attended and we have been able to sign parts of the service at church with confidence.

The pictures that go along with the signs are clear and the directions are easy to understand and follow. There are enough signs that you will be able to hold conversations in a very short time. The only thing missing are practice quizzes and fingerspelling exercises. This would be a big help in practicing the vocabulary.

There is nothing that can replace a good teacher, but this book is a great way to learn the basics. If you happen to have the great teacher also, it is an unbeatable combination.
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on January 3, 2003
I purchased this book for an introductory sign language course offered through a local public school. I found it to be a very good starting point, though I quickly outgrew it and needed Elaine Costello's more extensive Random House Dictionary. This book provided a much better overview of ASL than any other I have since seen on the shelves, but if you are wanting to learn a significant amount of ASL, better to forgo this one and purchase the full size dictionary.
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on January 28, 2006
Elaine Costello got it right when she made this dictionary and had it sectioned by topic instead of purely alphabetical. This book is a required text for my college level intro to ASL classes that I teach.
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on November 23, 2015
I got this to use for a sign language class my church was providing and many of the signs seem to be outdated or too "formal" to be used in regular conversation. Our instructor (who is deaf herself) had us change many of the signs in here. Seems to be a little outdated.
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on July 13, 2005
I began taking classes to learn A.S.L. about two years ago, and "How To Speak With Your Hands" was my first study guide. I found it to be an excellent book for a beginner and I continue to use it as a reference tool.
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on March 1, 2016
I finally had to replace this same book because after so many years it has started to fall apart. This is my favorite signing book of all time and my first and favorite resource. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone regardless of your skill level.
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on March 3, 2016
Several signs are outdated according to my deaf instructor. I love the wide variety of basic conversational vocabulary. Pictures and descriptions are very helpful for learning on your own as well. I wish there were a flash card set to go with this as I'm having a hard time finding a set with beginning terms.
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on December 5, 2014
Older book and not perfect, but I really enjoy the way the signs are grouped a lot better than the newer books. It does a good job explaining the basics of ASL linguistics, just touching on how to form signs and the importance of facial expression and body language. However, this book is aimed at building ASL vocabulary. If you want to learn the signs that are used most often in every day conversation it is perfect. For learning the grammatical structure of ASL, taking the 20-40 signs you learn and then knowing how to put them together to form complete coherent ideas, this is not the book for it. Using this book in conjecture with the ASL green books, or as an aid to an ASL class, would be the best use of this book.
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