Learning to sign ‘my name is’ in British Sign language (BSL) is a quick and easy activity that anyone can do. It is also one of the most important activities you do when learning BSL because we all need to be able to introduce ourselves when meeting others.
Learning how to introduce yourself is not the the only BSL you need to learn, you also need to know how fingerspell so you can respond and ask people to introduce themselves too.
How to create the signs:
You create the sign for ‘name’ by putting the tips of your index and middle fingers on your forehead. Then twist your hand forward at the wrist until your fingers are pointing straight ahead in front of you.
Signing ‘me’ or ‘you’ is done by pointing. Hearing learners are often reluctant to point as we are told from a young age that it is rude.
To sign ‘what?’, you wave your index finger back and forth in front of you. You also need to furrow your eye brows so it looks like you are frowning whilst mouthing ‘what?’
You need to put all these signs together to form a sentence in BSL, the video below show what the signed sentence looks like:
The signer in the video used the following signs: name – me – what? Some signers just do ‘name – me’. Both ways are correct. It is important to note that questions usually come at the end of a sentence. This is because sign language is grammatically different to English.
After you signed ‘my name is’ in BSL, you then need to spell out the letters of your name. If you need tips on how to fingerspell, you can check out our post on improving your fingerspelling.
Something that every website fails to tell you is that if you ask someone their name, they will reply by fingerspelling! That means you need to know the BSL alphabet AND be able to understand when someone signs back to you. Native signers are quick when they sign so you may not catch all the letters when someone responds.
You may find that when a person gives you their name, they may sign something that doesn’t look anything like letters of the alphabet. You can ask the person who is signing to fingerspell their name again by signing ‘again please’. It is important to always ask for clarification if you don’t understand. You will learn BSL much quicker if you have the confidence to ask about signs.
What is a Name sign?
Deaf Communities have a unique naming system for people who are considered to be part of community. Sometimes a deaf community will decide a person’s ‘name sign’ which the hearing world might consider to be like a nickname. For example, a person who is called Taylor, might be referred to as the sign for a ‘tailor’. This is more friendly than fingerspelling T-A-Y-L-O-R.
Name signs can also represent some permanent feature of another person such as glasses or curly hair or they can just be a person’s initials e.g. instead of fingerspelling Bob Smith, a deaf person might just fingerspell B then S while mouthing ‘Bob Smith’.
Name signs are a fundamental part of Deaf culture. If a hearing person who has learned BSL is given a name sign, then it is an indication that the local community trusts you and considers you part of the community.
Can you give yourself a name sign?
You might think it is a good idea to give yourself a sign in BSL and encourage people to use the sign rather than fingerspell your name. This is not advised as these type of signs are a gift given to you by the Deaf community rather than something you decide yourself. There are also risks with giving yourself a sign e.g. someone in the community may already have that sign, or worse, you might give yourself a sign that is rude or offensive in some way.
Would you like to learn more? You can learn about other signs by viewing our post on essential BSL greetings.
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