Numbers in Sign Language are used to helping sign and express an amount, age, or distance, especially with time of day, date, dollar, or currency amount. It’s one of the most critical assets next to fingerspelling.
The cool thing is when you are looking to specify that there’s more than one item (plural) – you’ll sign the item first, followed by the quantity.
It is different from English since you don’t have to change the item to plural by adding “s” to the end – you simply show the thing before you tell how many.
For example, you don’t need to say something like, “Four napkins, please.” Instead, you’ll say, “Napkin Four.” I’ll explain more about how the order of ASL can be different from the word order of spoken English later.
When you pick up the skill through numbers in sign language, you’ll be able to open many doors – like you’ll be able to give someone your phone number, the dollar amount, to make an appointment, or to tell someone how many dogs (or cats) you have.
When you are emphasizing quantity and counting things, sign the numbers 1 through 5 and 11 through 15 with your palm facing you.
With the numbers 6 through 10 and 16 through 19, you’ll want to keep your palm facing to the person you’re signing.
Sign Language Numbers – 1 to 5
Palm Orientation: Make sure to keep your palm facing toward your body when you sign the numbers from one to five, unless you are specifically telling someone a quantity, which means your palm should face away from your body as you sign.
The numbers from one to five are important signs to memorize because you will use them more frequently whenever you’re signing higher numbers!
Sign Language Numbers – 6 to 10
Palm Orientation: Your palm should always face away from your body when signing the numbers from six to ten. The numbers between six and nine are also significant numbers to remember because you’ll use them more often when signing higher numbers.
It’s also important to note that the sign for six and the letter, “W” are identical, and the sign for nine and the letter, “F” are similar, too.
Sign Language Numbers – 11 to 15
Palm Orientation: Your palm needs to face toward your body when signing the numbers, eleven to fifteen, unless you’re specifically indicating a quantity, meaning your palm needs to face away from your body.
These numbers will have a repeated motion – if you don’t understand what this means, simply click the button to play video to see how it’ll work.
Sign Language Numbers – 16 to 19
Palm Orientation: Your palm needs to face toward your body and then turn away from your body as you transition from the “10” handshape to the single-digit handshape when singing the numbers from sixteen to nineteen.
For example, if you want to sign “18”, you would use the sign for “10” and then sign “8” quickly together.
Sign Language Number – 20
Palm Orientation: Your palm should always face away from your body when signing this number, twenty.
This sign has a unique approach as it comes with a repeated motion from a modified “2” (same with the letter, “L”) handshape to a modified “0” handshape.
Sign Language Number – 21
Palm Orientation: Your palm needs to face toward your body when signing the number, “21”.
Just like the number, “20,” the number, twenty-one has a unique way as it changes from a modified “2” (similar with the letter, “L”) handshape to a “1” handshape.