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Using American Sign Language in a Restaurant

written by: Sonal Panse • edited by: Rebecca Scudder • updated: 4/11/2013

Learn some of the American sign language (ASL) phrases or words that might be signed in a restaurant. We explain the signs and motions needed for vocabulary related to ordering and eating in a restaurant.

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    In American Sign Language (ASL), conveying the thought or idea matters more than signing every word of a sentence. You can convey your meaning with one sign instead of signing several words to form a sentence like you would in Signed English (SE). Word order also is of secondary importance, although you do need to establish time frame (example - tomorrow or yesterday) at the beginning of the sentence and append 'wh-' question words at the end of the sentence.

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    Signs for Words & Phrases Used in a Restaurant

    Restaurant - Make a right “R" hand – the middle upheld finger crossed behind the index upheld finger, other fingers and thumb folded. Touch the fingertips to the right side of the lips.

    I/Me - Point to self at the mid-chest level.

    You – Point to the person

    Waiter – Hold both open palms facing up before you (like someone carrying plates) and move them alternately back and forth

    Please – Move the flat, held-together right palm against the chest in a circular motion.

    Want – With both palms up, extend hands and then curve hands back in a drawing gesture toward yourself a few times.

    Table – Fold your arms before you, holding the left palm over the right one without touching and then bringing the upper left palm down on the lower right one.

    Sit and/or Chair – For sit, extend together the index and middle fingers of the left hand and place the extended curved index and middle finger of the right hand over them. Repeat this twice for chair.

    Hungry – Make a right “C" by slightly curving the fingers and thumb of the upheld right hand. Pass the “C" hand from the center of your chest in a downward motion to touch finger tips to the stomach area.

    Menu - Raise hands and bring both palms close toward each other and then turn them toward you, in a gesture, like opening a book. Run right index finger down left palm like running finger down a list.

    Excuse me – Extend your left hand with the palm up and, bending the right hand at the knuckles, pass right hand fingertips from the little finger to index finger the over open left palm. Do this twice to indicate “Excuse Me".

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    Drink – Form a right "C" by curving fingers and thumb and move hand toward mouth a few times.

    Water - Hold up your right hand in a "W" - that is, first three fingers held up, with the middle finger held slightly forward than the index and third fingers, the little finger bent with the thumb bent over it. Touch index finger to your mouth a few times.

    Order - Hold up both hands before you, with the right held higher at chin level and the left one about shoulder level. Extend the index fingers of both hands, keep thumb straight and up, folding the other three finger. Now move the hands pointing the extended index fingers forward.

    Food – Join right fingertips with thumb and move toward mouth twice. Could also mean eat.

    Dinner - Make "Eat" sign and then bring bent right hand over left hand held before you palm down to sign "Night".

    Lunch - Make "Eat" sign and then raise up right hand to face level with the fingers curved slightly toward you. Straighten right hand palm, the right hand being held straight up, and place the left hand, palm down, under the right elbow. This signifies "Noon." Lunch combines "Eat" and "Noon."

    Breakfast - Make "Eat" sign with right hand. Bring right hand down with the fingers curved and the palm facing upward. Bring left hand down over it and brush down to wrist, raising right hand as you do so.

    Fork – Make the right “V" as in the victory sign. Keep your left palm open and up. Move the right “V" into the left palm and repeat the gesture.

    Spoon – Make the right “H" by extending index finger and forefinger together, and folding third finger, little finger and thumb into the palm facing yourself. Keep your left palm open and up. Raise right hand from left hand toward your mouth. Repeat this a few times.

    More - Touch fingertips and thumb of right hand. do the same with the left. Hold up both hands facing each other before you. Move inward toward each other and touch tips. To say one more, you just raise and drop right index finger.

    Bill - Jab your right index finger into your open left palm and repeat the gesture.

    Money - Bring right hand fingertips and thumb together and bring down on open left palm and repeat the gesture. Or circle right hand thumb over fingers together in the universal sign for money.

    Thank you - touching your lips with the front of the fingers of your right hand. Palm should be open. Move your hand away from your face, palms upward. Smile.