Interpreting 101: Directional Signing

me interpreting in an sm eventI have been interpreting in a church setting for most of my “Interpreting Life”. Church interpreting is my first love, and still is, while school interpreting/teaching is my passion. The most scary is court interpreting followed by stage/events interpreting while hospital/clinic/doctor’s office interpreting is the most depressing (sigh).

DIRECTIONAL SIGNING simply means “moving from point A to point B.” It’s like going from this place to another place. You are establishing the starting location and moving to an ending location.

signing space
Direction of Signs and Signing Space as modeled by Deaf Moises

You can show a person moving from one place to another by mimicking a “walking fingers” going from your right side to the left. Your audience, in turn sees the walking person going on the opposite; left side to right. Remember that your audience sees you as a MIRROR. The opposite of your signs is viewed. You can also use this by including you as part of the “story”. You can make your walking fingers from your end (putting your hands near your chest) towards any direction.

moving from one place to another
Hand (person) moves from one place to another.

By directional signing, you can show “who did what to whom” through their movement. It shows the subject or the person talking and the act he is doing directing to another place.

For example, if I sign “money” and then I sign “give” starting near my body and moving the sign “give” going in your direction, then I’m signing “I will give you money,” or “I already gave you money.” This is the clearest and the simplest way of signing the action instead of signing each word “I – WILL – GIVE – YOU – MONEY”.

Let’s do the opposite. If I start the sign by holding the sign away from my body and most likely near you (or the person I am talking to), and then move the sign “give” towards me and ends near my body…that would mean, “You give me money.” Again, this is the most understood way of signing the action instead of signing each word “YOU – GIVE – ME – MONEY”.

Now, If I look at you (or an imaginary person I am talking to) and move the sign “give” starting from your position (assuming the person is on your right) and moves to the left, again assuming that there is a person on your left, then I am signing “Give the money to him.”

This “directionality” can be used for many situations which require actions. Here are some examples:

  1.  “May I borrow money?” Direction is from the person you are talking to –> going to you. “You borrow money from me.” is the opposite. You sign “borrow” start near you and goes out to the person you will lend the money to.
  2. Please help me.” Direction is from the person you are talking to –> going to you. “I help you.” moves in the opposite direction.
  3. I meet you/please meet me at…” You hold both index fingers in front of you pointing up, one finger near you while the other finger is far from you. Then the one finger near you moves smoothly toward the one finger far from you.  The index fingers symbolize two persons “meeting each other”. But you cannot limit yourself with just two persons. You can add three or more persons meeting each other by adding more fingers in each hand. So, your five fingers mean you, together with four of your friends will meet him.
  4. Please come in.” You must first establish the location where the person you want to “enter or come into”. If you want to come into your house which is right at your back, then use open hand face up pointing to the person you are talking to, then moving your hand to the direction of your house. It’s a very common gestural sign. Signing ‘PLEASE – COME – IN.” is a very inaccurate and confusing movement. Do you want the person to go inside (which is the sign for IN) your hands?
  5. Carry…“, “Take…” and “Bring…”. These three verbs are very specific in giving out directions. 
    “Bring” means to carry something towards yourself, or when the person making the request is at the destination.

    • “Bring me your bag.” Sign ‘BAG” or point to the bag if there is one, then open hand face up moves starting from the person you are talking to and going towards you.

    “Take” means to carry something away from yourself, or when the person making the request is NOT at the destination.

    • “Take this bag to Pedro’s house.” Sign “BAG” or point to the bag or hold on to the bag, then open hand face up, then add Pedro’s sign name, then sign house.

    “Carry” means to move while supporting, either in a vehicle or in one’s hand or on one’s body. Use “carry” when the person making the request is NOT at the destination.

    • Please carry my bag to the car. Sign “PLEASE”, then “BAG”, then open hand face up going to the direction where the car is located.


Cheers and Happy Signing!!!



Philippine House of Representatives approves “Filipino Sign Language Act”

The House of Representatives unanimously approved on third and final reading last Tuesday House Bill 7503, seeking to declare Filipino Sign Language (FSL) as the national sign language of the Filipino deaf and the official sign language of the government in all transactions involving them.

During the session, all 211 House Members present thumbed up the proposed “Filipino Sign Language Act” which is principally authored by Rep. Antonio Tinio (Party-list, ACT Teachers)

The bill also seeks to mandate the use of FSL in schools, broadcast media, and workplaces when involving the deaf.

It declares that the State, in accord with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, shall continue to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms of persons with disabilities (PWDs).

Likewise, the State shall take all appropriate measures to ensure the Filipino deaf can exercise the right to expression and opinion. Accordingly, the State recognizes and promotes the use of sign languages embodying the specific cultural and linguistic identity of the Filipino deaf.

The FSL shall be recognized, promoted, and supported as the medium of official communication in all transactions involving the deaf, and as the language of instruction of deaf education, without prejudice to the use of other forms of communication depending on individual choice or preference.

In this regard, the Department of Education (DepEd), the Commission on Higher and Technical Education (CHED), the Technical Educational Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), and all other national and local government agencies involved in the education of the deaf shall henceforth use FSL as the medium of instruction in deaf education.

The FSL shall be taught as a separate subject in the curriculum of deaf learners. The reading and writing of Filipino, as the national language, other Philippine languages, and English shall also be taught to deaf learners.

The University of the Philippines and the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF), professional sign linguistics and linguistic researchers in collaboration with the CHED, DepEd and the Early Childhood Care and Development Council (ECDC), shall come up with guidelines in the development of training materials for the education of the deaf. These materials shall be used by all state universities and colleges as well as their teachers and staff.

In the justice system, the FSL shall be the official language of legal interpreting for the deaf in all public hearings, proceedings, and transactions of the courts, quasi-judicial agencies, and other tribunals.

To ensure effective and equal access of the deaf to justice and facilitate their effective role as direct and indirect participants in the legal system, the courts, quasi-judicial agencies, and other tribunals shall ensure the availability of a qualified sign language interpreter in all proceedings involving the deaf, without prejudice to the right of the deaf to choose other forms or modes of communication, if they so prefer.

Hearings, proceedings and transactions shall include those that are held in police stations and before the Lupong Tagapamayapa as well as preliminary investigations and other initial stages in the court, other quasi-judicial bodies and tribunals.

The FSL also shall be the official language of the deaf employed in the civil service and all government workplaces. All government offices shall take reasonable measures, including the conduct of awareness and training seminars on the rationale and use of FSL, to encourage its use among deaf and hearing-impaired government employees.

In the health system, state hospitals and all health facilities shall ensure access of the Filipino deaf to health services, including the free provision of FSL interpreters and accessible materials upon the request of deaf patients or individuals who have deaf family members.

The FSL also shall be used as the medium of official communication in all other public transactions, services and facilities.

Likewise, the FSL shall be the language of broadcast media interpreting. The Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) and the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) shall, within one year from the effectivity of the Act, require FSL interpreter insets, compliant with accessibility standards for television, in news and public affairs programs.

The bill mandates the KWF to promulgate the necessary rules and regulations for the effective implementation of the Act in coordination with the Education Secretary, CHED Chairperson, TESDA Director-General, Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) Chairperson, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the Justice Secretary, and the heads of other relevant agencies, and in consultation with representatives of the deaf community, teachers with knowledge and experience with the use of FSL in deaf education, the academe, interpreters, and other persons concerned.


Author: Rowena B. Bundang – Press and Public Affairs Bureau

Date Published: 02-August-2018, 06:03:04 PM
Link: House of Representatives Official Website

Guys, I created this infographics on what to say or not to say in front or about a deaf person. It has a Filipino (Tagalog) translation at the bottom of every item. This practically sums up my entire advocacy on deaf rights. You may freely download this. Please share this so that people may become aware on how to deal with deaf people. Cheers!!!

What not to say to the deaf infographics

Filipino Sign Language App ready for download at Google Play

Friends, may I invite you to download and test this app in your Android Phone? I called it Filipino Sign Language (FSL) app. It was quietly released in March 17 and is now on its Version 1.5.  It’s a simple informative program that teaches how to fingerspell letters, numbers and special characters using Filipino Sign Language. I designed this as part of the instructional materials in sign language course offering of MCCID College both in classroom and soon to be online. You can download it for free at Google Play Store.

As an added feature, I included a video of the Philippine National Anthem signed by our deaf student using FSL with instructions on how to sign it. It uses the FSL font, the first and only one of its kind which was exclusively designed and distributed freely by MCCID. It upholds one of our school’s major advocacy of recognizing and spreading the use of indigenous signs.

Designing and developing android applications will also be part of our curricular offerings in the very near future. We have already introduced JavaScript programming in our program last school year and will soon add app development using Java in the coming months.

Although this app is the first full-featured app that was launched in Google Play Store and is now in Version 1.5, there will be more promising FSL apps that will come out in the future and are currently in the development stage. There are also apps that are especially developed and used by religious groups. Let us support all of them.

You may download the app by either going to Google PlayStore and search “Filipino Sign Language” or click on the image below to go directly to download page

Google Play Screen

or click on the link below from our official website using your android smart phone and install it directly.

fsl.apk file


This latest release was updated based on users’ feedbacks. This update includes:

  • adding exit button on every page when back pressed
  • modified the fonts used in images for clearer view
  • converted images into labels
  • added captions on Philippine National Anthem video with instructions on how to sign.

Feel free to make comments and suggestions on how to improve the app. Thanks!!!




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