What is the proper way to speak about the action of carrying out sign language without being repetitive?

  • to speak sign language (seems to imply using voice and mouth)
  • to sign sign language (is repetitive)
  • to sign (people might just think one was making just a one-off specific gesture as opposed to being engaged in the process of speaking a full language)


  • 1
    Try to perform.
    – LawrenceC
    Aug 10 '16 at 16:00
  • 1
    .. to use sign language?
    – JavaLatte
    Aug 10 '16 at 16:01
  • I think "to use" is probably most appropriate. Thank you. Aug 10 '16 at 16:04
  • 1
    It would depend on the context. If it were clear that I'm narrating what someone's communicating in sign language, I would use mostly the same verbs as for speech. Said carries the general meaning expressed, and is normally repeated often. So, asked, replied, indicated, repeated, and even something like yelled, which is communicated in sign language. Aug 10 '16 at 16:04
  • Interesting. So I guess even in sign language one can tell or speak softly. :-) Thanks. Aug 10 '16 at 16:07

The correct verb is "to sign". And you would use it like so:

He was signing so fast I could barely keep up.

Sorry, I don't sign.

Since this is the only intransitive use of this verb, your meaning should be clear (within the constraint that this is not a top-of-mind activity for most people.)

Note that a person who signs for a living is an "interpreter", not a "translator".

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