Facial Expressions

The expression on your face is "the backbone of being understood," said Keith Wann, an ASL interpreter and comedian. Wann is a hearing Child of Deaf Adults (CODA) and has been performing for 20 years. He said that facial expressions are just as important as the sign you create with your hand.

In fact, many signs change meaning with a different facial expression. This often occurs with positive versus negative emotions, for example a happy or sad expression.

We all use facial expressions naturally when we speak, so it makes sense to use them when signing. When you are signing to music, your face will help convey the meaning of the songs, so don't be afraid to look silly. Facial expressions also take the place of vocal inflections.

In Wann's video to the right, take note of the expressions he uses and how they help you understand the song's meaning, even if you don't know all the signs.

You can visit his website www.keithwann.com to learn more about his work with ASL. You can also watch more of his videos on the music page.

The following are photos of common facial expressions and when they are used:







a bit

A little bit

a lot

A lot


"Cha" - shows thickness


"Oh" - shows thinness

surprise - eyebrows up


Curiosity - eyebrows down

Confusion or curiosity