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Dominant hand

Students learning New Zealand Sign Language often get confused about which hand to sign with. Do they use their left or their right? It depends on which hand you use to write with. So if you write with your right hand then you mostly sign with your right hand. Or if you write with your left hand, your left hand will do most of the work. When discussing New Zealand Sign Language and signing, your writing hand is called your 'dominant' hand, and it's important to be consistent when signing.

Now I'll explain the use of dominant hand in detail by grouping signs into three categories. The first group is straightforward – the sign only uses the movement of one hand, so it's your dominant hand that moves. For example, the signs "deaf", "me", "sister"– these signs are pretty easy. The second group involve signs that move both hands such as "how many?", "how are you?". For this group your dominant hand is less important as both hands use the same kind of hand shape when signing. The third group is a little trickier because they are signs that use both hands, but the hand shape of each hand is different. For example, the sign for "time" – which hand uses which hand shape or movement? The key is to remember your dominant hand; it's your dominant hand that does most of the work. So for the sign "time", you can see one hand is doing most of the moving and your other hand tends to do less work – in this case, staying still completely. Together they sign "time". It might seem a bit complicated to remember, but after a short time and a bit of practice, it will start to come more naturally to you.

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