Ever since I failed to recognize the sign for “Hungary” in a conversation several weeks ago, I have made it a personal goal to learn more ASL signs for countries. Related to that, I have investigated about certain countries having “old” ASL versus “new” ASL signs.


The current and traditional sign for China is here. As the website explains, the new version was actually borrowed from China. (The sign language that ASL primarily borrowed from was French Sign Language.) The traditional version is similar to Korea’s traditional version, but does not seem to possess as much of the negative connotations as the latter did (see below). Interestingly enough, the first sign for China that I learned was actually the third sign seen in the link. I’ll sometimes slip up and use it in conversations when I really should not.


There are several variations of the current sign for Korea. The one I most frequently use starts with my right hand slightly above my head, with my fingertips touching my temple – think of doing a salute. Then I (quickly) bring my hand “out” to the right, then back “in” where my fingertips end up touching my lower cheek and my palm is facing down. This is generally the sign for South Korea; North Korea’s sign is the reverse of the South Korean sign, though I don’t quite see the need, as it is easy to first sign “north” or “south” before the “Korea” part. The old ASL sign is the second sign demonstrated here, with the middle finger “pulling” near the right eye. This sign started to disappear from common use due to the perception of it being a pejorative sign, aimed at deriding the many Asians who have long, narrow eyes. Even if that weren’t the case, I would still prefer the current sign as the second one causes my glasses to shift uncomfortably.


Russia’s current ASL sign is displayed here. As the caption insinuates, this sign came to fruition out of the public perception that Russians drink heavily. The hand motion is there to wipe off the ale from your (er … I mean the Russian’s) mouth. The old sign is when you put your hands on your hips twice, palms facing downwards – click here to see. I am unsure why this change occurred, although I can tell you that I have never heard a Russian protest about the new sign. Perhaps they are proud of the hefty amount they can drink?

That’s all for now, but I’ll continue to comment about country signs in the future.