Fingerspelling Techniques

There are some techniques and methods for efficient fingerspelling.

The fingerspelling above is what it looks like in general and by standard. It is fluid. Though, fluent signers have adopted some certain styles and movements for some words and certain letters.

A very common habit among hearing ASL students and self-taught signers is that they fingerspell bouncingly. Don't bounce when fingerspelling. It's your first crucial step to efficient fingerspelling.

Pause Technique

How does one recognize a space between fingerspelled words. There are several subtle indicators. A person indicates a brief pause or space between fingerspelled words. It is the equivalent of a space in spoken or written forms. In addition, the person also indicate a slight stress of the first or last letter of each word, along with a non-manual marker (eg. slightly nodding).

In this natural, native-level fingerspelling, notice the pause between the first and the last names in these videos above.

Fingerspelling Error

In the event of spelling incorrectly, a signer usually gives self-correction cues to acknowledge the error and starts to spell again.

Those videos show an example of how to self-correct an error in spelling. This goes the same for signing. When one mispronunces in ASL, they self-correct the sign and continues on. A little disclosure: The errors were made on purpose.

Double Letters

Some words have double letters, such as "Anna", "pizza", "apple", etc. There are a few techniques for fingerspelling the double letter in a word.

One of the techniques is the "glide". The video above shows an example of using the glide for the letter "n" in "Anna". The signer glides the double-letter sideway briefly. However, this movement does not work for some alphabetical letters (e.g. it does not fit well for "p" in "apple"), in which one has to fingerspell the double letter "individually" like any other letters.

This is an example of the individual spelling for double letters in apple, using the "bounce" technique.

Another technique, though unique that works only for one alphabetical letter, is the double "z" as in "pizza", in which the handshape has double bent fingers instead of a (single) index finger. The video above illustrates the double letter "z".

Receptive Skill Practice Tips

It takes some time to learn to finger-read. Here are some suggestions for developing receptive skills in fingerspelling:

Watch videos and assimilate ASL signs. Read fingerspelled words as whole words (configurations), not letter by letter. This sign language website has fingerspelling receptive skill practice. See the link below.

Practice with your sign language partner in person or via webcam.

Use fingerspelling font in your emails to your friend. :-)

Related posts

Related posts: fingerspelling for foreign words.

Practice your fingerspelling receptive skill using an activity online.