Fingerspelling Techniques

There are some techniques and methods for efficient fingerspelling.

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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.

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). [Video will be demonstrated here shortly.]

Fingerspelling Error

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

Double Letters

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

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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 other 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.

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This is an example of the individual spelling for double letters in apple.

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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".

Practice Tips

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

  • Talk in fingerspelling to yourself in the mirror.
  • Practice with your sign language partner.
  • Use fingerspelling font in your emails to your friend. :-)
  • Resources

    Groode, Joyce Linden. "Fingerspelling: Expressive and Receptive Fluency." DVD. DawnPictures, 1992.