Fingerspelling is an important part of Sign Language. Not only is it important, but it is something that many people struggle with doing well. This lesson contains some tips for fingerspelling properly which will also help you read fingerspelling better.
- Keep your palm facing the person you are speaking with
- Keep your hand still–don’t bounce
- Spell with a smooth rhythm
- Don’t spell individual letters
- Spell whole words
- Say the word aloud as you spell
Fingerspelling Practice Suggestions:
- Spell the words as you sing a song
- Practice spelling words as you see them in everyday situations
- Practice common words
- Fingerspelling practice website
You can view the closed captions if needed by clicking on the Closed Caption [CC] logo on the video player above.
Now in the last lesson we talked about the alphabet. If you haven’t seen that you can go to LearnSigns.com/1 and that will get you the alphabet.
But this time we are going to talk about fingerspelling and how to use the alphabet. How to implement that. So let’s start off with talking about a couple of the rules that we need for when we are fingerspelling. And that will help you become a better fingerspeller. It will also help you learn how to read spelling. That’s something a lot of people struggle with. But if you learn to spell correctly you will be able to read spelling a lot better.
When you spell you want to keep your palm out. As much as you can keep your palm out. There are the exceptions. There are a couple of letters that you have to turn your palm toward yourself.
But for the most part you want to keep your palm out and keep your hand still. Now, again, there’s the letter J that you have move your hand, but as much as you can keep your palm out and your hand still. You may find that it helps to rest your elbow in your hand and do all of your spelling right here.
Then you also do not want to bounce your hand. You don’t want to bounce it off to the side nor forward and back. You want to spell smoothly with a rhythm. And that way you are not spelling, for example, if I were to spell my name you are not spelling D-A-V-I-D. It’s DAVID. It is one smooth rhythm across there.
So you want to do that with your spelling. And then one thing to help you with that, with the rhythm, is to think of the word as a whole word as a unit. Instead of individual letters.
For example, if I were to ask you to spell the word DICTIONARY with your mouth out loud, not with your fingerspelling, but just with your mouth. Try to say that. Right now try saying the word DICTIONARY (or spelling the word DICTIONARY) out loud. Do you end up doing something like this: D-I-C, T-I-O-N, (diction) A-R-Y?
Is that the way you spell it? Many people do. And it is because we are not used to spelling words like that. We write words. If you were to take the word DICTIONARY again and just write DICTIONARY you probably would not have any problem. You just write it as a whole word, as a unit. And that is what you need to work on with your fingerspelling. You want to spell words as if they are a whole word.
One of the things that will help you spell the word as a word is to say the word. Say the word as you spell it. So you need to spell with a consistent rhythm. To help you spell with a consistent rhythm then you need to spell the word as a whole word. And then to help you spell it as a whole word together is to say the word as you spell it. And that will help you with this.
You are going to do DICTIONARY. Not D-I-C, T-I-O-N, (dictiona) A-RY.
When you try to spell individual letters…well right now, if you are new to fingerspelling and the alphabet you are trying to learn your letters. But as quickly as you can you want to get away from spelling words as individual letters. So it is not C-A-T it is the word CAT.
It’s not D-O-O-R. It’s DOOR. Now it looks the same on the hand. The difference is right here [in your head]. So your difference is in the way you think about those words.
Try to spell the whole word as a word. And then that will help you to spell clearly, smoothly and with a consistent rhythm. And then it will also help you read fingerspelling.
When you are watching another person spell a word. You don’t need to say E-N-CY (ency) CL-OP-E… Ah! I have no idea what that word is. But if you read it ENCYCLOPEDIA as the person spells then you will be able to read spelling a lot better.
Many people struggle with this. They may have known sign language for years but struggle with reading fingerspelling. And if you will learn to spell words as whole words it will help you read fingerspelling a lot better.
So let’s look at a couple of words.
DOG You can spell that with me. DOG
MILK and think of it as the whole word. MILK
BROWN Spell it, it is not B-R-O-W-N. It’s just the word BROWN.
Now each of these words has a sign that goes with it. So these are some basic words to help you with your fingerspelling.
Another thing to help you with fingerspelling is just spell things you see as you’re driving down the road…keep your hands on the wheel. But maybe think through your fingerspelling or, if you are not driving, you can fingerspell billboards that you see up along the side of the road you can see a billboard and spell those words. Or work on common everyday words that you would have to spell.
Another tip to help you with spelling and maintaining that consistent rhythm is try and sing a song. Spell the whole song as you go along. For example. JING oops, let me start over.
JINGLE ALL THE WAY
Now you would not really normally spell a song out like that. Please don’t. But it will help you maintain a consistent rhythm. And making you spell words, because you can’t think about individual letters when you are trying to think about the song and the rhythm of it. And obviously you can’t spell it as quickly as you would sing, at least certainly not now as a new signer. But as time goes on you will be able to spell much more quickly.
Don’t think about speed as your goal. Spelling well should be your goal. So instead of thinking, “Oh I’m going to spell my name as quickly as I can.” That is not your goal. You need to be clear. And you need to spell well.
That means you will keep your palm out. You are not going to bounce your hand up and down. You’re going to keep it out and keep it still. Then you are going to spell with a consistent rhythm.
One of the things that will help you with that is to spell whole words. To help you spell whole words is to say the word. Say the whole word as you go through.
There are websites that will help you with fingerspelling practice where you can do receptive skills. Some sites have people signing or they will have a drawing of spelling a word and then you guess what the word is.
I will put a link to that at www.LearnSigns.com/2 and that will be this episode. www.LearnSigns.com/2 will get you to this episode and in the information along with this video there will be some links to websites that you can go to and practice fingerspelling. So work on your fingerspelling.
Look at lesson 1 to get the alphabet and use these tips in lesson 2 to help you learn how to spell properly. As you spell more properly it makes it easier for people to understand you and it will help you to learn to understand spelling when other people sign for you.
So take those few tips and work on that and in the next lesson we will work on our numbers.