Learning to fingerspell is a lot like learning to
First you should start with small combinations of letters like
"cat" then work your way up to longer words. Spell the word over
and over to yourself while pronouncing it normally. For example, the
"c" in "cat" should be pronounced like the letter "k."
don't say individual letters! Say whole words. Avoid spelling the abc's in
order: "a, b, c, ..." Instead, practice using names of family members
and nearby cities. Once in a while spell the sentence "The quick brown
fox jumped over the lazy dogs." (Notice that sentence uses each letter
of the alphabet at least once?) If you need to study for an other class, why not
fingerspell your way through the text?
I recommend that you don't practice spelling license
plates. Sometimes students like to spell license plates while driving or
riding around in a car. I think
this a counterproductive habit because it causes you to think letter by
letter instead of whole words. It is much better to spell road signs like
"exit" and "yield." Again, you need to say in your mind the complete
word, "yield," not just "y" then "i" then
Some people enjoy using a mirror to practice. I've heard at
least one teacher say that mirrors are not good because you see a mirror
image of the sign and not the actual sign. My opinion is that mirrors are
okay (after all you are going to eventually meet up with a left-handed
signer--you might as well get used to it now). However, mirrors are not near as
effective as a camcorder and VCR.
If you have access to a camcorder, you can
videotape yourself fingerspelling various words. Here is an approach: write a
long list of words that are important to you. Then sit down in front of a
camcorder and spell the words one at a time to the camcorder leaving a short
break between words. Then put the video and your list away. After a few
days, get out the video, a blank sheet of paper, and a pen or pencil. Pop
the video into a VCR and test yourself. Write down the fingerspelled words.
Then get out your original list and compare to see how well you did. Keep
making videos and testing yourself until you reach the level of skill you
Of course the best way to practice is with a partner, (a deaf
partner if you
can find one). Grab a friend and a phone book and head for a park or a
restaurant. A phone book is an excellent resource for practicing
fingerspelling because it has lists of cities. (Look under the zip code
section) Then after you have mastered all the cities, you have a few
thousand names you can work on. Or you can look under the government section
and spell various agencies throughout the city and county. Then if you need
even more practice, you can turn to the yellow page index and spell the
various headings in the yellow pages.
An other idea is to play board games.
Many popular board games can be modified to include fingerspelling. For
example, you could play "battleship" using fingerspelling and
One of my favorite activities is what I call the "Helen Keller
speller." You work with a partner. You closes your eyes. The other
person spells a word into your hand and you say or sign the word back to him
or her. Then you switch roles. This is a lot of fun. It even works if the
power is out!
One more idea that will work for those of you who use the
internet: You can set up your chat room to use fingerspelling letters
instead of normal typed letters. They look like this:
That (jpeg picture) is a sample of what is called "fingerspelling
font." The actual name is "Gallaudet font." (Named
after the fellow who went over to Europe in search of information on how to
teach deaf people. Then all
you have to do is sign on to any live chat room and watch the
fingerspelling. Use your search program (yahoo will do) to find the font on the net then
download it into your computer then use your preferences option in your chat
program to select a
fingerspelling font. If you are computer illiterate, make sure you get your
buddy to help you install the font, elsewise it is likely to take you a LONG
time to figure out how to set it up on your own.
There is also a great site or two out there on the web
that will spell words to you and you have to type in the right answer. A few
minutes a day doing that and before you know it you will be pretty good at
In a message dated
5/1/2003 1:03:19 AM Central Daylight Time, Camcmillion writes:
My name is Susie and I am a CODA. My father and his brother were born deaf
also was my step father. The 3 of them went to MSD in Fulton MO the sister
of the first in Hartford CT. They had taught me a 2 handed alphabet and I
the origin of this type of sign. Have you heard of this as I don't recall
all of it. The men who taught me are no longer with us and the deaf
community my mother and Ibelong to, they remember some of it but not all. I was wondering if this is
a form of
My father did teach me some slang words.
These Men had High IQ's, and many talents. Which I have been seeing more and
more as I have aged. I am glad the public and people who need to know more
about this impairment are starting to learn more. Even the public school my
sons attends lets me give small seminars. How can we urge the schools to
make this a
required language as in French or Spanish. I still do not agree with the
majority of the hearing impaired schools who do not allow sign language or
even classes taughtin sign.
Lately I have met women in their 20's who had to pay for sign
language classes. It doesn't seem right. Do you have any ideas on how to
show the importance of this situation?
Sorry, I didn't mean to run on. This topic is very important to not just me
but quite a few hearing impaired persons who needs to communicate with
everyone. I will continue to volunteer my services at the public elementary
school in this area and keep searching for new ways to get the word out.
Thank You for your time and knowledge
The alphabet you are referring to is probably the British Two-handed
Here is a site:
You can find many more such sites by typing
"British Manual Alphabet"
into a search engine. You will come up with hundreds of entries.
For example, I found this site http://www.deafsign.com/ds/index.cfm
which has a fingerspelling translator. You type a word and it spells the
word for you using the two handed alphabet.
Perhaps you'd like to type up a short report for the Lifeprint Library about
your father. A "biography" maybe?
In any case, I wish you well in your endeavors.
In a message dated 5/1/2003
1:03:19 AM Central Daylight Time, Camcmillion writes:
<<How can we urge the schools to make this a required language as in
French or Spanish. I still do not agree with the majority of the hearing
impaired schools who do not allow sign language or even classes taught in
sign. Lately I have met women in their 20's who had to pay for sign language
classes. It doesn't seem right. Do you have any ideas on how to show the
importants of this situation? >>
I suggest you join your state's "Association of the Deaf." Pay their
membership dues and offer to head up an "ASL Promotion Committee." Then
invite like-minded individuals to get involved with a campaign to contact
education leaders in your state and encourage them to include ASL the
Make sure that your state has passed a law mandating that ASL be allowed to
fulfill entrance and exit requirements at all high schools and
post-secondary institutions. This doesn't mean they have to offer ASL. It
just means that ASL can be used for those purposes. For information on ASL
as Foreign Language credit, visit
Then you need to join ASLTA (The American Sign Language Teachers
Association) and encourage other ASL teachers to do the same. It is no good
if they pass laws and set up classes then have no one to teach the classes,
or worse, if they hire incompetent instructors who don't know ASL, Deaf
Culture, and appropriate teaching methods. All three are important.
Next, make a list of every person at every school in your state who has
direct influence on curriculum decisions and course offerings at their
school. Type up a letter explaining the value and benefits of ASL and its
increasing popularity as a course of study. Send it to those people and
encourage them to contact you.
You said that you didn't think it was right for people to have to pay to
take a sign language class. There are two sides to that. I make a living
teaching ASL. But I also donate my time to help others. This letter is an
example of that. So I think it is okay to charge for teaching ASL just as if
I were teaching any other topic. But I also think there needs to be a
balance. Families and educators of Deaf children need low cost, subsidized,
or free access to ASL training.
It costs money to run a campaign and people need to see ASL as a valuable
resource, not as a charity. That doesn't mean that you can't still do free
workshops, I'm just saying that people need to recognize that ASL
instruction as an honest profession.
Vocational Rehabilitation and school districts can be pushed to pay for ASL
training for deaf children and their families. There are laws which point in
this direction but the agencies will fight you because they have only so
much in their budget. So push for it anyway and let the legislature
appropriate more money for them next year.
Have a nice day,