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Fingerspelling 8: 
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A student writes:

     <<My video camera broke. So I can't film myself fingerspelling and then watch the film for practice. It's a dinosaur (1984 model) anyway, so may not be repairable. In the meantime I've been thinking of another way to exercise my brain in receptive fingerspelling skills. Like lots of folks with hearing brains, I'm much better at fingerspelling to someone else than understanding when someone fingerspells to me. It's embarrassing.

What's a visually impaired boy to do? I started talking to myself...

  "Use a mirror."

Ok, that's helpful, but the reflection is backwards. Perfect preparation for conversing with southpaws, not so perfect otherwise.

  "The reflection wouldn't be backwards if you signed at the mirror with your left hand."

Yes, but my left hand is so stiff and awkward.

  "Try fingerspelling with both hands simultaneously."

That'll make it even harder, won't it?
 
  "Just try it, and stop talking to yourself. People are starting to stare."

I tried it, and my left hand was immediately better - more fluid, quicker, almost as good as my right!

I applied this to fingerspelling practice in front of the mirror. In order not to be distracted by the image of my right hand, I seated myself in front of the mirror so as to show only my left side, while fingerspelling with both hands. Immediately my left hand improved. Success!

Ah, but the unexpected benefit of this exercise - that is what I'm truly excited about:

Whereas most (all?) existing fingerspelling exercises separate expressive practice from receptive practice, this one integrates the two. So what? Here goes...

I think that simultaneous symmetrical signing while watching only the mirror image of the left hand powerfully connects expressive practice with receptive practice.
It's a simultaneous real-time match-up of the the physical action with correct visual observation of that action, were it signed to me by another. This exercise fosters a sort of receptive empathy. I "see" what I am signing, and I "feel" what I am seeing.

This process seems to take place below the level of consciousness.
The part of the brain with the right-hand expressive knowledge teaches two other parts - the left hand expressive part, and the receptive part...

1 - The left hand is taught to operate in symmetry with the right. This results in an increase in the general physical expressive skill of both hands, which is logical because more of the brain becomes involved in the process. The benefits of the whole therefore become greater than the sum of the two parts.

2 - As both hands sign, the eyes feed the brain only the reflected image of the left hand, which perfectly simulates someone signing back. This instantaneously and simultaneously teaches the proper visual counterpart to what is signed.

...all without deliberate conscious effort. I just sign and observe, sign and observe.

What do you think?

--Student

Dear Student,

I enjoyed reading about your adventures in fingerspelling. Heh.  The "low-tech" double-handed in-the-mirror approach.   I like it.
It made me think of the idea of using the right hand with two mirrors, the first one would reflect a mirror image and the second one would correct the image.
 
As you observed, fingerspelling with the right hand "pulls" the left hand along.
 
I used to be (and to some degree still am) fascinated with the idea of using this same principle as a cure for stuttering.  I am convinced that if a person who stutters mastered fingerspelling, he or she could use fingerspelling to "pull" the mouth through the articulation process.  Try this...practice fingerspelling a short but tough tongue twister of your choosing.  Then, after your fingers can make the movements smoothly via muscle memory, go ahead and say (but not spell) the twister.  Next try the tongue twister again, but this time fingerspell it as you say it. Notice a difference?
 
Bill
 


   

Section:  Fingerspelling 1:  Introduction  |  2  |  3  |  4  |  5  |  6  |  7  |  8   |  9  |  Lexicalized  |  Font  | Quizzes  |  Practice

 
       
       

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