How to Fingerspell Double Letters in ASL

Want to know how to fingerspell double letters in sign language? Learn the 3 rules (plus 2 alternative methods) and see plenty of examples to see exactly HOW to use the rules. Download the free practice sheets to retain the rules and make sure you can do it too! Check it out. 

My hand was stuck on repeat. M-I-S-S-P-P-S-S-P-P-I-I no M-I-S-S-P-P-S-I-P-P-I-I-S-S

Oh no… my brain’s shut down. I’ve known how to spell Mississippi since 1st grade. What do I do? Why didn’t I just go with the state abbreviation?

 

In the middle of a job interview... my hand goes on the fritz.

An ASL interpreting job interview at a high school.

During the video interpreting exam portion.

 

Out of the blue, after nailing the Phineas Gage lecture, my hand/brain (I couldn't tell which) decided it would no longer perform for a panel of 10 people staring at me, watching my every sign. And videoing it for posterity.

My hand kept stuttering over the double letters; repeating the word and trying to put letters in the right order didn’t work.


I just smiled and moved on like I spelled it right and nothing was amiss.

 

You may be fingerspelling right along, happy as a lark, and then wham! Your hand stutters over a double letter. What is that I’m supposed to do? I’m not supposed to bounce my hand… so what’s the right way to do this?

Avoid all double lettered words?

Nope.

 



 

The fingerspell rules:

There used to be concrete Do’s and Don’t’s when it came to double letters. Now, it’s a bit more flexible.

 

The old rule: always arch.

The new rules:

  • Slide
  • Tap
  • Arch

 

How to slide your double letters:

 

Want to know how to fingerspell double letters in sign language? Learn the 3 rules (plus 2 alternative methods) and see plenty of examples to see exactly HOW to use the rules. Download the free practice sheets to retain the rules and make sure you can do it too! Check it out. 

 

 

Which letters are best to slide:

A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, X, Y

 

How to tap your double letters:

 

Want to know how to fingerspell double letters in sign language? Learn the 3 rules (plus 2 alternative methods) and see plenty of examples to see exactly HOW to use the rules. Download the free practice sheets to retain the rules and make sure you can do it too! Check it out. 

 

 

Which letters are best to tap:

D, K, M, N, P, S, T

 

Arch your double letters:

 

Want to know how to fingerspell double letters in sign language? Learn the 3 rules (plus 2 alternative methods) and see plenty of examples to see exactly HOW to use the rules. Download the free practice sheets to retain the rules and make sure you can do it too! Check it out. 

 

 

Which letters are best to arch:

A, B, C, G, H, K, L, P, R, S, T, U, V,

 

How do you sign double Z?

You make a slightly bent V and sign a Z! 

 

Want to know how to fingerspell double letters in sign language? Learn the 3 rules (plus 2 alternative methods) and see plenty of examples to see exactly HOW to use the rules. Download the free practice sheets to retain the rules and make sure you can do it too! Check it out. 

 

 

It’s super fun, go on, try it... I'll wait.

 

How do I sign a double J?

Hey wait a second, you skipped J! You’re right, I did.

Sign it twice, and move it slightly to the right for the second J (if you’re right handed) and slightly to the left, if you’re left-handed.

Are there any words with 2 J’s in a row? I don’t know. But there could be a string of letters or the nickname “JJ” and you’ll need to know it.


 

I have my own preferences for each letter and showing their doubles.

Since I'm super awesome and friendly like, I'll share them with you so you don't have to spend time figuring out your favorites right off the bat. 

Tap: D, K, M, N, P, T

Slide: the rest of the letters and D

Arch: for emphasis with specific words that the double letters get lost in, and I combine it with the tap for letters: K, P, D

 

Key fingerspelling tips to remember:

  • When fingerspelling a complex, unusual, or weird word it’s important to go the extra mile to make sure it’s clear. That may mean using a different method to sign its double letters, or combing methods. For instance, Tap+arch or Tap+slide

  • Direction of your movement is away from your body. Right handed go to the right, left handed go to the left.

  • If you slide your hand for your double letter, do not move it back to the starting position. Keep it right where it is after the slide.

If you're fingerspelling a string of words, you can move it back for the word after the double letter, but make it a small movement.

In reality, as you gain speed with your fingerspelling (make sure it's natural speed and not forced) your slides and arches will get smaller and your movement back to the next word (if you're fingerspelling multiple words in a row) will be slight. 

 

Double letter examples from the video:

I’ve noted next to each one which method I used in the video.

  1. ROCHELLE < slide
  2. JAZZ < double Z
  3. ZOO < slide
  4. CLASS < slide
  5. JENNIFER < tap
  6. CARROT < slide
  7. LITTLE < tap
  8. RACCOON < slide + arch
  9. BEER < slide
  10. AARDVARK < arch
  11. TODD < tap + arch
  12. NIKKI < tap
  13. EGGS < slide
  14. HIPPIE < tap
  15. OFFER < slide

 

So that’s how you fingerspell double letters

Thankfully the rules aren’t as strict as they once were. Keep your hand moving in the right direction and you’re golden. If someone can read the double letter you’re definitely golden.

And don't worry, I totally got the job.

 

:: stage whisper :: I fixed it in the next sentence. AND I had to fingerspell it 5 more times throughout the lecture and I nailed each one. 

 

Which is your favorite method of showing double letters? Which letter is your favorite?

Mine is T! It makes me feel super cool.

 

MWAH, Rochelle