Learn ASL in 31 Days: Day 18:: Fingerspelling #2

  Today you'll be practicing your fingerspelling!


Now, don't you go clicking away! I'm watching you...


Fingerspelling is a VITAL skill in ASL. Vital.



Learn ASL in 31 Days | Day 18 Fingerspelling 2

Think about it -- if you don't know the sign you can fingerspell it. Plus, there are a ton of words that don't have signs that need to be fingerspelled.


I'll tell you, one time when I was semi-new to ASL this man that was Deaf was fingerspelling a word to me and I was so lost. I had been practicing fingerspelling, but holy crow, he went so fast and his fingers were so different than what I was used to. That sounds really weird to say, but it's true, some people's hands are just hard to get used to.


Anyway, he was getting so mad at me. He kept fingerspelling the word over and over again, and faster and faster, and then *yelling (not helpful at all) and then finally gave up. What was frustrating was eventually I pieced the word together, but then realized that I didn't know the city he was talking about. So my fingerspelling stupidity grew into geographical stupidity and the man was done talking to me.


I was mortified. I prided myself on being a fairly competent signer.


The good part of this story -- a few other people who were Deaf came up to me and were super supportive and conciliatory to me.  I made sure I practiced my fingerspelling even more (another good thing to come from this).


Fingerspelling practice is two fold.

1. You practice fingerspelling for others

2. You practice receptive fingerspelling.


The hardest one is typically receptive.


Use the mirror!  Use the mirror!  The mirror will help a ton. On top of that you'll want to watch others fingerspell. When you use a mirror you already know what the word is that you're spelling out so it's partially cheating. When you use the mirror just focus in on other skills and not figuring out the word.


If you're learning with someone else practice with each other. Make up your own word lists and take turns throwing words back and forth.


Watch videos. I'll be making more videos on fingerspelling practice so you can practice your receptive skills.


Make sure when you are watching fingerspelling you are figuring out the word correctly.


  1. Sound it out!!
  2. Look at the handshapes and the flow of the letters  (remember it's just like how you read a printed word).
  3. Try to anticipate what the next letter or the remaining part of the word could be.
  4. Do not say each letter. Sound it out!  It bears repeating.


Don't say  D-A-D. Instead say, /d/ /a/ /d/


    5. Just like when you learn to read, link the sounds together.


For instance, mmmmmaaaaaad  instead of just /m/ /a/ /d/. If the person is signing at a brisk pace you clearly won't have time to hold out your letters for so long, but try to link the letter sounds together to form a cohesive word.




Okay -- I'm done jabbering and nagging.


I lied.


One more thing. I signed each group of words at 3 different speeds. Before you rewind to watch words you may have missed watch all 3 speeds. You may surprise yourself and find it easier to understand the faster speeds. If you have to rewind that one section several times don't beat yourself up about it. This skill takes practice.  You'll be better at it if you relax.


Relax your eyes, your mind, and your heart rate.


Just chill and do your best. Sometimes I find myself focusing beyond their hand, sort of like those magic eye pictures from the 90s. Seriously, relax.




I did NOT include the answers to the words in the video. I have provided that list below. Watch the video first and no cheating!

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The next tab has the answers to the fingerspelling practice. Make sure you only click on it once you've watched the video and have done your very best to figure each one out!


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Did you watch the video? No? Then stop reading!!! Yes? Great work!

Let's see how you did. 3-letter words: dog cat mat buy pin gum bob ice

4-letter words: chat that cart sail fire song king food

5-letter words: smart storm feast march looks games pages candy bigger words: jumping author integrity transportation




* yelling in ASL can be very intimidating! The person, of course, looks extremely angry, their hand(s) are coming at you. Which is why when you fingerspell I tell you not to "knock" your hand because that is how you yell. There is no hiding that you're angry when you're signing. I have been thoroughly yelled at a few times and it is not fun at all. That's a story for another day.

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