5 Quick Tips for Signing the ASL Alphabet

Signing the ASL alphabet should be pretty simple right? It's just some letters, after all. You'd be surprised at how often the alphabet is signed incorrectly.

Even taught incorrectly!

I know. It hurts me too.

Signing the ASL alphabet isn't always as simple as it seems. Use these 5 quick tips to really master the alphabet and prepare for fingerspelling.

Let's jump into the 5 quick tips so you can sign the asl alphabet like a natural!

1 Keep your hand still

This is a well-known tip, especially if you're in my course or practice group. At least, it should be!

  • Don't bounce your hand up and down, you'll make people sea-sick.

  • Don't punch your hand, you're shouting!

  • Don't twist your hand here and there and everywhere. Make sure your hand is facing the correct direction.

Keep your C, D, and O facing FORWARD, not to the side!

2 Keep your hand relaxed

Don't squeeze your hand into the letter. Don't keep your fingers stiff or tense.

  • You'll wear your fingers and hands out.

  • You'll slow yourself down when you begin to fingerspell.

Keep your fingers loose, but not sloppy, mamby-pamby, wimpy loose. Rest them on top of the other fingers.

When you sign E, M, N you especially want to rest your top fingers on your thumb. Don't dig your fingers into your thumb, and don't squeeze them.

You'll thank me later.

3 Warm up your hands

When signing, your arms, hands, and fingers are your tools. They're as important to you as a singer's voice, a soccer player's feet, and an artist's materials. You have to take care of them. 

  • Warm up your hands, wrists, fingers, and arms.

  • Stretch them out when you're done.

  • Shake them during your practice time to help them relax and loosen up.

  • Take breaks when your hands or tired or when your brain is tired. If you start to feel pain, STOP!

As an interpreter I am required to warm up before each assignment, take breaks during the assignment where possible, and cool down afterwards.

When I worked at our local high school as an interpreter we received massages every month as a way to protect our tools. All this to say, I'm super duper extra serious about taking care of yourself.

Signing the ASL alphabet isn't always as simple as it seems. Use these 5 quick tips to really master the alphabet and prepare for fingerspelling.

4 Say the sound

When you're learning your letters or practicing your letters say the sound the letter makes, rather than the letter name.

For instance, say /eh/ instead of E.

I realize many letters have different sounds. The vowels each have at least 2 sounds each. Say the most common sound for that letter. You'll learn how to adapt and adjust the sounds later.

Why are you saying the sounds?

To get ready for fingerspelling.

Already fingerspelling? This is going to skyrocket your ability to understand what's being fingerspelled to you!

Sounding out the words is the best way to do it.

If you're sitting there saying C-A-T instead of /c/ /a/ /t/ (sounds like: caaaat) then you're going to get behind translating C-A-T into cat. You're giving your brain two times the work.

If you've ever seen someone that's Deaf fingerspell, there's no time for that! You need to be quick and ready for the next word or sign that'll be coming at you.

I cannot stress this enough. SOUND. THE. LETTERS. OUT.

5 Really know your alphabet

Take the time to really know your alphabet. Not just, oh yeah, I uh, know the ASL alphabet. But OH YEAH!!!! I know the ASL alphabet backwards and forwards with both hands! Literally.

  • Learn to recognize the shape of the letters.

  • Practice the alphabet at varying speeds.

  • Sign the alphabet with both hands.

  • Sign the alphabet backwards.

This will help your fingers gain strength, get used to transitioning quickly between letters, and get your brain to stop over thinking.

You'll know your letters so well that you won't have to think about how to do each single letter, you'll just be able to do them. It'll become second nature.

Your ability to fingerspell quickly will increase a bajillion fold. Well, maybe not that much, but a lot.

Master the ASL Alphabet

I've created a fun workbook and video pack for you to be able to master the ASL alphabet.  In fact, that's what it's called.

Master the ASL Alphabet Workbook + Videos

Master the ASL Alphabet Workbook + Videos

Signing is a two-fold experience. You need to both know HOW to sign the letter and UNDERSTAND it when it's being signed to you. The ASL workbook and videos are designed to help you accomplish both.

  • Practice understanding the letters without having to wrangle someone else to practice with you.

  • You will enjoy your practice time rather than dread it.

  • You'll feel comfortable and confident with the ASL alphabet.

  • Your ability to fingerspell will become natural and easy.