Tips to help with ASL Fingerspelling

Seven ways to Improve Your Expressive Fingerspelling Skills

Over the years, we have observed that the one of the biggest hang ups that people have with learning ASL is with fingerspelling. For that very reason, we decided to create some helpful, quick videos in hopes to improve your confidence with fingerspelling.


Now, let’s talk a little more about expressive fingerspelling specifically. You may be wondering what “expressive skills” in ASL even means…well in a nutshell it’s you signing and communicating your message through your hands.


We created this post to highlight seven ways to improve your expressive fingerspelling skills and to help you along your ASL journey. Enjoy!


Keep Your Hand In One Position

As tempting as it may be to move your hand as you fingerspell (I mean our hands move when you spell on paper right?!), don’t do it! For the most part, keep your hand in one position as you fingerspell a word. This doesn’t mean you have to be rigid! There will be a natural movement with a progression of a word.  A slight movement with each letter is typical, but avoid large exaggerated movements.


Keep A Steady Hand - Stop with the Bouncing!

Often people “bounce” their hand as they fingerspell a word. To this we say no, no, no! Not only is the movement distracting, it’s also difficult to keep track of the word being spelled with all that bouncing!


Fingerspelling Double Letters

There are two options when it comes to signing double letters, and by double letters we mean a word that has two of the same letters in a row (like in the word letters!).  The first option is to lightly bounce the two letters so its clear to see that there are two of the same letter. Remember to only bounce the double letter. The second option is to slide the letter slightly to signify that there are two letters being signed (see the video for demonstration of both options).


Maintain Eye Contact - Stop Admiring Your Hand

Don’t watch your hand as you fingerspell, keep your eye gauze forward and maintain good eye contact with the person or people you are speaking with. In American Sign Language keeping good eye contact is vital, so be sure to practice this while fingerspelling as well.


It's Not A Race, Don't Be Sloppy

Trust us, you won’t get a metal for the fastest fingerspelling in the land. Slow down keep a good pace and focus on being clear and understandable.


Keep A Natural Pace, Avoid Going Too Slowly

If you fingerspell extremely slow, it’s difficult for others to keep track of the word. You might be thinking, “Well wait, I’m just learning so of course I’m going to be slow at first.” To that we say just keep practicing, and soon you’ll be at a natural pace that’s easy to understand. 


Proper Signing Space

When fingerspelling keep your hand in front of your shoulder. This  makes it easier for the person you’re signing with to see the word being fingerspelled while still being able to see your face, which gives visual cues.

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