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How to Finger Spell in ASL (American Sign Language)
Did you ever want to learn sign language? I've been deaf for the last 20 years of my life and I've taught ASL to dozens of people. Even if they don't know anyone that's deaf. People just love ASL.
Not only is it a fun and expressive language. It can also be useful. Tell someone a secret or talk through glass doors. Ask the person on the phone a question silently.
And of course improve communication with someone who's deaf or hard of hearing. It's my dream that everyone at least learns the alphabet. So I put together this guide with memory aids.
A: The hand shape for A almost looks like a cursive "a". The thumb represents the tail.
B: The little finger and thumb form a small "b".
C: Yes it's backwards but to the person you're signing to it'll look like a "C".
D: Hand forms a small "d". Remember the index finger is extended. Not the little finger.
E: The thumb represents the middle line of a small "e".
F: Here's a memory aid for the letter F. If someone made this hand shape to you they'd be saying "Ok". Usually accompanied by a winked eye. "ok" means "Fine". Fine starts with "F".
G: This is a common hand shape you'd make if you where telling someone to "Go" somewhere. Go starts with G.
H: I really don't know why this is "H". But I remember it by thinking of the two fingers representing the middle line of an "H". Or just remember it fallows G and you add a second finger.
I: Just extend your little finger. "i".
J: The letter J has movement so I had to make this short video. You simply draw a letter J with your little finger. I sign it twice in this video. Only drawn once when actually signing it.
K: Point your index finger to the ceiling. Your middle finger to the side and tuck your thumb between them. A memory aid will be added to both "K" and "P". Since they both share the same hand shape.
L: Pretty self explanatory here. Thumb and index fingers form an "L".
M: Tuck your thumb under 3 fingers. The three fingers represent the three humps on a cursive "m".
N: Same as M except only two fingers over the thumb to represent the two humps on a cursive "n".
O: I don't think this one needs any explanation. :0
P: The finger positions are exactly like the letter K except the hand is angled differently. The index finger is pointing to the side instead of up.
A memory aid for the letters K and P is to think of the military having to do "KP" duty. Same hand shapes. Just different angles.
Q: Imagine there's a Q-tip on a table in front of you. This hand shape is how you'd pick the Q-tip up.
R: cRoss your fingers. The letter R is a dominant sound in the word cRoss.
S: Place your thumb across the front of your fist. Thumb position is important. Thumb could represent the curved line in the middle of an "S".
T: Tuck thumb under index finger. The thumb and index finger form a "T" from a side view. (The side view is just a memory aid. When signing T have palm toward the person you're signing to).
U: Index and middle fingers pointing up. Its important that your fingers are touching each other.
V: Just like U but the fingers are separated to form a "V" shape. This is why the fingers have to be touching in U.
W: three fingers form a "W" shape.
X: A lot of people have a hard time remembering how to sign X. Imagine your curved index finger doing one finger pull ups on a big "X" above you. The sillier the better as far as memory aids go.
Y: Form a "Y" with your little finger and thumb. Ironically Hawaii has no letter "Y" in it. :).
Z: This is another one that requires a video because of the movement required. Simply draw a "Z" in the air with your INDEX finger. Do not draw with little finger which is a common mistake.
There you have it. All 26 letters of the ASL alphabet. It's not as hard to memorize as some might think. I hope these visuals and memory aids will help memorize them.
You can practice finger spelling any time. Day or night. Spell out words you see on street signs. Spell the words of a song. You can practice any time.
It's also recommended that you practice with a friend. Because there are two parts to ASL. reading and speaking. You can sign fast because your mind is ahead of your hands. So practice reading too.
One last point. It doesn't matter which hand you finger spell with. But you must only use one hand to spell with. Don't jump from one hand to the other.
I hope someone finds this helpful. Enjoy!
Check out other guides by this author!
I'm a semi professional magician. Graphic designer. I've been deaf almost 20 years but i can hear now thanks to the cochlear implant I got almost 2 years ago.