Sign language alphabet – ASL fingerspelling: ABC’s
When you are learning American Sign Language, also known as ASL, one of the first things that you have to work with is the ASL alphabet. The modern alphabet used by ASL is derived from a Spanish manual alphabet that dates back more than a hundred years. The alphabet employed in ASL ia a system where each letter has a corresponding hand position. This is meant to augment ASL and the fact that some words do not have signs. In some cases, as with names, signs are derived from a manual alphabet. In this case, it can be seen that the letters of the alphabet can help form independent words, marking ASL as a continually evolving language.
How to hold your hand when signing
If you are interested in fingerspelling, there are a few things that you need to keep in mind. The first is that you should do this with your dominant hand, not switching from one to the other, and your hand should be positioned near your shoulder, with your elbow bent. Your hand should remain in place, with no bouncing occurring unless the letter is doubled, like the T in “kitty” or the R in “ferry.” Keeping good form while you are fingerspelling makes it easier for those watching to clearly understand what it is you are saying.
When working with the ASL alphabet, remember that your hand should always be facing ahead. Some charts that illustrate the letters will rotate the hand to display the position more clearly, but in practice, the palm, no matter what shape it is making, should always face towards the viewer The exceptions are the letters G and H, which are made with the palm facing sideways. Similarly, when signing the cardinal numbers, 1-5 should be shown with the palm facing out, but 6-9 are shown with the palm facing in.
To ensure that your fingerspelling remains legible, remember that you will need to ensure that your hand remains steady and that you do not move too fast. Clarity in forming the words is a good deal more important than speed, and that poorly formed letters will be quite difficult to read. Maintain a steady pace for maximum readability, and remember that a pause means that you are starting a new word.
If you are learning ASL, the ASL alphabet is a good place to start. Remember that you want to keep your speed consistent and your delivery fluid; learning to fingerspell the alphabet is one of the most important foundations of learning ASL itself.
ASL alphabet cheat sheet
Start by spelling your own name and your family members’ names.
Download or pin the sign language alphabet poster and watch the sign language alphabet video below.
Although it is helpful to have an ASL alphabet cheat sheet hanging on the wall or sitting on your phone, it’s even better to see it in action. Especially when you are completely new to it. In the video below, you can see how the hand shape is changing from a natural position to the letter hand shape.
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