1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: Duolingo
  4. >
  5. How do you practice fingerspe…


How do you practice fingerspelling? (American Sign Langauge--ASL)

Just wondering what your strategies are?

Learning to fingerspell involves two main parts: 1) learning to fingerspell 2) learning to follow other people's fingerspelling (called receptive fingerspelling. By far the harder of the two).

For the first category, I fingerspell things to myself throughout the day. Usually, objects I see or words I read. I also pick a word and work on fingerspelling it over the next month or so until I can get really fast at it. Then I add another word the next month. I keep practicing all of the words on the list as I go. This has helped me improve my speed a ton because my fingers have gotten used to combinations of letters, rather than just individual letters.

For the second category, I mostly haven't done much to practice outside of live signing conversations with friends. So, I could definitely do more to increase my skill, since I'm no longer have transportation to attend weekly ASL Club meetings.

When I was first starting to learn fingerspell, however, my friends and looked up videos of people signing books of the Bible. Then, I would go to the book of Genesis (I think it was that one) that records a loooong list of names of Adam and Eve's stated progeny. Since these names are fingerspelled, it gave me a lot of practice. I would also look for youtube videos, like this one, RIT's #DeafScientists video that had additional cool information as well as going at normal speed. (The Bible vids often go a little slower.). My friends and I would also use a phone book. The receptive person would say the name of the person we were fingerspelling.

What about you?

ASL alphabet chart

July 9, 2017



Just a tip from someone learning to sign later in life, be super gentle on your hands.

The hand poses in the picture above are all very tense in order to show as much clarity as possible. But, in real life, the hand is relaxed or you get carpal tunnel syndrome.

A few tips:

When curving my fingers over my thumb to make the M or the N hurts my hands, I hardly curve them or I let them stick straight out, like a solute over my thumb. Deaf friends haven't had any difficulty still reading the letters. I also don't do a dramatically curved loop for the J. That tends to put too much cumulative strain on my wrist. And I definitely don't angle my wrist like that into 90 degrees for the P. instead, my wrist and arm are almost perfectly aligned. To differentiate it from the K, I either raise my arm up for the K, or very slightly tilt my wrist up. The main point is don't do things that hurt or strain and make sure to do hand and arm stretches before and after a session of fingerspelling practice. :)


Receptive fingerspelling is so difficult, I agree! To practice, I use Lifeprint:

I also watch the news in ASL from The Daily Moth. It helps with receptive fingerspelling and understanding the language. :)


I can't believe I forgot about Life Print's Fingerspelling practice tool (SilverCharacter's second link). I never noticed their quizzes page before. So, thanks for that too!
The Daily Moth is so great! I follow them on FB. Sometimes they offer transcripts in the comments, sometimes not. I like when there are transcripts, because it helps fill in what I've missed.


I love The Daily Moth! Great source for news.


My tip - don't get hung-up over fingerspelling. Don't put yourself down if you have problems reading fingerspelling. Some people's fingerspelling is just more difficult to read than other's. There's a whole lot more to ASL than fingerspelling - and that's often only used for names and a few very short words. One actually spends very little time fingerspelling in ASL. Re-reading this I noticed I forgot one of the most important items I could suggest - relax. Try not to get tense.

For actual practicing, I suggestion practicing some letter combinations such as CK, ST, AT, LY, etc. Attempt to smoothly transition from one letter to the other. Don't bounce your hand - it's perfectly OK to hold one hand with the other. Don't go for speed - I mean don't try to go faster than the speed of light.

Anyone who wants to learn ASL, I suggest practicing facial expressions. Sounds easy, but it really isn't. When starting to learn sign, beginners get very nervous and tend to look like robots when they are signing and look like deer staring into headlights when watching someone sign.


At this point, I don't really practice fingerspelling as it is just a part of sign language interpreting and communicating with the Deaf. One thing to keep in mind is that when Deaf people spell words out, they don't always spell each letter or sometimes misspell the word they are spelling, so we get taught in the interpreting program to look at the shape of the word or use clues from the rest of the sentences to figure out what they spelled.


True. I've noticed that mustard is shortened to just MRD.

Thanks for the great tip!


American Sign Language, I've never tried learning sign language before. The weird part is that where I live there is a huge community of deaf people and those who learn sign language. It's really cool that someone can learn a method of communication with someone who can't speak/ hear. It truly proves that even with disabilities, it's not the end for people.


The bummer thing is like, being deaf is only a disability in terms of society accommodates hearing people but not deaf people. Deaf people weren't disabled in Martha's Vineyard because everyone knew sign language and society was set up with deaf people in mind.


I find 'reading' finger signing quite difficult. Actually, last week, one of my friends signed "a r e w e d o n e" to me (in Auslan) and it took me five goes to work out what she was signing. XD


receptive signing takes a lot of practice. But, it definitely gets easier over time. It just is a lot of time lol.

Learn a language in just 5 minutes a day. For free.