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How To Learn Sign Language

Improve Your Receptive Fingerspelling Skills ┃ ASL Stew

(Blue Skies ♪♪) (no voice) – Did you get it? You understand? Let me try it again. (no voice) Did you get it now? No? Ok one more time. (no voice) You got it right? No? Ok, well don’t worry about it. Really the reason I was signing that so fast, spelling it, is because I wanted to talk about fingerspelling and receptive skills. You know, are you able to understand people’s fingerspelling? Maybe sometimes somebody fingerspells something. It’s too fast. You don’t understand and how do you improve that? So let’s talk about it. First thing and it’s an old phrase is practice makes perfect. It’s right! If you practice and practice and watch a lot of fingerspelling. Overtime you wil become more experienced and you’ll be able to understand people better. Practice helps to re-train your eyes. It’s true you become more confident in yourself as well. You see something more, you feel more confident in it and you’re more experienced in it. So you can understand them. Now understand that doens’t mean you have to fingerspell really fast or understand people who are really fast, but as long as it’s at a moderate pace it’s fine. So what are some of the things, or approaches you can do to practice for your receptive fingerspelling skills? The first one is find a friend! The best option would be to find a d/Deaf person. Ask them, “hey do you mind helping me practice with my receptive fingerspelling?” They can spell words for you or even sentences and phrases and spell it over and over. Start kind of slow spelling and you know just kind of give a few words here and there. You could for example make flashcards. So let’s say I’m the person watching the fingerspelling. I hold up a card which I can’t see. Kind of like the Head’s Up game. You know on your head you do that. So I’m not able to see it. The other person spells out whatever the words is and I try to understand what the words is. Then if I get it right we go on to the next card. So that’s maybe an idea you could do. If you don’t have any d/Deaf friends, that’s fine you can just– anybody who can sign. Just make sure they are able to go at different speeds. So maybe start with a slower speed and then a more moderate speed, up to a faster speed. If you don’t have anybody, to help you then you can go online. For example they have, which is a website. I’ll have a link down below. There you can watch fingerspelling, someone fingerspells. Then you can pick which word you think it is or type a word. I can’t remember which one. But that could be helpful for you. It’s not the same as having a person there, but still it’s an online tool which is helpful. There’s different speeds, I think slow, medium, and fast– I think. So maybe that could work for you. Find the website maybe there’s other websites. If you know any please leave them in the comments below. Let me know! Now I have two tips to kind of help you to understand fingerspelling better. Now, remember sometimes if a person is fingerspelling, let’s say for example HAPPY or….. I– I don’t know… KNOW– or for example BARN. Ok you can use what’s called closure skills. That means that sometimes even– even myself I don’t quite catch all of the letters within a word. But if you’re able to catch enough of the letters, sometimes you can figure it out or I can figure it out myself. For example someone said “hey do you mind going over to the— let’s say it’s BARN, but maybe I only saw B-R-N. I can guess that it was an A if they say “hey go over to the BRN and get the hay for the cow.” I can figure out that they’re saying go over to the BARN. So I know what that means. So it’s really important not to obsess over all of the letters in the word. You don’t need to do that. A lot of people, you look more at the shape of the word. Like BARN or like HAPPY, it’s more of the shape that’s actually helpful. So you don’t need to know all of the letters of the word. One other approach which is kind of similar to what I already mentioned, is to use the sentence, figure out the words. So what the meaning of the word is. Sometimes you can figure it out with even know all of the letter, or even understanding the spelling word at all! You can just figure out what it is. So use those two tips and hopefully that’s helpful for you and again practice, practice, practice. If worse comes to worse, you don’t have any options, just sign with yourself in front of a mirror. At least you’re seeing somebody spelling. But it’s truly best to ask a friend or even family. Somebody who can sign, d/Deaf or not. But the point is– or also you can use the online fingerspelling tool. So hopefully that’s helped you guys. Keep practicing with the fingerspelling and you will improve. Can’t wait! Hopefully you enjoyed today’s video. If you have click the LIKE button. I’d appreciate it and if you’re not already subscribed please do so. I’ll see you in the next one. Bye! -Nope forbidden. – What if I die after? – Nope – I could die. – Not my problem. – Ahhh (laughs)

68 Replies to “Improve Your Receptive Fingerspelling Skills ┃ ASL Stew”

  • One thing my teacher taught us was the not view it as letter to letter to letter, but instead to sound it out in your head. That really helped me improve. Also like you said, don't obsess over every letter, just go by context and what you did understand and you should be able to figure it out. Good video!!!! Can't wait for the next!

  • is a finger-spelling tester. It's mostly just pictures of separate letters, but they helped me improve my own spelling and getting my hand up to speed. there's a number of letters setting, and fine-tune speed settings.


    This is great because she does the whole word so you can get the word shape instead of the l.e.t.t.e.r.s.

  • I love your videos! I take a piece away from everyone of them. My 18 month old son lost his hearing when he was an infant. Hearing loss and deafness is a brand new thing to our family and you do a great job of educating on issues and giving helpful tips on how to learn. It's intimidating to learn a brand new language but this video in particular gave my husband and myself some helpful hints and we are really going to try and step up our finger spelling skills. 🙂

  • I remember a long time ago, I went to a house that had a sign that read "Free Kitties". I rang the doorbell,and a deaf lady came to the door. Since I didn't know any signs, I thought I fingerspelled "how old are your kitties". I also fingerspelled that really fast, thinking I need to fingerspell it fast, so she doesn't think I'm an idiot. The lady started laughing,and got a pen and paper and wrote a note to me that said "you asked how old are your titties". I was mortified! I mixed up the letters K and T, trying to be fast. But the lady was really nice and wrote that I should take my time,and she appreciated me at least trying to communicate with her. so take it from me, don't try to fingerspell fast when you can't!

  • This so helpful so true! I keep telling my classmates (I'm the only Deaf person within this ASL and Deaf Studies program) exactly all of this you signed/said/posted! I even tell my ASL friends this.
    It obviously doesn't happen overnight! Lots of practice, patience and time 🙂
    I need to remember to slowdown for my fellow learners 😉 Deafie can FS fast sometimes… but changing pace is good too.
    I also mess up! But I also practice how? I use mirror and FS in front of that. Or video myself FS things and watch myself back to see if I understood all the letters and if my flow is right too.
    Great video! Really enjoyed!

  • Thank you so much!! I can fingerspell pretty fast while still being clear, but I'm muchhh worse at the receptive side of things.

    Ps. I loveeee your channel and you and your wife are my relationship goals! Lol too cute! Love y'all :))

  • ty for this video….im trying to learn finger spelling…im faster than i use to be but not where i feel i should be

  • One of my ASL professors told my class about two websites that are really helpful and have 4 speed settings; slow, medium, fast, and Deaf. 1st one is for words, and the 2nd is for numbers,

  • In my opinion, your peripheral vision picks up the pattern of the word, so you don't have to understand each letter. Don't stare at the hand that signs, ask to repeat.

  • My best friend is deaf, and so were her parents. I have always struggled reading fingerspelling, but then every now and then her dad would spell something backwards… made me crazy!!! But I love him.

  • I also heard another trick somewhere (can't remember where): when you practice finger spelling / signing the alphabet, say the sound that letter usually makes, not the name of the letter itself. I've found that helps a lot.

  • Paused the video as soon as you finger-spelled the first time… Gumbo and by the way Gumbo's delicious depending on who fixes them! 😛

  • this actually occurred to me the other day, that its very much like reading. studies indicate that much of the time as we read our brains aren't taking in every letter, our brains recognize and interpret many commonly used words the same way we process images, and often times when reading quickly we mostly see the first and last letters of a word and just glance over the other letters, mostly interpolating from context

  • Hi, when fingerspelling more than one word, are you supposed to pause between words or move to the side after spelling one word? Thank you 🙂

  • here's a somewhat unrelated question for both you and Jenna: is there a high incidence with interpreters and deaf signers of tendonitis and carpal tunnel and have either of you dealt with this? I ask because I was a massage therapist for a couple of years and working full time with little to no rest and not listening to my body has left me with chronic pain in my hands and forearms. I have quit massaging and its been over 3 years now but still I occassionally get pain in my dominant hand and arm. Lately, since I'm learning ASL from home, I am noticing the pain is becoming worse.

  • is also a good fingerspelling website. You can chose how many letters and the speed from slow, medium, fast, and deaf.

  • There's also an app called ASL: Fingerspelling made by for iOS, and I thought it was helpful for me when starting to learn how to fs. It's similar to the version on and in fact developed by the same person. They're unfortunately just images and not the the fluid version of someone spelling a word, but I think it's helpful for letter recognition and you can change the speed too.

  • What do you spell in beginning? I think word starts with G. I see b in word, I think. I know word ends with o. But I cannot figure out any word like that. Please help. Thanks.

  • I'm new to ASL fingerspelling and still not very proficient, but I can provide much better advice than is contained within this video. My advice is concentrate on recognizing common word combinations, such as "ing", "pro", "tive", "tion", "tect", "dis", …

  • Norman Klein, That was such an arrogant statement!!!!! If you are new to ASL fingerspelling , you SIR should not offer any advice to ANYONE ! Instead you should try to learn as much as you can from skilled signers! PLEASE rid yourself of such a condescending attitude ! It will destroy your signing career!

  • I had a client with MS and she became non verbal and could only communicate with finger spelling. She didn't get a lot of PCAs that could understand or learn for her but when I came in and knew the alphabet she lit up like a Christmas tree she was so happy that her mom didn't have to interpret for her when I was around.

  • So, I want to learn how to Fingerspell, but I'm afraid that the grammar part of ASL will be too complicated for me at my age, so I want to stick to Fingerspelling. Fingerspelling is spelling the words letter by letter, correct? I'm afraid that I'll be able to fingerspell my own words fine, but I'll have a hard time understanding other people fingerspell. And I'm also afraid that when I meet a deaf person, I won't know some things that they're saying because I don't know those signs. Could I get some tips and tricks? (I am also sorry if I said anything that doesn't make sense, I'm just now becoming interested in this.) ^.^

  • I know I need to relearn some signs. When I first started learning, I was taught signs that have since changed. Also, I was taught that when a deaf person finger spells, they don't use vowels A E I O U. Is this still the case? I need to get back into studying again.

  • Ehh the fingerspelling was quick… Im not sure what the word was I think its gumbo?? 🤔

    I want to improve my asl. So i thought fingerspelling would be a good step.

  • I bought an app for 3.99 and it's been the best thing for me it's called FingerSpell. My ASL tutor suggested it to help me practice. I use it all the time.

  • Hi I just wanted to let everyone know that along with the website there's a website it's really good for fingerspelling at different speeds amount of letters in the word💕💕💕

  • i can't remember if i asked you were Canadians? are you Canadians? please don't be offended, that is not my intentions. I want to learn ASL

  • I'm soooo bad at this. I can fingerspell like a boss(been doing it for a long time and can do it pretty fast) but don't have anyone to practice with so my receptive finger spelling sucks.

  • Tip #1 : Get a friend
    Me: ;-; i don't have any

    All jokes aside. This is a great video! Thanks for the tips

  • I remembered looking at this a year ago and I could not get this. Now a year later in field using ASL. I got it! Gumbo right?!😊

  • wenever i wanna practice my signing/ finger spelling i lyke to just practice by my selfe for now i now am up to another speed concerning my finger spelling and i learned 0 thru 10 so all it takes iz practice and dedication and just learn @ your owne pace, i love it and i believe that it will come in handy one day. If the Lord will we shall live.

  • I was able to understand you without the interpreter when I turned off the volume. I'm hoping to attend a deaf social soon.

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