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Signing - Fingerspelling

Don't Know Sign Language? Try Fingerspelling


Updated April 17, 2011

What can you do if you do not have the time, or ability, to learn sign language? You can learn to fingerspell. What is fingerspelling? It is the use of the sign language alphabet, also known as the manual alphabet.

Fingerspelling is quick and easy to learn, and can be used to fill in the gaps with deaf and hard of hearing people who miss a word here or there. It helps me greatly when I can not lipread everything that is said to me.

How I Taught Fingespelling

When I taught the sign language alphabet to classmates and friends, I came up with this method of teaching it quickly:

"The letters of the sign alphabet look similar to written lowercase letters," I would explain. Then in the "lesson:"

  1. Here's A,B,C..
  2. D looks like a D; so does E; three fingers up for F.
  3. Shoot out a finger for G; make an H; pinky up for I.
  4. Draw a J..K looks like a K. So does L.
  5. Three fingers down for M; two for N. Ois like a telescope.
  6. P is an upside-down K; Q an upside-down G.
  7. Cross your fingers good luck for R. Make a fist for S.
  8. T is tricky; two fingers up for U; spread them for V.
  9. Three fingers up for W; crooked X. Y looks like a capital Y.
  10. Draw a Z.

To get people to master the alphabet quickly, I would have them master the alphabet in groups of three letters at a time. For example, first I taught A,B,C. Then the "student" had to repeat it. Next, I taught D,E,F, and had the "student" repeat from the beginning - A,B,C,D,E,F. Using this method, most of my "students" mastered the alphabet in minutes. Even the slowest ones took no more than a couple of hours to master it.

Fingerspelling learning resources


Several sign language dictionaries are online and have the alphabet. Another online resource is sign language clip art.


Most sign language videos and software teach the sign alphabet. Videos and software can be bought through vendors of deaf and hard of hearing products.


Most sign language dictionaries will have the alphabet, and there are also books with only the sign language alphabet:

  • The Handmade Alphabet (ISBN 0140558764) (compare prices).
  • Handsigns: A Sign Language Alphabet (ISBN 0811811964) (compare prices)
  • I Can Sign My ABCs (ISBN 093032319X) - This is one of the books I used to teach my own children the sign language alphabet.
  • Finger Alphabet (ISBN 0931993466) (compare prices)

Fingerspelling Fun

There are many online games for fingerspelling:

Another possible place to find fingerspelling games is the Sign Language Games article at About Deafness.

Related Video
How to Sign the Alphabet in ASL
  1. About.com
  2. Health
  3. Hearing Loss
  4. Sign Language
  5. Sign Language Basics
  6. Sign Language Fingerspelling - Manual Alphabet in Fingerspelled Sign Language

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