As we all know, whenever we start learning a language, we start with the alphabets. But, it is more important to start with alphabets in American Sign Language because you end up finger spelling the words which haven’t been assigned the signs yet. Besides that, there are many things which are signed by the initials of those words and are distinguished by their movements. You need to be VERY careful in the positioning of your hands while signing as even a single movement can change the complete meaning of the word. Some of the movements when changed from the original ones can turn into offensive terms to the deaf community.
A bit about the positioning when you sign.
- · Facial expressions are VERY important when you sign. If you show pleasure or happiness, SMILE. If you are showing pain or displeasure, it must show on your face. If you are asking a question, your face must ask the question too (lower your chin and raise your eye brows).
- · One of your hands is the dominant one and the other is passive one. Right hand is the dominant one for the right handed people left is their passive hand, mostly. Left hand is the dominant one for the left handed and right is the passive hand, mostly. It is very important to determine which one is your dominant hand as you are supposed to use only the dominant hand in most of the cases in American Sign Language (British sign Language is done with both the hands).
- · Your body frame is your only territory when you sign. Do NOT sign in the space beyond that even if you are showing the fight of an airplane. Also do not sign in front of your face as the facial expressions are an important part of the sign language.
- · Raise your hand to a comfortable level so you don’t have to move it a lot. Do not rest it on any table or anything. For the alphabet signing, it’s only the hand that should move and sign and the arm must stay stationary.
The image above shows you an alphabet chart which is quite clear but let me explain the perfect positioning of all the alphabets separately for more help. Raise your hand to a perfect position and start signing.
A: Fist closed. Thumb NOT on the closed fingers.
B: Open the fist. Thumb in.
C: Make a C with your hand and it should face the other person (not sideways as the C signed sideward is the figure 100).
D: Raise the index figure like you are signing the number 1. Rest of the fingers closed.
E: Close the hand but the thumb must be positioned under the finger tips and not on top of them or on the side. (Quite like the claws)
F: Thumb on the nail of the index finger while the rest of the 3 fingers do not bend. The three fingers must be close to each other.
G: Point your index finger to the left while it faces inwards.
H: Point the index and the middle finger to the left like you did with G.
I: Raise your pinky finger.
J: Make a J with your pinky finger in the air.
K: There are two styles of doing it. One is to raise your index and middle finger and place your thumb in between the two. The other one is to raise your index finger while you touch the tips of middle finger and the thumb. The latter is more advisable.
L: Make an L shape with your thumb and the middle finger. Must be positioned outwards.
M: Close the fist but place the thumb between your ring finger and the pinky finger.
N: Close the fist but the place between the middle finger and the ring finger.
O: Make an O shape by touching your thumb tip to the tips of all your fingers.
P: Its just like K but you bend your wrist to the left when you do it. (both the methods of K)
Q: Make a U of your thumb and the index finger and turn it upside down.
R: Cross your index and Middle finger like you normally cross the fingers.
S: Close your fist with the thumb on top of your closed fingers.
T: Close the fist but place your thumb between you index finger and the middle finger.
U: Raise your index and Middle finger (keep them closer to each other). Thumb in.
V: Make a victory sign with the index and the middle finger. Thumb in.
W: Raise your index, middle and the ring finger. Thumb in.
X: Bend your index finger and shape it as a hook.
Y: Raise your thumb and pinky finger. Rest of the fingers must be closed.
Z: Make a Z with the index finger in the air.
These are the American Sign Language manual alphabets from A-Z. Tried to be as vivid with the positioning as I could. Just a final tip before I wind up, do NOT make your own signs. Always go with the already designated signs. This is the only language the deaf community has, do not steal it for them for your own pleasure.