Fingerspelling Skills Development

Tips to improve your ability to read Auslan fingerspelling



I get many questions from learners asking how they can improve their ability to read fingerspelling. The first thing to keep in mind is that Fingerspelling should only be used for things like proper nouns – a person’s name, place names, brand names, etc and for those words that don’t have signs.

Do not use fingerspelling for common everyday words – since there are signs for those. Deaf people don’t use fingerspelling for such words.

5 tips to improve your reading of Fingerspelling [especially if you don’t “catch” every individual letter]:

1. Configuration: look at the pattern and shape – high or low placement of fingers on hands, for example like T-O-M – look for placements, vowels and use that to match possible names. Eliminate others that don’t fit the parameters.

2. Context: think where the fingerspelt word was placed in the sentence and work out what are the most likely words to fit the context.

3. Head & Tail: when reading, look for the start and end of the fingerspelt word and note any ‘big’ clues such as G, H, P, and go from there.

4. Practise: practise every day with proper nouns, place names and brand names as much as you can, by using…

5. Camera/Mirror: use what you have to see what your hands look like when fingerspelling – think about the different perspectives.

Hope this helps.