Mindful Practice 1
with the FAMA (Fingerspelling: A Mindful Approach) way of signing, you will always be encouraged to take an even breath and come back to your body. ASL is an entirely embodied process and it helps as foremost to be aware of what your hands are doing while finger spelling. Let’s begin:
Practice all 26 letters of the manual alphabet for clarity, paying attention to palm orientation, then answer the following questions:
- Does signing for clarity feel natural?
- Can you feel how turning the wrist, even tiny movements slows the hand down?
Practice all 26 letters of the manual alphabet for speed, being mindful of palm remaining out, then answer the following questions:
- Does signing for speed feel natural?
- Can you feel how not turning the wrist enables your hand to move more
3. Think about your fingerspelling career, even if it’s only a few hours old and answer the following questions:
- Of the letters: C, D, F, G, H, K, O, P, Q, X, which do you already sign for clarity?
- Which might be target letters that you may need to be more aware of signing for
4. We should always keep in mind as foremost who we are signing with and what their level of competency and mental state are so we can adapt our hands for their success. An example of this might be, if our friend shows up and was in a near accident on the way to class, we may be inclined to give them a break and sign for clarity. This example can be extended to include a Deaf patient who just received a cancer diagnosis. Being mindful of such an impact, we would definitely want to fingerspell for clarity over speed.
- What population might benefit from fingerspelling with clarity in mind?
- Provide a hypothetical situation where you would be wise to fingerspell for clarity?
- Who population might benefit from fingerspelling with speed in mind?
- Provide a hypothetical situation where you would be wise to fingerspell for speed?
- Next time you struggle with a person’s fingerspelling might it be useful to identify if they are fingerspelling for clarity or speed?
Mindful Practice 2
Practice expressive and receptive fingerspelling of RS #1 and #2 with a palm orientation of either Clarity or Speed.
Two Categories of Fingerspelling
Now that we can begin to understand our goal for clarity or for speed, we can look at two categories of fingerspelling that will break our personal motivation down even further.
1) Expressive fingerspelling - your ability to fingerspell. It’s as simple as that.
2) Receptive fingerspelling - your ability to catch what another person has fingerspelled
As a beginning ASL student, tendency is to be able to generate the letters yourself better than you can comprehend what is coming off another person’s hand. To reflect on this using our previous example, imagine catching the word Saskatchewan, especially if fingerspelled by a fluent signer. Um, probably near impossible. However, if Saskatchewan is your hometown (and you know how to spell it!) you would most likely successfully convey the word.
At some point in your ASL career a very glorious shift will most likely take place. You will begin noticing that you catch far more fingerspelling than you can fluently convey. Now, this isn’t the case for everyone, but in my twenty plus years of teaching experience, I see that it holds true for many. Why do I tell you this? So, you can understand which category is your weakness, expressive or receptive fingerspelling, and be cognizant if the shift happens. It’s a benchmark towards fluency.