A key to mindful fingerspelling is having awareness of what words one might expect to see come off the hand. We discussed that proper nouns are fingespelled—things such as brand names, cities, etc. Another classification of fingerspelled words are loan signs, or words borrowed from English. Loan signs are sometimes referred to as lexicalized signs, meaning they are typically short fingerspelled words whose combinations take on the shape of a sign. For the remainder of the lessons in FAMA, we will dedicate ourselves to these fingerspelled words, you will begin to feel the fluidity, and rhythm your hands will adopt and learn to identify the comprehensive shape the loan signs express.
Mindful Tip 4: Know your vowels like the back of your hand (pun intended).
Loan signs are generally 3-5 letters. Since every English word contains vowels—A, E, I, O or U
always will be contained within the very short loan sign. Which leads us to our next tip.
Mindful Tip 5: Practice catching the first and the last letters of every word. There are two reasons:
- When vowels become comfortable, they begin appearing as an expectation
- First and last letters give you a point of focus and with vowels as the expectations for the middle, words begin to materialize
Mindful Tip 6: Don’t be afraid to drop letters.
This may come as a big surprise but at the core is the idea that a combination of letters becomes a recognized sign for the word. Over the years of ASL lexicalization, letters were dropped for the purpose of ease and shape. Dropping letters is systematic, it’s not randomly done. Assimilation is another way of describing this phenomenon, meaning that some letters will change their formation depending on surrounding letters. Typically, the dropping of letters does not happen until one becomes fluid and practiced at which point the body develops more ease, naturally adapting for speed by dropping letters. We will discuss and practice dropping letters in class as comfort with loan signs improves. So, let us put the above mindful tips into practice and begin with RS #3 Loan Signs: Things Around the House.