American Sign Language Alphabet
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American Sign Language:
Alphabet

Note:
Although Sign Language consists of more than just an alphabet it is a good start if one can learn the alphabet.

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We have moved the download section of the Sign Language alphabet to our new
Sign Language Alphabet
page.

Definition:
Manual alphabet or finger alphabet - an alphabet used by the Deaf and to communicate with the Deaf; Characters (letters) are represented by finger positions.

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American Sign Language Alphabet - American Manual Alphabet:
In this article we will look at the American Manual Alphabet. This Manual Alphabet has the same definition as described here above. American Sign Alphabet was created by the Deaf to imitate the English alphabet mainly in use in the United States of America and Canada, and is presumed to be derived from an ancient Spanish manual alphabet from the 17th Century.

The one hand signing is also used by Austria, Finland, Germany and Norway's signing communities with minor variations and is presumably also based on the Spanish example. BSL (British) alphabet is signed with two hands in a somewhat evolved form and barely recognizable by ASL users.

The purpose of using sign language alphabet is to enhance communication when using American Sign Language and specifically to ensure the correct meaning in technical language or in titles and the correct mode of address.

Sign Language Alphabet Numbers :
Hereunder figures of numerical characters:

Numbers:
Two positions of the palm is required in signing numbers, and errors are often made in signing numbers due to this rule. From the first number to the fifth number the palm is shown to the inside facing the signer (speaker). From the sixth number two the ninth number and including zero, the palm is facing the observer.

Signing Time:
Whenever showing time and to avoid confusion, the palm is always shown towards the observer and specifically refers to the digits of a clock.

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Other exceptions:
Please note there exists other rules in using numbers, and again, to avoid confusion, one must determine what they are, and one must carefully study each application.

Sign Language Alphabet:
Hereunder figures of alphabetical characters:

Characters should be shown with preferably the predominant hand and, with the inner surface of the hand from the wrist to the base of the fingers presented outwards, facing the observer except with the characters G and H. In signing these two characters the palm should be shown to the side and is the only exception in alphabetical characters.

Projection:
When conversing, pauses and rhythm should be uniformly applied to the relevant parts of new sentences, word end and general fluency. Never sacrifice expressed legible signs for speed. Always ensure meaning is conveyed precisely as this is the commonest mistake made by all, including the hearing as well. Finish of each word at an equal rhythm. Ensure hand position to be about shoulder height and keep hand steady at the same level.

Correct manipulation:
The position of the hand should remain steady at the starting point or follow the line of writing, but must be at most very delicate and not divide attention from primary target.
To show new sentences, it is recommended that a somewhat longer interval should be deployed and not to move the hand away from its prior position.
To show individual words a shorter interval should be deployed at the end of each word when signing complete or complex sentences.
To show double characters, repeat and bouncing signal is recommended, but only here and should be avoided in the normal signing. A better form to show repeating characters is by dragging it subtly forward.
Capital characters can be shown by circling the signed character and is very useful to show e.g. UN for United Nations. This ensures the observer knows that it is an organization with only the main characters to identify the entity.
Excessive jewelry and long or dirty fingernails also could lead to distraction. One should take care to avoid any distractions. Regard your hands in the same way as an instrument of great value that should be well manicured and well cared for but without extravagance.

Remarks:
To communicate via sign language alphabet really does not seems to be that complicated and anyone should be able to master this skill in a very short period. This should also be the prerogative of hearing people who regularly comes into contact with deaf people although it might be a bit far fetched to expect all to learn this simple form of communication. It might seem cumbersome to spell every word out but one would be surprised at the brain's capacity and the speed the hands seems to develop in using finger spelling. At the end, to be able to communicate via this road might avert a lot of frustration and produce great satisfaction to be able to understand and convey real meaning.

Resources:
1.
http://www.signgenius.com
2.
Hennie Laing, Hard of Hearing, Rietondale, Pretoria, South Africa