Fingerspelling is a method for representing letters of the alphabet and numbers on the hands. It is referred to in BSL as the manual alphabet. It represents the written form of English. It is used to spell a person’s name, a place or can be used as a sign e.g. the sign for ‘mother’ in BSL is the fingerspelled ‘m’ on the palm of your other hand or ‘m’ tapped on the side of your forehead (see videos below).
The sign language alphabet is useful if you don’t know a particular sign or if there is currently no sign for a specific term. You can also use it for checking if you understood a sign.
According to Wikipedia, fingerspelling acts as a bridge between sign language and oral language. It is used in different sign languages across the world. BSL uses a two handed manual alphabet, as does New Zealand and Australia (Auslan). Other sign languages e.g. Irish Sign Language (ISL) uses a one handed alphabet.
The manual alphabet is used by BSL users and SSE users
Below are printable fingerspelling alphabet charts:
The Deafblind alphabet is based on the BSL manual alphabet. also uses two hands but is more tactile.
- Try not to look at your hands (or the other person’s) when fingerspelling
- Mouth the word at the same time as spelling it
- Make sure your hands are in the same frame as your face i.e. chest height, so someone can read your lips and read the word you spell.
Deaf Comedy – The Fingerspellers
This funny video is part of a series and shows the funnier side of fingerspelling. Check it out!