Fingerspelling | ASL Ponderings


Hello and welcome! This is part two of my first ASL Ponderings video. For this one, I would suggest you watch the video linked above to better understand the examples I give. All of ASL Ponderings is more about ASL, obviously, but this one is more specifically unique to ASL. WHY do we fingerspell SO MUCH? Why, why, why?? Can someone please tell me why? I have seen so many people spell words that really don’t need spelling. Yeah, there are some words that are spelled/signed like “BUT.” A lot of people will alternate using the sign and fingerspelling. I do that myself too. Part of it is because the word “BUT” is short and easy to fingerspell. Image result for fingerspellingI don’t even really spell the whole thing fully. I guarantee you’ve seen me spell some words like “EVEN,” “IF,” “OF IT.” Those are what’s called lexicalized signs, I can make a separate video about that. But I’m not going to discuss that in this one. Back to the topic. Why do we Americans spell SO MANY words? Why? We HAVE signs. Use them! It’s the same with Australians. Same thing! I went to Australia for two months, and I learned Auslan. They fingerspell so much! Most of the time, I was relying on lipreading to catch the word, not the fingerspelling itself. If there’s no lip movement, then I’m screwed and have to focus on the spelling, usually asking them to do it again a few times. If I still don’t understand it, I ask them to try to explain it, or pick a different word. Sigh. I’ve had conversations about that with various people, and it’s often been said that a lot of people compare the States with Australia in relation to the fingerspelling thing. We both fingerspell A LOT, while Britain (BSL) and New Zealand (NZSL) have a lot less fingerspelling. They spell only when it’s an uncommon or odd word, or someone doesn’t understand the sign. Whatever the reason is. But… Why, why do we spell so much? It’s silly! Some words that I’ve seen fingerspelled are capable of having a sign created for it. I don’t know what words/signs those would be, but I know there are some words that can have a sign.

A little off point. I personally am…struggling with some terms in English that I think should have a sign, but don’t have one or the current sign is not the best. For example, “GENDER.” I’m really frustrated with this word because I really want to have a sign for that word that doesn’t represent ANY gender. No masculine or feminine indicators, nothing. Just “GENDER,” the word itself. In a way, I want to have a gender-neutral sign. Most of the signs I’ve seen aren’t gender-neutral. So I am trying to figure out how to sign that word. If you have an idea for a sign that doesn’t represent any gender, please let me know! I will be so happy to have a sign for that word!

Back to the point. We really need to reduce how much we fingerspell. It’s gotten to the point where I will even steal some signs from International Sign, or use a sign that I feel fits the word. Then people get thrown and ask me what? So I have to repeat that word, and if they still don’t get it, then I spell it. Once they get it, I continue to sign that way, and hopefully people will connect that sign eventually and use it. It’s the same with countries and city names. In the States, we mostly spell, spell, spell, and spell. For those names of countries or cities that I know the sign of, from another country or whatever – I will try to sign it, if I know that sign. I still – well – always will get people asking “What?” I’ll repeat, or spell it then I will continue using that sign again. But sometimes people will forget and have to ask what that sign is again. So I explain, and repeat. Repeat, repeat, and repeat! I will continue until it sticks, damnit! Because I really want to see less fingerspelling. Some of you might be asking why is that so important? Well. For one thing, if you’re in another country, they don’t fingerspell. They don’t. (At least, not to the extent Americans do.) And in other countries, if they don’t know the word, or don’t understand the word, you can’t really use English. Or even fingerspell the word in their language, because their fingerspelling may be different than what you know. They may not know the word, because it’s not part of their language. It would be better to explain more, use gestures, or think of another word to replace that one.

This is important to say. A lot of people from other countries will watch American videos and such. They can generally understand us, because ASL is very similar to International Sign. So… Fine, but. There’s a whole other problem with that, but I’m not going into that this video. When we fingerspell, they can get lost, because English is not their first language. They’re not used to fingerspelling, and we fingerspell really fast compared to other countries. I think that’s part of why we should TRY to reduce fingerspelling, as much as we can. That’s all I have for you today. Leave your ideas and thoughts in the comments below. I look forward to reading them. Thanks for reading, and see you next time.

Published by Rogan Shannon

Hello there! I'm Rogan, a queer deaf guy who has a passion for leadership and advocacy. I create YouTube videos about a lot of different topics - being deaf, queer, reading, language, and whatever else interests me!

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