A student writes:
<<My video camera broke. So I
can't film myself fingerspelling and then watch the film for practice. It's
a dinosaur (1984 model) anyway, so may not be repairable. In the meantime
I've been thinking of another way to exercise my brain in receptive
fingerspelling skills. Like lots of folks with hearing brains, I'm much
better at fingerspelling to someone else than understanding when someone
fingerspells to me. It's embarrassing.
What's a visually impaired boy to do? I started talking to myself...
"Use a mirror."
Ok, that's helpful, but the reflection is backwards. Perfect preparation for
conversing with southpaws, not so perfect otherwise.
"The reflection wouldn't be backwards if you signed at the mirror with
your left hand."
Yes, but my left hand is so stiff and awkward.
"Try fingerspelling with both hands simultaneously."
That'll make it even harder, won't it?
"Just try it, and stop talking to yourself. People are starting to stare."
I tried it, and my left hand was immediately better - more fluid, quicker,
almost as good as my right!
I applied this to fingerspelling practice in front of the mirror. In order
not to be distracted by the image of my right hand, I seated myself in front
of the mirror so as to show only my left side, while fingerspelling with
both hands. Immediately my left hand improved. Success!
Ah, but the unexpected benefit of this exercise - that is what I'm truly
Whereas most (all?) existing fingerspelling exercises separate expressive
practice from receptive practice, this one integrates the two. So what? Here
I think that simultaneous symmetrical signing while watching only the mirror
image of the left hand powerfully connects expressive practice with
It's a simultaneous real-time match-up of the the physical action with
correct visual observation of that action, were it signed to me by another.
This exercise fosters a sort of receptive empathy. I "see" what I am
signing, and I "feel" what I am seeing.
This process seems to take place below the level of consciousness.
The part of the brain with the right-hand expressive knowledge teaches two
other parts - the left hand expressive part, and the receptive part...
1 - The left hand is taught to operate in symmetry with the right. This
results in an increase in the general physical expressive skill of both
hands, which is logical because more of the brain becomes involved in the
process. The benefits of the whole therefore become greater than the sum of
the two parts.
2 - As both hands sign, the eyes feed the brain only the reflected image of
the left hand, which perfectly simulates someone signing back. This
instantaneously and simultaneously teaches the proper visual counterpart to
what is signed.
...all without deliberate conscious effort. I just sign and observe, sign
What do you think?
I enjoyed reading about your adventures in fingerspelling. Heh. The
"low-tech" double-handed in-the-mirror approach. I like it.
It made me think of the idea of using the right hand with two mirrors, the
first one would reflect a mirror image and the second one would correct the
As you observed, fingerspelling with the right hand "pulls" the left hand
I used to be (and to some degree still am) fascinated with the idea of using
this same principle as a cure for stuttering. I am convinced that if a
person who stutters mastered fingerspelling, he or she could
use fingerspelling to "pull" the mouth through the articulation process.
Try this...practice fingerspelling a short but tough tongue twister of your
choosing. Then, after your fingers can make the movements smoothly via
muscle memory, go ahead and say (but not spell) the twister. Next try the
tongue twister again, but this time fingerspell it as you say it. Notice a