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American Sign Language: Ambidextrous

In a message dated 9/2/2010 8:06:28 A.M. Pacific Daylight Time, writes:

It's been a while since I emailed you and I changed emails since then, so you probably don't remember me. Quick re-introduction, I'm Amanda (also known as Dess), and I am now taking my first actual ASL class! And I've come across some difficulties.

In my class, there's a strict no-talking policy because the teacher wants to immerse us all in the language. That's all well and good, but I've run into some difficulties explaining things during class. My teacher, Mr. Buckey, thinks I'm left-handed. That's great! Except I don't just use my left hand as my dominant hand! I tend to use both. It only registers in his head which hand I'm using when I use my left hand as the dominant, because it throws him off while he's actually teaching all the right-handed students. When I use my right hand, I'm just like everyone else and he doesn't notice.

It isn't that which hand to use and what-not is difficult for me. (Although I do switch hands subconsciously based on which side of my brain I'm using to analyze what I'm talking about and convenience. An example of convenience is which side of me the person I'm talking to is on, and which side of the previous sign the next sign is on. Like when I sign "AGAIN SLOWLY" I usually use my right hand as dominant in "AGAIN," but since my left hand is already there, I'll use that one as dominant in "SLOWLY" before I even realize that I did it.) The problem is I know this will come up in conversation sometime during class, or sometime during my community hours, and I have no clue how to explain in sign language that I'm ambidextrous! D:

Can you help me, somehow, via email? Or at least give me advice on where to find the answer to my problem?


Hello :)
It is not good to be ambidextrous in an ASL class.
Being ambidextrous in ASL is the equivalent in spoken English of speaking in a high tone and then switching to speaking in a low tone every few words. It would drive the people listening to you nuts. They could still understand you of course, but the constant changing back and forth would be annoying.
You need to pick one dominant hand and stick with it (at least during signing). To break the habit you've got to practice the signs the right way consistently until you've got them "memorized."
One way to break this habit is to spend some time practicing each sign while sitting on your non-dominant hand. Just go ahead and do the sign with your dominant hand as if you were doing it normally.
For example, if you are practicing the sign "SLOW"  you would slide your dominant hand along the "imaginary" non-dominant hand/wrist (which you are sitting on for the purpose of practicing that sign).  I'm sure that feels weird a bit at first, but it will train you and get you in the habit of using your dominant hand to do the main motions of signs. Then go back later and practice the signs with both hands.
Dr. Bill

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