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Topic: A fingerspelling heuristic

CONTEXT: A student watched a video clip of the lexicalized fingerspelled word "JOB" and had a question.
(A "lexicalized" fingerspelled word is one that has morphed or changed to look more like a single sign than a string of individual fingerspelled letters.)

QUESTION: "So it's ok to have letters turned facing me instead of out?"

RESPONSE The answer to your question is: "Sometimes."
(Sometimes it is okay to have letters turned facing toward the signer.)

Students of course then want to know: "When?"
(When is it okay to modify the palm orientation and/or other production features of letters?)

To that the answer is: It is okay to do it when Deaf people do it.
(It is okay to fingerspell the way socially active, adult, Deaf, skilled signers fingerspell.)

If you want to know how Deaf people do it -- watch us.

Watch us spell thousands of different words in context at conversational speed.
There is no shortcut.

A few English paragraphs in an online blog are not going to be able to tell you how to fingerspell because there are literally thousands of nuances in fingerspelling.

Definition of nuance: "A subtle difference in or shade of meaning, expression, or sound. Synonyms: fine distinction, subtle distinction / difference, shade, shading, gradation, variation, modulation, degree" (Source: Oxford Online Dictionary)

If you wish to become a skilled fingerspeller (receptively and expressively) you are going to become familiar with thousands of nuances of fingerspelling (by viewing and then modeling thousands of fingerspelled words -- each with their own nuances.).

Yet students still want a "shortcut." But since "shortcut" sounds lazy or negative they don't want to call it that.

I get it. I understand the desire for "maximum result" based on "minimum effort." It is smart actually to want to study and learn something in the most efficient / effective manner.

While I can't provide you a shortcut to the thousands of exposures it is going to require to develop the linkages in your brain and the muscle memory -- I can provide you a heuristic.

"A heuristic technique, often called simply a heuristic, is any approach to problem solving or self-discovery that employs a practical method, not guaranteed to be optimal, perfect, logical, or rational, but instead sufficient for reaching an immediate goal." (Source: Wikipedia)

Skilled signers tend to spell words in ways that produce the least stress on the hands and wrists yet still get the message across as effectively as possible.

So, here is a heuristic for you:

"The right way to fingerspell is to do so in a way that minimizes the stress on your hands and wrists while maximizing the speed at which the viewer can perceive your message."

Link: "JOB"



Another fingerspelling related skill:

The ability to figure out the highest speed your audience can understand and then match that speed.

A related ability is the ability to abandon a fingerspelled word half-way through the spelling when it is clear that your communication partner understands the concept.

So many beginners insist on completing the spelling of a 10 letter word when I have already nodded and used the "get on with it" sign to indicate that I know the word.

Some beginners waste the time of their communication partner in order to scratch an itch (the need for closure or a sense of completion). Look mommy! I can spell the WHOLE word!.

Such behavior is rare among skilled signers. The goal is to communicate -- not to complete a crossword puzzle.


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