Dear Dr. Bill,
Thank you so much for make all your material available for free for
self study. I am learning (or at least trying to learn) ASL for fun
and am really enjoying your lessons. I am starting to practice
finger spelling but I ran into a surprise for me: for the letter W I
cannot keep my three middle finger straight while holding down the
pinkie and the thumb. The 3 middle fingers end up like a claw and
they will not straighten up any further. I think something in my ring
finger ligament will not allow me to fingerspell "W" properly (my dad
also has issues with his ring finger ligament) so I was wondering if
there is an alternate way of spelling the letter W? If there is not
an alternate finger spell, would ASL speakers understand if I finger
spell the W with British “accent” (using BSL)?
There is not an "alternate" version of "W" that would be less
distracting than a clawed version of "W." Any alternate
approach would end up being more distracting than just going ahead
and using your somewhat misshapen "W."
Quite a few ASL signers do recognize the British 2-handed Alphabet.
Or perhaps I should say they can start at "A" and work their way
through to "Z" (but not necessarily recognize whole words
fingerspelled quickly in the two handed British alphabet.).
You may wish to spend a few minutes each day stretching your "W."
Suppose you are standing in line at the grocery store or watching a
video -- you could stretch your fingers during that time. Stretching
may or may not "work" but I suppose the only way you'll know is if
On another but related topic: Those of us in the Deaf community are
generally quite a bit more accepting of physical deformities than
the mainstream Hearing community. So while you may be bothered by
your "W" we generally are not.
Sorry this is kind of a weird question, but I have trouble
spelling/signing some words because my hand are too 'tight.' ex. my
'Y' or 'yellow' or 'play' or 'still' sign are lame because I can't
put my pinky all the way up without bringing the ring finger part of
the way. Is this a common thing? And would you happen to know of any
exercises where I could improve this flexibility. Again I know you
re busy so if you cannot answer this question I completely
understand. Thank you for the lessons.
No, a misshapen "Y" is not a "common" thing but it occurs often
enough that it is not that big a deal for most everyday
communication. You might perhaps not want to plan on a career
in interpreting, but for chatting with Deaf people at a pizza social
you should be just fine.
As far as "exercises" to improve your "Y" -- yes, there are things
you can do. Your ring finger is jutting out because the ligaments
and/or sinews between it and the pinkie are not limber enough and
the muscles in your ring finger are not strong enough. Using your
non-dominant hand, gently and slowly stretch the pinkie finger of
your dominant hand backwards while holding the dominant hand ring
finger down will help limber up that area of your hand. Try
putting your dominant hand flat on a table, now lift it up about an
inch off the table and bend your ring finger at the large knuckle so
that the fingerprint pad is touching the table. Now push the
hand down while trying to hold the hand up with just the ring finger
(almost as if you are trying to do a push up using only your ring
finger). That will help build the right muscle. Eventually it
is likely that you will be able to form the letter "Y" correctly.
But even if you are not able to do so, it is not "that" big of a
- Dr. Vicars
You can learn American Sign Language (ASL) online at American Sign Language University ™
ASL resources by Lifeprint.com © Dr. William Vicars