Some late-deafened people become deaf suddenly and want to learn sign language fast so they can communicate with family members and friends.  It takes time to learn the signs however learning the manual alphabet (fingerspelling) can be done in a relatively short time.  I know of couples who communicate by just fingerspelling.  The hearing spouse becomes adept with the manual skills of fingerspelling (expressive communication) and the late-deafened spouse becomes skilled at reading the fingerspelling (receptive communication).

If I am communicating with a hearing person, my stress level drops enormously if I know the person can fingerspell a word to me when communication breakdowns happen.  I wish the whole world knew fingerspelling!

My husband, adult children, their spouses, and children are in various stages of learning sign.  They (except the youngest grandchild) fingerspell words that either have no sign or a sign they do not know.  The use of fingerspelling helps me to understand as well as allows an opportunity, when applicable, for me to show them the sign for the fingerspelled word.

Many of my extended family members and friends have learned fingerspelling. They fingerspell only when a communication breakdown happens.  I then request them to fingerspell the word I am having difficulty with speechreading.

Another strategy some of my extended family use is to hold up only the first fingerspelled letter of the key words in a sentence as they say the word.  It is amazing how much holding up just the fingerspelled handshape of the first letter of the word helps me to understand and supplements speechreading skills and keeps the conversation moving along.  If I am not understanding, I ask for the complete word to be fingerspelled.

By now I hope you can understand the value of expressive and receptive fingerspelling skills.   I encourage you to practice the letters everyday.   There are many websites that offer fingerspelling quizzes. You can type in the answer of the random word being fingerspelled.  You can adjust the speed.  I do this to improve my receptive skills.   I also practice my expressive skills of fingerspelling even though I have been signing for many years.  I fingerspell words to myself when I am at a traffic light.  It might be the name of a store I see at the corner, a billboard, or the name of the street I am on.  When I first started to learn sign, I incorporated fingerspelling practice with reciting daily prayers.  As I said the Lord’s prayer, I fingerspelled every word!  You can do this with any text that has a special meaning to you.