The first step in learning ASL is to learn how to sign the ABCs! Teach your hand how to use its fingers to shape the ABCs and you are one step closer to leading a conversation with a Deaf person.
Signing the ABCs is using all the fingers on one hand to make a letter of the alphabet.
The use of ABCs may not seem important based on your observations of Deaf people communicating with each other with hand movements but that is not true. We use the ABCs in so many different ways in order to communicate to others.
One: When you meet a new person, you introduce who you are before proceeding into further conversation. To introduce your name that you call yourself, you fingerspell each letter of your name. Then if you have a sign name, you would sign the name sign after fingerspelling.
Two: As people learn, there are moments where they come across words that they want to express in sign language but they realize they don’t know the sign for the word. To express the sign, you would fingerspell the word in ABCs to the person you are talking to and see if they know of a sign. There are some words that do not have signs for so Deaf people spell them.
Three: Most of the ASL signs include the ABCs, using classifiers. Learning the ABCs is vital in being successful in learning ASL because once you learn the ABCs, it will be easier for you to learn more. You will eventually learn that after learning the ABCs, the ABCs can be used to represent a letter or a word through a sign using movement.
A bonus reason to learn fingerspelling the ABCs is when you come across a communication barrier with a Deaf person maybe when they are in a situation where they did not anticipate a part of the conversation to occur or they are in an emergency situation, potentially missing vital information. In those situations, fingerspelling can help the Deaf person get informed on what is going on and feel reassured that all is good. But be aware that not every Deaf person knows sign language or the ABCs in ASL so don’t be disappointed if they don’t engage with you.
Learning how to sign the ABCs is vital in learning ASL. It also can be used as an accessible tool in communication with the Deaf community.
I challenge you to learn the ABCs if you don’t know them already!