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General Interpreting Skill Development:

Improving Fingerspelling & Numbers

This guide enhances general interpreting skills by providing activities to improve fingerspelling and numbers within narratives. Resources are provided below.

All activities are explained for fingerspelled items. Activities can also be used with numbers.

NOTE: These activities assume the interpreter is already competent in English spelling. If English spelling is deficient, it should be addressed as a prerequisite.


Maintain a journal of fingerspelled items and numbers that you observe in interactions with Deaf Community members.

Review and practice the production of these items in isolation and in a self-generated context on a regular basis.

Have a colleague drill you from your journal for receptive skill practice.

For Receptive Skill Development: 

  • View a recording of a Deaf person signing a narrative.
  • As fingerspelled items occur, stop the tape and write the recognized letters on a sheet of paper. Attempt to record at least the beginning and ending letter.  

  • After viewing the narrative in its entirety, review the list of fingerspelled items and use your closure skills to determine what the fingerspelled items might be. If you cannot identify the word specifically, identify it in terms of whether it is the name of a person, place, thing, event, or miscellaneous item.  

  • Repeat viewing the narrative and insert your anticipated word. Evaluate whether it fits in terms of form and content. If not, repeat the process, trying to isolate additional letters.   

  • Repeat the process with a variety of narratives.

For Expressive Skill Development: 

  • View a recording of a Deaf person signing a narrative.

  • As fingerspelled items occur, stop the tape and generate your own spelling production of the word.
  • After completing the viewing and production of each fingerspelled item, replay the narrative. This time, fingerspell the words simultaneously as they appear in the narrative. In other words, shadow the fingerspelling.
  • Replay the narrative one more time. This time, shadow sign the entire text, including the fingerspelled items as they occur within context. 
  • As a final step, generate your own rendition of the narrative, incorporating the appropriate fingerspelled items in a natural manner. This step is a re-telling of the text in your own words, but retaining the incorporation of the fingerspelled items as they occurred in the narrative. 
  • Repeat the process with a variety of narratives.


NOTE: These resources were last updated March 2021.

  • Free Online Materials

    ASL Storytime from the Department of Sign Language and Interpretation at Gallaudet University

    The series included three volumes, each containing stories with a broad variety of ASL features. The series is available on YouTube.

    TerpTalks from the National Consortium of Interpreter Education Centers (NCIEC)

    The series includes diverse ASL and English texts available for practice interpreting. The series is available on NCIEC's website. There is no charge for accessing these materials, although you may be required to register to access.

  • Purchasable Materials

    The following resources may be available for use from your local interpreter education program or through your public library. If the library does not have them, request that they purchase them for community use.

    ASL Numbers: Developing Your Skills from Sign Media

    This series teaches the rules and patterns of ASL’s complex numbering systems. Each part of the series features explanations and demonstrations of a variety of Deaf models signing numbers in context.  

    Check your comprehension and production with the practice drills included. Lecture information is presented in ASL with a spoken English voice-over.

    Fingerspelling: Expressive and Receptive Fluency by Joyce Groode from DawnSignPress 

    This resource includes a 24-page instructional booklet and Vimeo On Demand.

    The focus is on receiving and producing fingerspelled items as units of meaning.

    Fingerspelling Practice Tapes from Sign Media 

    This series includes four parts simulating real life situations by showing a wide variety of fingerspelling rates, rhythms, and styles and includes both male and female, left and right handed signers. Camera angles allow you to practice reading fingerspelling from a variety of conversational views.  

    Each of the hour-long parts concludes with a 40-item multiple choice tests for your use in evaluating progress. As well, each part contains two instructional sections and a self-correcting comprehensive section.

    Interpreter Practice Materials from Sign Media

    A set of 33 DVDs including 12 simultaneous texts, 12 consecutive texts, 7 one-to-one situations, 2 small groups, 6 ASL texts and 6 English texts.

    This resource is excellent for individual, study group, or classroom skill development exercises. 

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The contents of the Project CLIMB website was developed under a grant (#H160D160001) from the Department of Education. The contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the Department of Education. Do not assume endorsement by the Federal government.

As of December 31, 2021, this grant project is no longer active or soliciting applications.
This website will remain available as a resource.

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