Animated image of a hand fingerspelling with a small Windows word processing screen 
for a background.

Welcome to the UPDATED
Fingerspelling Page!

While trying to learn the American manual alphabet I discovered a computer method to read text as if it were being finger spelled. All one needs is a Windows word-processor (or something equivalent) and a sign-language font.

I'm quite happy with the result and think it will interest any persons who are learning the American manual alphabet themselves. The method should also work for other manual alphabets (such as the two-handed alphabet used in the UK) should fonts ever be made for them.

The process is illustrated below using the Gallaudet font. You can download the Gallaudet font from the Yamada Language Center at the University of Oregon.


1) Load any document (such as a memo, letter, essay, etc.) into your word-processor, and change the text into columnar




A Windows word-processor screen which shows 
the word 'really' in columnar format 2) Change the font to the Gallaudet font. I always change the font to size 72, which is very easy to see. Your screen may now look something like the image to the right:

Image of a resized word-processor 
Window showing only one handshape. 3) Greatly re-size the window of your word-processor: drag the edges until the screen is large enough to show only ONE handshape. Now the screen should look something like this:

Using the 'down' arrow key on your keyboard, read the text by scrolling down one letter at a time. The effect on the screen will be one of flashing handshapes as one would see in actual fingerspelling (in fact, the graphic at the beginning of this web page gives a fair idea of how things will appear).

You can scroll through quickly or slowly. For fun, if you keep your finger pressed down on the arrow key, you will see the handshapes flash-by in a blur. The entire process looks animated, which in a way it is (after all, animation is just the quick showing of many screens).

You can use the mouse to scroll down if you want to, but I've had problems with this; the mouse is hyper-sensitive, and will flash-out several handshapes at once with even slight touches.


Paste any text that you want re-formatted into the text-box at left, then click the Submit button. The re-formatted text will appear in the box at the right. Simply copy and paste this new text into a word-processor and follow the steps outlined above (Please also see the technical details mentioned below).


Some Technical Details:

  • You will notice that all punctuation has been removed from the re-formatted text . This is because the Gallaudet font turns all punctuation into a meaningless black square. It does not matter if the punctuation is a comma, question mark, apostrophe, etc., it will be turned into a black square. To avoid this visual distraction all punctuation has been removed.
  • Every letter of the text is separated from the left margin by THREE spaces. This way one can move the cursor to the left, a comfortable distance away from each letter (a large, blinking cursor can appear very distracting if it is right next to a handshape).
  • This method is extremely literal in its approach. Thus, it does not take into account variations that come with fingerspelling numbers.

I am VERY curious to know if anyone finds the above process helpful. It works best, of course, at improving one's "receptive" skills with the manual alphabet (i.e., how to read it). If you have any comments, questions, suggestions, flames, etc., please feel free to e-mail them to me at

Happy fingerspelling!

Chris Niemeyer
St. Louis, Missouri

Shameless literary self-promotion:
"An Aria in Peru" - A young boy discovers magic and wonder aboard a night train from Machu Picchu. (short story; length: 500 words)
Keywords: Peru, Cuzco, "short stories", fiction, "Machu Picchu", "Short stories about Machu Picchu", "Short stories about the Andes",
Copyright (c) 1996,1997,1998,1999,2000 by Chris Niemeyer

Web page created November 9, 1996. Last updated May 3, 2006.