Left Hand Signing
One particular problem presented to sign language users is that of people who are left handed. Left hand signing will obviously be different to the more common right hand signing. In most sign languages there is a primary hand for the actions rather than stipulating left or right hand. This means that everyone should find the movements natural and easy rather than stilted, as would be the case if the language dictated which hand people could use. But of course, because the majority of people are right handed, this means most people learn the signs from a right handed teacher and see them drawn as right handed signs. This in turn means that left handed people can find it harder to learn the signs and right handed people harder to understand a left hander. For the left handed person, once they have mastered the sign, it should be plain sailing, but for the onlooker, it will take some getting used to before they can read left handed signers well.
The Left Handed SignerThe biggest problem for left handed signers is which hand to use as the primary hand. The teacher will usually be right handed and therefore teach you by leading with his or her right hand. But you should use your left if you are more comfortable doing so. Just copy what the teacher does but as a mirror image. If it does not feel comfortable then by all means use your right hand – but remember you must stick to whichever hand you choose as your primary hand. If you chop and change you will confuse your readers.
The ObserverUnfortunately, the best way to practise reading a left handed signer is to watch them over and over again. This is all very well and good if you know a left handed signer but if you do not, and meet one for the first time unexpectedly, it can be a little confusing. Just try and remember that everything which you see is simply a mirror image of what you are used to seeing. There are no different signs to trip you up, just concentrate and it will make sense. Finger spelling is the trickiest bit to get your head round as the shapes look very different back to front. Use a finger spelling machine to practise reading the signs back from a left handed perspective.
Left handed sign language should not pose too many problems as long as you are prepared for it. If you have never thought about it before then you may well be surprised when you meet someone who uses sign language and is left handed. In fact, if you have not thought about the possibility that they are left handed, it could take you so much by surprise that you think they are using a different language to the one you are familiar with. But watch carefully and pay close attention and you will soon see that you know all the signs they are using- just inverted. Concentrate and practice and you will soon be reading left handed signers as easily as you do right handed.