An ASL Dictionary

Signing Savvy is a sign language dictionary containing several thousand high resolution videos of American Sign Language (ASL) signs, fingerspelled words, and other common signs used within the United States and Canada.

And Much More!

Signing Savvy is an ideal resource to use while you learn sign language. It includes the ability to view large sign videos, build your own word lists and share them with others, create virtual flash cards and quizzes, print signs, build sign phrases, ...and more

Sign of the Day - CAKE

Blog Articles in Category: Learning Tips

5 Ways for Kids to Communicate Easier with Sign Language This Summer

5 Ways for Kids to Communicate Easier with Sign Language This Summer

Learning Tips   |  Monday, June 30, 2014

By John Miller

Summer is HERE!  For most children this means a break from school and fun in the sun with long summer days playing with friends.  Unfortunately, for many deaf and hard of hearing children, these weeks away from school can mean days without good communication. They will still have great summer days of play with friends and picnics with family, but often times communicating at home can be more of a struggle than at school – signing skills may not be as good at home and neighborhood children do their best, but just don’t have the knowledge or vocabulary to be very effective.

These situations happen all too often, leaving deaf children to fill in lots of blanks and they are not always able to get the whole picture.  Luckily, there are some proactive things that you can do to better prepare your deaf child and their friends for communicating this summer. 

Here are 5 ways for kids to communicate easier with sign language this summer:

  • Talk to the neighborhood kids, ask them what they plan to do ahead of time so you can go over rules to games, or describe some of the activities to your child before sending them off to play for the day. 
  • Share some of the quick survival signs with your child’s playmates so that they can do some very basic communication.
  • Introduce signing as something fun and interesting - a “secret” way to communicate in public, something that sets them apart from others in a positive way.
  • Create some standard Signing Savvy word lists and email the links to family and friends so they can easily pick up some new vocabulary and common signs that you use.
  • Encourage your child to play “teacher” and to pick a new sign of of the day everyday to use regularly and teach others. If they are already a good signer, it may be a sign they use often or a sign they really want others to learn to use. If they are still learning to sign, encourage them to pick a new sign to learn and use for the day (they can search for a sign on Signing Savvy). This will gradually introduce neighbors, friends, family, and the child to more vocabulary throughout the summer. Sign language is a beautiful language that the child can share with others and teaching others is the best way to learn and remember new signs.

Summer is a time to really enjoy the days with your child.  Give them exciting and interesting experiences that they can learn from and remember forever.  The only way a deaf child is able to properly remember things is to categorize their experiences into memories.  Strong communication is an important part of this process.

Do you have other suggestions on how to improve communication over the summer? Share your ideas in the comments below.

 

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ASL Syntax

ASL Syntax

Learning Tips   |  Wednesday, May 21, 2014

By Marta Belsky

This article is by Marta Belsky. Marta is a third generation ASL user. She has been teaching ASL for 20 years and enjoys sharing her native language with new users.

In addition to having its own vocabulary, American Sign Language also has its own grammar and syntax that differs from English.

Just like English, every ASL sentence consists of a subject and a predicate.

Signing (and Grammatical) Terminology

Subject - The noun or noun phrases in the sentence. Describes the main focus of the sentence - the person, place, thing, idea, or activity.

Predicate - A predicate can be a verb, a noun, an adjective, or a classifier. The predicate contains the words or signs that describe the action preformed by the subject or that say something about the subject.


The basic, uninflected, word order of ASL is subject, verb, object.

The basic, uninflected, word order of ASL is subject, verb, object.

For example:

  • BOY CHASE CAT
  • I LOSE MY BOOK

Signing (and Grammatical) Terminology

Uninflected - Uses basic grammatical structure without any changes so that is does not express grammatical functions or attributes.


There are many ways to inflect the meaning of sentences.

There are many ways in which a person may inflect their sentences. For example, in English a person may say "The boy chased the cat" or "The cat was chased by the boy". The second example is of an inflected sentence using the "passive voice" rule. Both of the sentences are correct, they just represent different ways of communicating the information.

In the same way, an ASL user may use topicalization or a rhetorical construction to inflect an ASL statement.

For example:

  • BOY CHASE CAT (uninflected)
  • CAT BOY CHASE (topicalized)

There is a required non-manual signal in inflected ASL sentences.

Signing (and Grammatical) Terminology

Inflect / Inflection - Inflection is done to emphasize a word or subject or to indicate a grammatical attribute such as tense, mood, person, number, case, or gender.

Passive voice - The passive voice is used when the action is not being done by the noun.

Topicalize / Topicalization -  Topicalization causes a subject, word, or phrase to be the topic of a sentence. Often, the subject/object is stated first when topicalizing.

Rhetorical construction - Constructing signs to effectively deliver a message.

Non-manual signals - Non-manual signals are facial expressions or body positions used to convey meaning while you sign.


There are three types of ASL verbs.
 

  1. PLAIN verbs are always signed the same, no matter who is performing the action
     
  2. INDICATING verbs (sometimes called "directional" verbs) change based on either the subject doing the action, or where the action is taking place
     
  3. DEPICTING verbs (sometimes called "classifiers") show what things look like, where they are in space, or how things behave

Unlike in English, all verbs in ASL must always be directly preceded by the subject (ie, who is doing the action). Some examples are listed below. In all of the examples, the subject and verb are connected and cannot have signs appear between them - this is signified by a line between the subject and verb (_).

  • The verb LOVE is a "plain" verb.
    English: "I love books."
    ASL: I _ LOVE BOOK (uninflected)
    ASL: BOOK I _ LOVE (topicalized)
     
  • The verb HELP is an "indicating" or "directional" verb.
    English: "I am helping my sister."
    ASL: ASL: I _ HELP MY SISTER (uninflected)
    ASL: MY SISTER I _ HELP (topicalized)
     
  • The verb CL:3 is "depicting" or a "classifier"
    English: "The car is next to the man."
    ASL: CAR _ CL:3 (in space) MAN _ CL:1 (in space)

Notice, in all of the above sentences, the subject (the person doing the action) always directly precedes the verb. The following sentences would be unintelligible in ASL:

  • BOOK LOVE I
  • HELP MY SISTER I
  • CL:3 CAR

ASL syntax is a complex topic and it takes knowledge and practice to master. Did this article help? Still have questions? Post a comment below.

 

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About the Author

Marta Belsky Marta Belsky is a third generation ASL user. She has been teaching ASL for 20 years and enjoys sharing her native language with new users. Marta is on the Lansing Community College Interpreter Training Program Advisory Board and has also been a board member for the Michigan Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf and the Michigan Chapter of American Sign Language Teachers Association.

More about Marta  |  Articles by Marta

ASL glossing and conventions

ASL glossing and conventions

Learning Tips   |  Sunday, April 13, 2014

By Marta Belsky

This article is by Marta Belsky. Marta is a third generation ASL user. She has been teaching ASL for 20 years and enjoys sharing her native language with new users.

Since ASL is a visual-gestural language, not a spoken consecutive language, it can only truly be recorded in video and not captured in writing. Many writing systems have been developed for ASL, but none of them have reached a critical mass, probably because it is difficult to capture handshape, location, palm orientation, movement and non-manual signals in a written word. For that reason, when scribing ASL, many people rely on the linguistic convention called "glossing," which means writing a word in your native language for each sign that appears. This is not a perfect system, but it can be useful when discussing the syntax of other languages, signed or spoken.

Signing Terminology

Glossing - Writing a word in your native language for each sign that appears. ASL is not a writen language, so glossing is not a translation, but a description of what was signed, including signs used, important body language, and accepted glossing symbols.


When writing an English gloss for an ASL sentence, conventions are followed.

Here are a few glossing conventions that are commonly used:

  • Signs are capitalized, such as BOY, HOUSE, ME
  • Words that are fingerspelled have dashes written between the letters, such as M-A-R-Y, D-O-G, S-A-L-E
  • Classifiers are written as CL: handshape, such as CL:3 (vehicle), CL: 55 (feet), CL: CC (telephone pole)

Signing Terminology

Classifiers - A classifier is a combination of a classifier handshape and movement root that are made to reference whole phrases with a single sign. First a signer will sign the subject, then they can use a classifier to describe something about that subject - what it looks like, where it is, how it moves or behaves.

These are not all of the conventions, these are only a few. What other ASL conventions do you know? Share them in the comments below.

 

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About the Author

Marta Belsky Marta Belsky is a third generation ASL user. She has been teaching ASL for 20 years and enjoys sharing her native language with new users. Marta is on the Lansing Community College Interpreter Training Program Advisory Board and has also been a board member for the Michigan Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf and the Michigan Chapter of American Sign Language Teachers Association.

More about Marta  |  Articles by Marta

All you need is LOVE...

Learning Tips   |  Tuesday, February 11, 2014

By John Miller

Sing it or sign it, either way the Beatles knew what they were talking about there!

We thought it would be appropriate with Valentine’s Day this week to write a blog covering all the different ways to show LOVE... in sign language that is!

Tell your Valentine I Love You in American Sign Language (ASL)
NOTE: You can also download this Poster (PDF) and print it.

Many people know and use the sign for I LOVE YOU. This sign is used universally throughout the country and the world. We see it all over television, at sporting events and during "shout outs" to our mothers. The sign is actually the combination of the fingerspelled letters I, L and Y.

The ASL signs for I L and L are combined to sign I Love You.

I have had people ask why the sign looks similar to the one that some people hold up at rock concerts, where the thumb is held down and the pointer finger and the little finger are held up. It is NOT the same. Remember, the thumb of the Y hand has to be present in order for you to be signing the I LOVE YOU sign.

Another sign that gets confused with the I LOVE YOU sign is the Hawaiian "shaka" sign meaning aloha, hang loose, or right on. Interestingly, this is also the ASL sign for YELLOW. Again, this is a different sign, as it leaves out the pointer finger. It is basically just shaking the Y hand.

Signs that do not mean I Love You.

The actual sign for LOVE is both arms folded across the chest. That is to show love or have love for another person or animal, etc.

Love in American Sign Language

Another sign for LOVE that you will see on the site is the kissing of the back of the S hand, then pulling it away from the mouth. This is a sign that is generally used to show a passion for something, like a certain type of food or a type of music.

Love in American Sign Language

Some people have asked why we don’t list the I LOVE YOU sign under the sign for LOVE on our site. It is because they are different signs and we don’t want new signers to confuse the single I LOVE YOU handshape with the general meanings and uses of the word LOVE. We don’t want you to confuse the signs and use the I LOVE YOU sign in a place where you really mean to just say LOVE.

An example of this would be this sentence: My mother loves to travel. You wouldn’t want to say: MOTHER + MINE + I LOVE YOU + TRAVEL (It just doesn’t make sense.) You need to use the sign LOVE there.

Another example sentence: I love to eat deep dish pizza! You wouldn’t want to say: PIZZA + THICK + I LOVE YOU + EAT. You need to use the kissing the back of the hand version of LOVE in this instance.

I hope that clears up some of your LOVE issues! Spread the LOVE and Happy Valentine’s Day from all of us at Signing Savvy!

 

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Signing Thank You

Learning Tips   |  Tuesday, December 10, 2013

By John Miller

 
We have had many people ask about signing THANK YOU to family and friends, and also giving thanks to God during this holiday season. In the case of THANK YOU to family and friends (or kind strangers!), you will want to sign the normal thank you gesture by moving your open flat hand out and down from your face, but do so in the direction of the person you are thanking.  You can remember the sign for thank you because it is similar to blowing someone a kiss when you want to thank them (and just like blowing a kiss, you would do it in the direction of the person you are thanking). 
 
Thank You
 
Remember that facial expressions are also important in conveying your message, so have a “thankful” or “happy” face (you can never go wrong with smiling!).
 
If you are giving thanks to God, you will want to use two hands to do the thank you gesture up towards the sky / heaven, gesturing to God. 
 
Thanks to God
 
 

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