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.

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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 - PLAN

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Vote or pass gas?

General Interest   |  Thursday, October 25, 2012

By John Miller

Seeing that we are in midst of the election season, I thought it would only be fitting to share a non-partisan sign language story that should give you a good chuckle as you enter your local voting precinct.

This story relates directly to how signs can have very similar hand shapes and very similar movements BUT can have very different meanings just because of a few subtle changes!  For example, see the similarity between the signs for vote and fart.

This experience happened to me in my first year of teaching in the public school system in rural Michigan.  It was Election Day, and like many public buildings, the school was being used as a voting precinct.  Because of this, the cafeteria was set up with tables and voting booths and the children had to eat their lunches in the classrooms.  I knew by the tilting of their little heads and the look of wonder in their eyes when I explained to my two young kindergarten students, that they clearly had no clue what I was explaining to them about voting and elections, and why they weren’t eating their lunch in the normal location.

I decided that after lunch, on our way down to their mainstream classroom, I would take advantage of this teachable moment and show them the cafeteria all set up and the people in the booths voting.

As I opened the door to the cafeteria (filled with many elderly folks both working the election and voting themselves) and did some explaining, I thought I saw the light come on in one of my student’s eyes; at which time she said (with very clear speech and sign), “So all these old people are here farting!” Thankfully half the people in the room were hard of hearing themselves and didn’t hear my student’s perception of what was happening in the room! I laughed so hard I cried! To this day whenever I walk into the voting booth I think about that former student and her confusion of the two signs and their very different meanings!  (I also wonder just how many people do walk in the voting booths, close the curtains and fart…sorry…I just do!)

 

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Clearing up the confusion between Translators, Interpreters, and Interveners

Learning Tips   |  Saturday, October 20, 2012

By John Miller

I thought it might be interesting for the Signing Savvy community to hear a little bit about the people who work in communication fields with deaf, deafblind, and hard of hearing individuals.

It's easy to misunderstand the difference (or to even know there is a difference!) between a translator, interpreter, and intervener. However, they are different professions with varying expertise. The type of person you would work with would depend on the situation and needs of the individual, such as the level of hearing loss and if there are other communication needs to consider.

Translators

A Translator converts written materials from one language to another. It is a term that people often use interchangeably with "Interpreter." However, an Interpreter and a Translator are actually considered different professions.1 Translators work with written language and convert written materials from one language to another, while Interpreters work with spoken and sign language.

In the case of sign language, a translator would be someone (or a computer program) that translates written or typed English to Sign Language. Nearly all translation is done on a computer and requires knowledge of both Sign Language and English.

Interpreters

An Interpreter converts information from one spoken language into another— or, in the case of sign language interpreters, between spoken language and sign language. They help people who are deaf or hard of hearing and people who can hear communicate with each other.1

An Interpreter’s primary job is to act as a conduit through which communication is carried out. Although often much of their job is to listen to spoken language and turn it into signs in the air in order to communicate, they also will watch sign language and turn it into an English sentence in a spoken form.

Sign language interpreters must be fluent in English and in American Sign Language (ASL). Some interpreters specialize in oral interpretation (mouthing speech silently to aid in lip reading), cued speech (hand shapes placed near the mouth to aid in lip reading), and signing exact English.1

Interveners

An Intervener helps individuals that are deafblind communicate with others. Deafblind (yes, all one word) have both hearing and vision loss and, therefore, require different help with communication than someone with only hearing loss.

This is a job classification that is relatively new to many parts of the United States and still is a bit confusing for many people. The Intervener role, although newer to the U.S., has been around in Canada for many years. Interveners are typically a one-to-one service provider, while Interpreters often interpret one-to-one or in group settings in the front of a room.

Interveners MAY use tactile signing (making hand signs into the individual's hand) to interpret.  They may also sometimes use Braille (written language used by blind and visually impaired), however, not always. In contrast, Interpreters usually would NOT be using, or be expected to know, tactile signing or Braille to communicate with deaf or hard of hearing individuals.

Related Signing Savvy Blog Articles

  1. The mysterious confusion between deafness and blindness
  2. Braille Explained

Sources

  1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, Interpreters and Translators.  Retrieved on October 10, 2012 from http://www.bls.gov/ooh/media-and-communication/interpreters-and-translators.htm
     

 

 

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Braille Explained

Learning Tips   |  Wednesday, October 10, 2012

By Jillian Winn

There is sometimes confusion between the communication techniques used with deafness versus blindness, especially with understanding what Braille is and who uses it. It's not uncommon to tell someone you know sign language and then they ask if you know Braille.

Braille is typically not used by deaf or hard of hearing individuals. It is a written language used by the blind and visually impaired who may have a hard time, or be unable to, read written text. Braille uses patterns of raised dots to represent the characters of words.  Instead of using sight to read text, the fingertips are used to feel the pattern of the raised dots to read Braille.

Braille

Similar to how there are different types of sign language, there are different versions of Braille.  The United States uses English Braille.  Even within English Braille there are different levels of encoding, similar to how there are different reading levels for English text.

Braille next to elevator buttonBraille usage has declined because of the increased availability and use of screen reading software. However, braille education remains important for developing reading skills - in addition to physical books and other texts, Braille can be found in all types of locations from signs in public areas to in elevators. For example, see the Braille under the number 12 located next to the elevator button in the photo.

For more information on Braille, see the Braille Wikipedia page.  We also have a previous Signing Savvy blog article, The mysterious confusion between deafness and blindness, that you may be interested in.

 

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This week is Deaf Awareness Week!

General Interest   |  Tuesday, September 25, 2012

By Jillian Winn

This week, September 24th to 30th, is Deaf Awareness Week. Deaf Awareness Week, also called International Week of the Deaf (IWD), is celebrated annually and ends with International Day of the Deaf on the last Sunday of the week.  Deaf Awareness Week is celebrated by national and regional associations of the deaf, local communities, and individuals worldwide.

The purpose of Deaf Awareness Week is to increase public awareness of deaf issues, people, and culture.  Activities and events throughout Deaf Awareness Week encourage individuals to come together as a community for both educational events and celebrations.

Here are some ways that you can participate in Deaf Awareness Week:

  • Help promote the beautiful language of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing by learning a special something and sharing it with others out there who may not know sign language. You can use Signing Savvy to lookup and pick out signs to learn and share.  Also, visit the site each day the rest of the week to see the sign of the day, which have to do with Deaf Awareness Week (we've chosen the signs for deaf, hard of hearing, education, proud, community, and celebrate).
  • Volunteer to sign a children’s book for story hour at your local school or library.
  • Educate a co-worker or neighbor about Deaf Awareness Week.  Tell them it’s Deaf Awareness Week and share a fact with them – anything from a statistic, misconception, or success story to showing them how to sign something.

For more information on the history, purpose, and types of events that occur during Deaf Awareness Week, see our Deaf Awareness Week page.

 

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Learning Many Languages to Master Just One

General Interest   |  Wednesday, September 12, 2012

By Kelley King-Spears

This article is by guest author Kelley King-Spears. There are a number of hearing people with various communication difficulties that learn sign language in order to use it as a tool for increasing spoken English vocabulary and developing better communications skills. When her son was presenting signs of developmental delay, Kelley began a journey of exploration to find tools and methods that would help her son learn to communicate better. Sign Language is one of the tools that helped her and her son along the way.

What do you do when you know deep in your gut that something is different about your child? How do you handle it when people tell you there's nothing to worry about? How do you give your little one the best start you possibly can when it feels like you're running against the wind?


These are just some of the thoughts that used to race around in my head when I realized that the little boy I had adopted was presenting severe signs of delay. It seemed as though I was the only one who noticed at first, and when family and friends did eventually notice, it was me that they were looking at.

Thus began my journey of digging and searching countless hours on the internet until my shoulders began to ache looking for the reason my son at two years old could not say more than a few short, hard to understand words.

After a long road of research, trial and error, having setbacks and making progress, I wanted to share what I learned with other parents with children with developmental delays. In my book, Jumpstart the Guide for Parents with Developmentally Delayed Children, I explain in detail how we grabbed the bull by the horns, wrestling with different concepts until my son began to learn how to use language. There are many different kinds of developmental delays and there is a broad spectrum. I wanted to provide encouragement for parents like me who are trying to find their way on the broad road of childhood conditions. I list resources in the book, like Signing Savvy, that helped me. Websites like Signing Savvy have been a God-send because when my son had no voice in his mouth we found a voice in his fingers.

Athough my son is not hard of hearing or deaf, signing opened the way for him to understand that he could actually communicate his wants and needs even if in a simple way. I see ASL as it truly is, another language. Being able to find little starter words in ASL became cobblestones that lead to true communication.

Along with sign language I also used flash cards with words and my own made up songs. After writing the book I wondered how many children have mommies who can sing well enough to hold their attention so that they could learn speech. I thought, "Well, maybe not that many." So I recently released my first children's album called Spch Lang Fun Speech Songs. Children can listen and learn from the songs for free online at spchlang.com.

Even though my son is now talking constantly I have become a self-appointed cheerleader to all the parents struggling with communication problems. Language is not simply to speak but to be able to be understood. I believe, there is always a way this can be accomplished.

 

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About the Author

Kelley King-Spears and her son.Kelley King-Spears is a mother of four children and a former Licensed Practical Nurse. Three of her children are adults. She is passionate about caring for the needs of children.

Kelley has recently self-produced her first book, Jumpstart the Guide for Parents with Developmentally Delayed Children, and children's speech album, Spch Lang Fun Speech Songs, and is always looking for ways to enhance the experience and quality of living.

More about Kelley  |  Articles by Kelley

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