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

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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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Interpreter Q & A: Is It Better to Be Late or Wet?

Interpreter Q & A: Is It Better to Be Late or Wet?

Interpreter Tips   |  Monday, June 9, 2014

By Brenda Cartwright

This article is by Brenda Cartwright. Brenda is a seasoned interpreter, a master teacher, and well known presenter. Brenda is the "Dear Abby" for the interpreting world - author of the Dear Reality column in the VIEWS publication from Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) and the book Encounters With Reality: 1001 Interpreter Scenarios. She will be contributing blog articles for Signing Savvy on interpreting, Deaf culture, and answering a series of "Dear BC" interpreter questions.

Dear BC,

Which is better in your opinion — to be a few minutes late for an interpreting job when it is pouring rain or to show up on time, but soaking wet?

Thanks,
Hoping Not To Be Late & Wet

An Experienced Interpreter's Perspective:

If you arrive late (but dry) the consumers may be inconvenienced, annoyed, frustrated, anxious, etc. However, an appropriate business-like explanation/apology should soon set this matter aside and allow everyone to concentrate on the business at hand.

I suspect the consequences will be more serious if you arrive drenched, but on time. Although you are “on time” by the clock, you may not be ready to do the job. At least from my experience, it is difficult to concentrate on the interpreting task while dressed in uncomfortable, wet, clingy clothing and sodden shoes. Those are not conditions conducive to producing your best work. Secondly, imagine the effect on consumers as they try to concentrate on the business at hand and their communication goals, while trying to ignore the squishing sounds as you move around, the fine mist spraying off your fingertips, and the ever widening puddle on the floor beneath you (and these distractions will continue for the duration of the assignment!).

After the assignment is the appropriate time to consider what reasonable alternatives might have prevented your dilemma. You might want to stop by a store on the way home and purchase appropriate rain gear and an umbrella to keep in your car and/or interpreter’s tote.

Experienced Deaf Consumer's Perspective:

Interpreters must make judicious safety-related decisions.

If the interpreter is on a college campus, he or she can wait for a few minutes until the pouring rain has subsided, even though they should have an umbrella. As soon as you get to the classroom you can privately tell the Deaf student(s) succinctly the reason for being late.

If it is to interpret for a doctor’s appointment or a lawyer meeting, it would be best for the interpreter to call and let the parties know that you will be a little late due to the heavy downpour.

In other words, it is wise to be late for an appointment as long as the parties involved (both hearing and Deaf) know that you are on the way. Coming into the appointment soaking wet may not only reflect badly on the interpreter, but it may also reflect badly on the Deaf consumer. Again, the interpreter’s safety is the key to making sure that the communication process will work, no matter how late the interpreter arrives to the appointment.

Have you experienced this problem too? How did you handle it or prevent it from happening again? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
 

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About the Author

Brenda CartwrightBrenda Cartwright is a seasoned interpreter, a master teacher, well known presenter, and author of several best selling sign language and interpreting textbooks from the RID Press. For the last 30 years Brenda has been the Chair of the Sign Language Interpreter Program at Lansing Community College in Lansing, Michigan.

More about BC  |  Articles by BC

ASL Syntax

ASL Syntax

Learning Tips   |  Wednesday, May 21, 2014

By Marta Belsky and Christopher Greene-Szmadzinski

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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Tweet Explained: Why not to buy manual alphabet cards from peddlers

Tweet Explained: Why not to buy manual alphabet cards from peddlers

General Interest   |  Tuesday, May 13, 2014

By Marta Belsky

This article is by Marta Belsky. Marta is a third generation ASL user. She has been teaching ASL for 30 years and enjoys sharing her native language with new users.

We are constantly posting tips, facts, and learning resources related to sign language and Deaf culture on our Twitter @SigningSavvy.  Occasionally we get questions about our tweets and explain them further with a followup article, like this one.
 

@SigningSavvy Tweet:


Explained:

Peddlers who pass out cards with the manual alphabet like to frequent high traffic places like airports and coffee shops and cafes in big cities.  Peddlers appear to be uneducated, unskilled and unemployable — a victim of society. In truth, some of these peddlers are very clever. By preying on gullible hearing people, a successful peddler can earn quite a bit!  

The majority of Deaf people are hard-working taxpayers who bitterly resent the stereotype that these peddlers perpetuate.  For years Deaf people have spent time and energy educating the public and trying to undo negative, demeaning perceptions of the Deaf. Most damaging is the fear that strikes the heart of a mother or father whose child has just been diagnosed as deaf and thinks “Is my daughter or son going to become one of t-h-e-m?”

There is a big difference between buying something from a peddler on a sidewalk and being psychologically pressured into “paying any price you wish” or for an ABC card by someone who comes up to you in a public place.  ABC cards aren’t a legitimate product. They’re a gimmick. Selling them is a con game. Kind hearted hearing people who really want to learn the manual alphabet to communicate with Deaf people shouldn’t have to pay through the nose for it.  If you truly want to “help deaf people” there are many good ways to do it:

  • Buy a ticket to a Deaf theater performance.
  • Contribute to a Deaf school fundraiser.
  • Buy books by Deaf authors.
  • Buy art by Deaf artists.  

Sadly, many of these “deaf” peddlers aren’t even deaf. They’re hearing people faking deafness. As proven time and time again when a person approaches them and asks in fluent American Sign Language (ASL), “Why are you doing this?” Watch them make a quick escape!

Have you been approached to purchase a manual alphabet card before? Share your experience and thoughts in the comments below.

Let us know whenever you have a question about one of our @SigningSavvy tweets and we would be happy to explain it further.  Just ask us on Twitter for clarification or use our contact form.

 

 

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About the Author

Marta Belsky Marta Belsky is a third generation ASL user. She has been teaching ASL for 30 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

Interpreter Q & A: Interpreter Credentials

Interpreter Q & A: Interpreter Credentials

Interpreter Tips   |  Tuesday, April 29, 2014

By Brenda Cartwright

This article is by Brenda Cartwright. Brenda is a seasoned interpreter, a master teacher, and well known presenter. Brenda is the "Dear Abby" for the interpreting world - author of the Dear Reality column in the VIEWS publication from Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) and the book Encounters With Reality: 1001 Interpreter Scenarios. She will be contributing blog articles for Signing Savvy on interpreting, Deaf culture, and answering a series of "Dear BC" interpreter questions.

Dear BC,

It just so happens that I’ve been collecting interpreter business cards for a long time now and I’m convinced that anyone and everyone these days can call themselves an "interpreter" without any credentials to back up their claim. Truth be told, our consumers aren’t always familiar with all our acronyms and the terminology we use for certification levels, so they can be easily misled. Here are some examples of titles I have in my collection from non-certified "interpreters" out there:

  • "ASL Interpreter"
  • "State Certified Interpreter"
  • "ITP Graduate"
  • "Freelance Interpreter"
  • "Interpreter for the Hearing Impaired" and my favorite… "Hearing Impaired Interpreter"… this was a hearing person!

Sincerely,
Concerned Interpreter

An Experienced Interpreter's Perspective:

"Consumer Beware!" That’s really what they should print on their business cards, although I doubt we will ever see it. One of the reasons I’m a strong proponent of licensing is the need to establish standards and ensure that only qualified people are practicing in the interpreting profession. Many hearing consumers and even some Deaf consumers don’t know what it takes to become qualified. As more states get on the bandwagon with licensure I believe this problem will start to disappear. In the meantime, we need to continue to educate consumers so they can make an informed choice when it comes to interpreting services.

Experienced Deaf Consumer's Perspective:

First of all, I would ask the interpreter if he or she has certification from the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID). If so, what kind of certification, and when? If he or she has no certification then I would ask where they got their training from and who their teachers were. If this person did not attend an interpreter training program, then I would discuss the importance of getting formal training, certification and state laws out there requiring it. If this person was assigned to me from an agency, I would inform his or her supervisor about my concerns and suggest they not utilize this person in the future.

Have you experienced this problem too? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
 

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About the Author

Brenda CartwrightBrenda Cartwright is a seasoned interpreter, a master teacher, well known presenter, and author of several best selling sign language and interpreting textbooks from the RID Press. For the last 30 years Brenda has been the Chair of the Sign Language Interpreter Program at Lansing Community College in Lansing, Michigan.

More about BC  |  Articles by BC

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