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 - OUTDOORS

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The Many Faces of the Users of Sign Language

General Interest   |  Sunday, November 25, 2012

By John Miller

About a year and a half ago, I came across a young man having problems in one of my schools.  He was about five years old and like any other five year old boy, he was a bit stubborn.  But, unfortunately, he was also known to be a bit of a “flight risk” from the classroom.  We will call him Alex.

Alex isn’t deaf.  I don’t even think he is hard of hearing.  Alex is a very bright young man….a bright young man with Downs Syndrome.  Because of the Down’s, Alex has a lot of trouble with his expressive communication skills.  He can hear everything anyone is saying to him, and he really enjoys interacting with others he comes across.  He is a very affectionate boy.  But up until a year and a half ago, Alex had no real way to communicate back to others what he wanted to say. He made noises here and there but other than gestures, his full thoughts were not being conveyed well and his frustration with communication was evident.

Thankfully Alex’s teacher had previously worked as a speech therapist in a Deaf and Hard of Hearing classroom and she suggested Alex be placed in a DH/H classroom setting where he would be submersed in sign language and he would have continual access to those who used it. Alex picked up on the concept of signing almost immediately.  His signs, much like baby signs are often approximations of the true ASL sign, but they are definitely understandable.  His command of language shows remarkable purpose and thought.

Today it is AMAZING to see Alex sign with his teachers, interpreters and his peers.  He has a schedule and knows exactly how to use it and the purpose behind it, even making suggestions of ways to add to his schedule so that it is more complex and inclusive to his needs.  He is reading everyday words that are a part of his schedule.  His mother and the staff that work with him are so happy with Alex’s progress.  “He has become a MUCH happier boy now that he can effectively communicate his wants and needs.”  Adds one member of his educational team.  His mother’s comment, “Our home life is night and day different and the frustrations, although still there at times, are so much less than what they were before Alex had a voice through sign language.” This comment brought a tear to my eye and a lump in my throat.

These are the people we created Signing Savvy for, the people who need a voice and those who work with them. We know there are others out there like Alex who may not be Deaf or Hard of Hearing but are still walking the earth “without a voice”.  If you know anyone who fits into this category, please don’t hesitate to suggest the introduction of sign language to them.  You may dramatically change their life forever!

Alex’s face is distinctly different than your typical Deaf or Hard of Hearing child, yet one thing is very much the same…..the smile when he is communicating.

 

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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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