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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Top 10 Pearls of Wisdom for Interpreters

Top 10 Pearls of Wisdom for Interpreters

Interpreter Tips   |  Thursday, March 29, 2012

By Brenda Cartwright

This article is by Brenda Cartwright. Brenda is a seasoned interpreter, a master teacher, and well known presenter. Brenda is the 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.

Interpreting can be both rewarding and challenging. Here is my list of top ten pearls of wisdom for interpreters:

  1. Yuo msut haev gud Englesh and spellnig skells. (Enuff sed)
  2. Not everything can be learned in an Interpreter Training Program.
    There is so much that comes from the experiences you will receive out in the field. Reflect and respect what you learned in your Interpreter Training Program (ITP) but remember that (as in life) the lessons you will continue to learn will be very valuable in your career as an interpreter.
  3. If you’re 5 minutes early, you’re late.
    Running in at the last minute bonking your clients in the head with your purse as you pass by frantically, then having to excuse yourself to use the bathroom is not professional or reassuring that you are prepared. Nothing is worse than a late interpreter! Be aware of the situation and setting for which you are interpreting, and then show up early according to those details. It will pay off in spades in the end.
  4. Remember you pave the way for the next interpreter.
    We are all a team here. Let’s not ruin it or muddy the waters by talking ill of others who have proceeded or may follow.
  5. Doubt means don’t.
    Follow your gut, it’s not just processing the coffee you drank this morning.
  6. Remember why you started, because there are always 1000 reasons to quit.
    This career can be the most rewarding, yet the most frustrating thing you have ever done... and sometimes all in the same interpreting job!
  7. Don’t be a "smell money interpreter".
    This is to remind people hopefully why they got in this profession. You chose this profession for the money? Really? To be fluent in any language you have to practice, and in this field you can only do that by hanging out with native users. But you can't just say, "be my friend so I can learn this language" and then just dump them. Once you're in the community you're in for life.
  8. Nobody likes a know it all.
    This relates back to # 2, about taking in the new experiences, as well as LISTENING and REFLECTING before you speak. If you truly feel you have something pertinent to share, you can do so, but do it in a way that looks like you are trying to be helpful, not like you have every answer and you have been dropped down directly from God to save this situation.
  9. Know how to flatter. When to flatter.
    Remember, no one likes a brown noser. Flattery might seem nice but it soon turns into kissing up. Avoid it, especially if it is fake because it is quickly recognized.
  10. Black goes with everything. (And is very thinning!)
    For those of you that don’t know, interpreters are supposed to wear solid colors. The general rule for interpreting is that you are supposed to wear solid colors that contrast with one's skin tone. I still own a lot of black clothes but as long as it contrasts with my skin tone I can also pick from fun colors called: cinnamon, pumpkin, blueberry, concord grape, plum, amethyst, moss, shale. Happy shopping!

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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.

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Celebrated Deaf Artist Chuck Baird Dies

General Interest   |  Wednesday, February 29, 2012

By John Miller

Chuck BairdChuck Baird, an amazing Deaf artist died February 10, 2012 after a four-year battle with cancer.

Chuck Baird was often referred to as a playful mind and a generous heart. I was able to meet Chuck as he visited with a group of young Deaf and Hard of Hearing children. I have to admit his playful mind and generous heart is what stuck out to me the most while I watched him totally pull the children into his wonderful world of art.

Chuck was born deaf 64 years ago in Kansas City, Missouri. He graduated from Kansas School for the Deaf in 1967 and attended Gallaudet University for two years. Later he attended Rochester Institute of Technology's National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID), where he played football for their team for only four games. He decided to give up the sport for his love of art instead.

Robert Baker of NTID’s Dyer Arts Center described Baird best as “a giant of an artist and a wonderful man.” Chuck’s time at NTID also included time spent in the Drama Club. He acted in several productions and designed and painted several sets. One of his most memorable plays was “King of Hearts” where each night Chuck would recreate the entire set in front of a live audience!

Later in life Chuck worked for DawnSignPress as an in-house artist creating a number of Deaf-related works.

Chuck’s works were known for the genre called De’VIA, which stood for Deaf View Image Arts. This genre explored the perspective of Deaf people and their experiences in a hearing world. Deaf and Hard of Hearing children of all ages loved to see their language, American Sign Language, being used in art to express their point of view.

Chuck Baird's painting Crocodile Dundee
"Crocodile Dundee" Copyright Chuck Baird, 1992. In this Chuck Baird painting, notice the reflection of the crocodile is the sign for crocodile. To see more of Chuck Baird's paintings, visit Chuck Baird's website.

“Chuck spent his life sharing his talent and love for the Deaf-world via his art. He constantly sought to create spaces where new De’Via artists could be fostered, shared, valued and discussed.”

Rest in Peace Chuck Baird, your talents will live on through the many, many people you inspired with your great perspective and zest for life.

Learn more about Chuck Baird:

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The Hammer movie delivers inspirational true story

General Interest   |  Monday, February 20, 2012

By Jillian Winn

The Hammer, a movie based on the life of the first deaf NCAA Wrestling Champion and UFC Fighter Matt "The Hammer" Hamill, was released on DVD a few weeks ago. The DVD cover says, "the inspirational true story," and it was just that… whether or not you are interested in wrestling, sign language, or deaf culture, the movie is an inspirational story about overcoming challenges and working hard to make your dreams a reality. And if you are interested in sign language (of course you are, if you are on Signing Savvy!), you should check out this movie.

Watch the trailer:

Different, not Disabled.

The film takes us on Matt's journey from childhood to an adult, starting with a scene where his grandfather is in the room with an audiologist while Matt, as a toddler, is having his hearing tested. The grandfather says to the audiologist, "After a couple of flashing lights and a teddy bear, you're going to tell me my grandson is deaf and dumb?" The audiologist responds, "No… I'm going to tell you, you have a highly intelligent grandson who is profoundly deaf."

Young Matt Hamill in The Hammer movieThis heart-wrenching opening scene represents an all too common misconception of those who are deaf or hard of hearing (HOH). There is nothing "dumb" about deaf or HOH individuals and please be careful with using the terminology "handicapped" as well. Deaf or HOH individuals are just as capable, able, and intelligent as hearing individuals. The Hammer movie does a great job of showing this distinction of different, not disabled.

When you know better, you do better.

Matt's grandfather was a strong influence in his life and although throughout the film he delivers "tough love" to try to make him stronger, it's not because he views Matt as weak, it's because he sees how strong he is. A scene close to the end of the movie shows a softer side of his grandfather and the love he has for Matt (but we won't spoil it for you!). The film can help introduce those unfamiliar with deaf and HOH individuals with deaf culture.

A glimpse into deaf culture.

There are a lot of takeaways in the film for those not familiar with deaf culture. The film's production team made some great decisions which added to the authenticity and overall storytelling within the film:

Matt Hamill in The Hammer movie

  • They casted all deaf roles in the film with deaf actors.
  • There is a sparse soundtrack and the audio is softened and muffled in certain parts to try to give hearing viewers a small glimpse into what it would be like to be deaf.
  • Sign language is used in the film with captioning so non-signers can understand (it is the first non-foreign language film to incorporate open captioning). For those that don't understand sign language, it adds to the storytelling aspect of the film. For those who are deaf, HOH, or learning sign language, you can turn off the captioning.
  • The director also noted that, "I used many wide angles to help mirror an enhanced peripheral view, which is common among deaf people who communicate 100% through visuals."

The verdict: Two open-palm, shaking hands (sign for clapping/cheering)

The Hammer is an inspirational story of determination and a sensory view into deaf culture for the hearing. If you are learning sign language, you should check out this movie.

But don't just take our word for it... The Hammer was a winner at several film festivals, including the Newport Beach Film Festival, Florida Film Festival, AFI Film Festival, Miami Film Festival, Cleveland Film Festival, Philly Cinefest Film Festival, Maui Film Festival, and Heartland Film Festival.

Finding the Film

Please note this film is rated PG-13 and not for young children.

The Hammer can be found at Amazon, Walmart, Best Buy, Blockbuster, iTunes, Netflix, and many cable and satellite PayPerView providers.

You can also find it on the website for The Hammer movie.

Thoughts? Discussion?

The Hammer brings up many interesting topics for discussion. If you watched the movie, tell us what you thought:

  • Did you like the movie?
  • What did it leave you thinking about?
  • If you could ask Matt "The Hammer" Hamill or the Producers/Director of the movie a question, what would you ask them?

We would love to hear your thoughts! Leave your comment below or on the Signing Savvy Facebook Page.


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Quizzing Enhanced with Fill-in-the-Blank Option

Site News   |  Monday, February 6, 2012

By Jillian Winn

We have enhanced the Signing Savvy quizzing feature to add a "fill-in-the-blank" question type in addition to the two multiple choice question types ("match meaning to sign" and "match sign to meaning"). The new "fill-in-the-blank" question type is a particularly good way to test your fingerspelling recognition skills (as discussed in the previous blog post, FINGERSPELLING……that dirty BIG four-teen letter word!).

Quizzing yourself on word lists is a full member feature. All users can sample the quizzing option on the Colors word list.


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FINGERSPELLING……that dirty BIG four-teen letter word!

Learning Tips   |  Friday, February 3, 2012

By John Miller

letter i
In all my years of signing, I have never had anyone say to me, "I can’t believe how easy fingerspelling is!" or "Man, I really LOVE fingerspelling all these odd words that don’t have signs for them." It just isn’t a favorite part of the job! It is the thing that makes even seasoned interpreters break into a sweat when they have to start signing for a calculus class or in a court of law with a bunch of foreign names flying through the air.

I have come up with a few tricks through the years to make it easier, but the only true way to improve your fingerspelling skills is to practice. The practice needs to be both receptive and expressive.

Signing Terminology

Expressive - When you are signing/fingerspelling something to someone else.

Receptive - When you are reading(watching) someone else's signing/fingerspelling

There are some good websites out there that offer some examples to get that receptive practice. (See our Facebook page for one sited there.) I also want to take this opportunity to show you a few ways Signing Savvy can help you with your fingerspelling. Although we have many savvy users of the site, it can be easy to overlook features if you have not used them before.

First, Signing Savvy shows a fingerspelled version of every word. When viewing a sign video, the squares next to the word indicate the different versions of the sign that exist and there is always a "FS" version, which lets you see the word fingerspelled. It is a good reference, however, you will notice that the "FS" version individually signs each letter and does not demonstrate the flow between the letters. (Note: There are some words that should always be fingerspelled and the main video is of the word being fingerspelled - see ASL as an example and notice the flow between letters). You will notice that underneath the video it tells you what is currently being signed, including the current letter being signed when fingerspelling a whole word.

Signing Savvy fingerspelling features

Second, if you are a Signing Savvy Full Member you can use the Signing Savvy flashcards and quizzes to test yourself on fingerspelled words by creating a wordlist of only fingerspelled versions of words. If you want to add a word that has multiple signed versions to your wordlist, just make sure you are viewing the "FS" or fingerspelled version before adding it to your wordlist. Once you have all the words you want in your wordlist, use either the flashcard or quizzing feature in Signing Savvy to test yourself.

I thought it would be interesting to put the question out there to our Facebook followers and see if they could come up with a few interesting tricks of their own. Here are some of their suggestions:

  • Fingerspelling while in the car.
    Several people suggested the trick of fingerspelling while in the car (license plates, road signs, building names etc….). I like that idea but I just hope you are the passenger in the car at the time so that you aren’t having to fingerspell the license plate of the car you rear-end because you are too focused on spelling the LONG name on the building you are passing!

    If you are on a longer road trip, you could also play the "alphabet game" where you look for words (on signs, billboards, buildings, cars, etc.) that start with each letter of the alphabet, starting with A. You compete with others in the car by trying to be the first to get to Z. Each word you see, you would point at it and then fingerspell it. An alternate version would be to look for any item, not just words. Of course, again, this game is not recommended for the driver.

  • Focus on the whole word and not letter by letter.
    Another suggestion from our Facebook friends was to focus on the whole word and not letter by letter. This allows you to have a better flow as well. It is also helpful to say the sounds of the letters, NOT the letter itself as you are spelling the word phonetically. (This works well with both expressive and receptive fingerspelling.)

  • Don’t get fixated on each letter.
    Don’t get fixated on each letter, rather focus on the entire word and the flow of the hand changing as you create the word in the air. This will also help in not allowing you to “throw your letters”, which is another common problem for new finger spellers.

  • Signing Terminology

    "Throwing your letters" - This is something that many new signers do and it is a bouncing movement either up and down or forward that is disruptive and bothers with the reading of the fingerspelling. The elbow should stay still and just have the fingers moving and the wrist when appropriate.

    We also need to remember the general rules for fingerspelling. It isn’t right to makeup signs for words you don’t know because they are too long to fingerspell. You may laugh, but I see it happen all the time! Some people have even used the excuse that they work with young children so they can’t fingerspell. That is NOT true. When young children are fingerspelled to for small words that normally can be fingerspelled, they focus on the shape of the word. They will copy the shape to the best of their ability and then later they will make the connection to the alphabet. I have seen little children who are too young to know better, spelling words like BUS and BUG and are not even aware that they are spelling things.

    I invite everyone to join us on our Facebook page where we have regular discussions and questions going back and forth about the hot topics in sign language and Deaf Education. It is just another great resource offered to you by Signing Savvy!


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