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

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The difference between ASL and English signs

Learning Tips   |  Tuesday, September 7, 2010

By John Miller

One question many new signers ask me is: "What is the difference between ASL signs and English signs?" and "What does it mean to have an initialized sign?" These are two really good questions. It is important to understand the difference, particularly when signing to a member of the Deaf community.

Some background information

You may have noticed that sometimes people are referred as deaf (little d) and other times as Deaf (big D). This is done for a specific purpose. People that are deaf have partial or complete hearing loss. Deaf (big D) people are not just deaf by way of auditory definition, but culturally as well. They are usually born deaf. They don't normally use their voice when they sign. Many of them may also choose not to use hearing aides, cochlear implants or any other sound enhancing devices, even if they may get hearing benefit from them. They instead choose to use sign language as their primary mode of communication. Through sign they utilize interpreters in order to communicate with the hearing world.

Most deaf people; whether big D or little d, do NOT like to be referred to as Hearing Impaired. Instead they want to be identified as Deaf or Hard of Hearing, depending on their degree of hearing loss.

I give you this brief history just to give you some background before answering the ASL verses English question. This topic can become very involved and very political and we at Signing Savvy are not wanting to lose our focus of being a sign language resource for all, so we choose normally not to get too involved in these kinds of debates.

ASL signs vs. English signs

ASL (American Sign Language) is a complete, unique language developed by deaf people, for deaf people and is used in its purest form by people who are Deaf. Being its own language, it not only has its own vocabulary, but also its own grammar that differs from English.

Signed Exact English is a system to communicate in English through signs and fingerspelling. Signed Exact English, in most cases, uses English grammar (that is, you are signing English). The vocabulary is a combination of ASL signs, modified ASL signs, or unique English signs.

The reason English signs often vary from ASL is to add clarity to the sign so that the exact English word meant for the conversation is understood. One example would be the sign for CAR. In ASL, the sign for CAR is two A hands gesturing like they are holding onto and moving a steering wheel. In ASL, this sign is used for any automobile you control with a steering wheel, including a car, truck, bus, van, etc. The English sign for CAR is two C hands, one on top of the other, moving away from each other. If you wanted to specify what type of car, the hand shape is modified to include the initial of the type of vehicle (c for car, v for van, b for bus, j for jeep, etc.).

This is where the term "initialized sign" comes from. You clarify the meaning by initializing the sign with first letter of the intended English word. Therefore, using the English version allows one to specify exactly what is communicated in English. In ASL, you would just use the ASL sign for car and if it was important to clarify the type of vehicle, you would follow the sign with a fingerspelling of the vehicle type (JEEP, for example). This is just one example. There are many other examples.

Just as many ASL signs are used in Signed Exact English, members of the big D Deaf camp have accepted some English signs. However, some are still not accepted, and if you use them in your everyday signing, could be frowned upon by the Deaf. It is best to watch and ask if you are in doubt.

What type of signs does Signing Savvy include?

Since Signing Savvy is first and foremost a dictionary, we have decided to include the most common variations (both ASL and English) on the site so that you see that they do exist. Since ASL is the preferred language of the Deaf community, the ASL sign is almost always listed as the first version unless the word does not have an ASL sign for it. To determine if the sign is ASL or English, look below the video to see the sign type (available on most signs). If you are a registered guest or full member, the sign description tells you if it is an initialized sign. Remember that most of the time if the sign is an initialized sign, then it falls under that English category.

 

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Back to School with Several Enhanced Features

Site News   |  Sunday, August 8, 2010

By Jillian Winn

As the school year approaches, we want to let you know of a few things we have recently done on Signing Savvy particularly for teachers and students.

Many sign language teachers and professors are using Signing Savvy to create word lists (aka, vocabulary lists) of their lesson plans and then sharing them with their students. This allows the students to use Signing Savvy's online flash cards and quizzing features to quickly reinforce what they learned in the classroom from home or wherever they have access to the Internet.

"Bookmarking" Word Lists

As a result, we now have hundreds of shared word lists. We have had the ability to search shared word lists, but even this becomes tedious if you always want to return to the same shared word lists. We've added functionality so now you can bookmark word lists that you want to return to often. Just view a word list and click the ADD BOOKMARK button. The list of your bookmarked word lists will show up on the Shared Word Lists page.

"Friending" Shared Word List Authors

If you want to see all the shared word lists created by someone, you can friend them. For example, a student might friend their teacher or a study partner. Then whenever the teacher or study partner creates a new shared word list, the word list will show up in the student's friends list. To add a friend, first, click on the author's name of a word list to see all of their shared word lists, then click the ADD AS FRIEND button. Just like bookmarks, the list of your friends word lists will show up on the Shared Word Lists page.

Note: Of course, you are only allowed to see word lists that are public. Private word lists are not viewable by anyone other than the author.

4-Month Full Memberships

With this in mind, teachers are starting to integrate Signing Savvy into their courses. In some cases, they are replacing or complementing the course textbook with Signing Savvy memberships. We have received several requests from teachers for a membership duration that fits the duration of a semester and the pocketbooks of their students. We have done just that! We now offer a semester long (4 months or 16 week) full membership option for $24.95. That is much cheaper than most textbooks.

Recommendations

We have also just started a "recommendation program." Teachers (or anyone else) can set up an account on Signing Savvy and recommend Signing Savvy to their students (or whomever) by providing a special link. When the link is followed to Signing Savvy and the individual becomes a full member, they are automatically connected (see friending above) to the teacher's account so that they can see their shared wordlists. In turn, the teacher is rewarded with additional free full membership time to Signing Savvy. Recommendations are easy to give and are fully explained in the FAQ section of our website.

Institutional Purchases

This one is not new, but many are not aware of it. If you are part of an institution, such as a school, college, government agency, non-profit, or corporation and would like to offer memberships to your students, members, or employees, Signing Savvy has an excellent way to do just that, called Bulk Membership Purchasing.

With Bulk Membership Purchasing your institution can purchase multiple Signing Savvy memberships at a discounted price, then assign and manage those memberships. For Bulk Membership purchases, we also accept purchase orders. If you are interested, learn more on the create proposal page!

Have a great rest of the summer!

At Signing Savvy, we've had a pretty productive summer! We're happy we've been able to rollout several new full member features (described above), a new design, and have spent time in the recording studio so we could add many more signs to the dictionary. We hope you enjoy the new features!

 

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New site design and functionality

Site News   |  Tuesday, August 3, 2010

By Jillian Winn

We have been working hard this summer on a redesigned version of the Signing Savvy website. We are happy to make it available as of today!

The new design refreshes the look and polishes the functionality of Signing Savvy while not being so different that you have to relearn how to use the site.

One of our goals was to take advantage of some of the newer web technologies to make a better user experience. However, if you are using an older browser (such as Internet Explorer 6), you may need to upgrade to take advantage of all of these features. Check out the FAQ for system requirements.

We have tested the site internally but your computer configuration likely differs from ours. If you encounter any problems with the new site, please contact us and let us know.

With the new design as our foundation, we plan to add in several new features to the site over the coming months. As always, we also continue to expand the dictionary of signs and add blog posts.

 

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Directional Verbs

Learning Tips   |  Wednesday, July 28, 2010

By John Miller

There are a group of verbs that are often referred to as Directional Verbs. These are also known as Indexical verbs or Verb Agreement. These verbs do just what the term suggests; they show directionality. They do this by using an element of motion that indicates one or more referents (see post on Setting Up People, Places, and Things for more on referents). These verbs can be used pretty simply by setting people up, then using direction to show who is doing what to whom.

I will give you some examples to make it clear using the word/sign SHOW.

  1. First you set up someone on the right, lets say DAN, by fingerspelling his name on the right side of your signing space.
  2. Then you set up someone on the left, lets say JACK, by fingerspelling his name on the left side of your signing space.
  3. Then just by using the sign SHOW and moving from the area on the right, to the area on the left, you are signing DAN SHOWED JACK.
  4. If you went from the left to the right, you would be saying JACK SHOWED DAN.

Once again, the act of moving the sign gives the meaning of whom is doing what to whom. Other directional verbs include borrow, give, see, pay, invite, help, send, and bite.

Directional/Indexical signs can be very fun to use and make your message so much clearer when used properly.

Happy Signing!

 

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Setting Up People, Places and Things

Learning Tips   |  Wednesday, July 28, 2010

By John Miller

The use of space is a very important feature in American Sign Language. The way to be able to refer back to different people, places or things (referents) is to use the space around the signer. You do this by setting up the space. This is done in a three dimensional manner. It can be done in the space to the left or right of the signer, in front of the signer, in a semi-circle around the signer, or in rare cases behind the signer.

The signer establishes the person, place or thing by identifying them within the sign space, and then leaving them there (in space). The signer can then refer back to that specific space every time they are talking about that referent. Other signers in the same conversation can also refer to and use this sign space once it has been established (set up).

The setting up of the space can happen a few different ways:

  1. A person, place or thing can be fingerspelled in a certain location.
  2. You can make a sign in that location.
  3. A sign classifier can be signed in that location.
  4. The use of a directional verb can be signed toward a certain location.

One rule of thumb is to never set up more than six referents in any one conversation. Even that can be too many if there is going to be a lot of information associated with each. The proper use of space can make your signing much clearer and easily understood when done following these rules.

Happy Signing!

 

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