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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Signing Savvy Member App Updated to Version 2.5

Signing Savvy Member App Updated to Version 2.5

Site News   |  Friday, November 2, 2018

By Jillian Winn

We just updated both the iOS and Android versions of the Signing Savvy Member App to version 2.5. The update primarily increases the app's performance, resolves some bugs, and adds support to the latest iOS and Android operating systems and devices. The update is recommended for all Signing Savvy members using the mobile app running iOS 9 or newer or Android v4.4 (KitKat) or newer.

If you have not used the Signing Savvy Member App, it is a great way to access Signing Savvy on your mobile devices in a highly streamlined fashion. It is a premium feature available only to Signing Savvy full members.


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Self-Care is the New Normal

Self-Care is the New Normal

General Interest   |  Monday, October 15, 2018

By Lindsey Williams and Brenda Cartwright

"Self-care" is a popular topic in recent years, and the trend isn’t slowing down. One problem noticed by your authors, however, is that there seem to be competing definitions of this idea and it’s causing a breakdown in the discussion about the importance of self-care. Should self-care be understood as indulgence? Eating a piece of chocolate cake because it’s been a rough day and this will help you to feel better? Or should self-care be thought of as goal-setting? Training for a marathon because you’ve always wanted to try it and enjoy testing your limits?

What is Self Care? Indulgence? Goal-Setting?
What is self-care? Is self-care indulgence or goal-setting?

The contradiction is stark, and creating a life you don’t need to escape from takes hard work, sacrifice, and patience. In reality, maybe self-care is just letting yourself be "normal." Doing things like sitting down and paying your bills, enforcing a morning routine, cooking healthy meals, working out, putting some oil into your bath, turning off your phone, or having a game night with friends.

Being normal/self-care is a process that involves self-reflection. Despairing at the skinny total in your wallet and then going for a $80 pedicure to feel better is a temporary fix, but also worsening the problem. Training ourselves to resist the impatience of seeking an immediate fix is hard. None of life’s big challenges have easy solutions; learning a new skill, finding a compatible partner, career advancement, etc. Nobody asks to take the hard road but it is through those challenges and by building inner strength that we are able to move forward. We make sacrifices to become a better version of ourselves; the certified interpreter, the parent, the business owner. Moving toward those goals smartly, proactively, and relentlessly is how each of us achieves self-care.

Work on your skills and communication for a different tomorrow. Set new standards for yourself and actually believe in them. Skepticism in your own goals is not helping you get what you want. Your thought process is everything. Obsessing over temporary set-backs is exhausting and leaves little energy to actually become better. Taking action allows us to focus on movement and increases energy. Start by physically writing down what you want to accomplish; make lists. Learn what each item takes, and expect that it will require hard work and sacrifice to get there. Set specific, measurable goals. Writing a book doesn’t happen in one day. But you can write 20 pages. Training for a marathon doesn’t happen in a week. But you can increase the distance you’ve run. Have goals for the day, for the week, for the month, and write them down on paper. Put the paper someplace you’ll see it.

Set daily, weekly, and monthly goals
Set goals - daily, weekly, and monthly - and write them down.

Celebrate goals realized, and then get back to it. Self-care doesn’t require an audience, either, so don’t worry whether everyone is following along. Self-care is an investment of today’s time and energy so you can profit tomorrow.


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About the Authors

Lindsey WilliamsLindsey Williams is an interpreter, interpreter educator, and Practicum Supervisor for Lansing Community College’s Sign Language Interpreter Program in Lansing, Michigan.

More about Lindsey  |  Articles by Lindsey

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

Living Loud: Charles

Living Loud: Charles "CJ" Jones – Comedian, Actor, Producer, and Director

Deaf Culture   |  Tuesday, October 2, 2018

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.

CJ Jones and Ansel Elgort in Baby Driver
CJ Jones and Ansel Elgort in "Baby Driver" (2017) (Photo Credit: Sony Pictures, Photo by Wilson Webb - © 2017 TriStar Pictures, Inc. and MRC II Distribution Company L.P., Retreived from IBDb)

Named Charles Paul Jones at birth, Jones, who prefers to go by CJ, claims that his life is all about "who I am, not what I am." He does not want his deafness to be his claim to fame. His journey in the world of comedy is fast becoming his legacy. You may recognize him from the 2017 summer hit "Baby Driver," which made CJ the first black, deaf actor in an international blockbuster. To both the deaf and hearing worlds, CJ Jones brings hope and compassion for our future.

The Flourishing Student

CJ is the son of Deaf parents and has 6 hearing siblings. His parents and all of his brothers and sisters used American Sign Language. At the early age of seven, CJ contracted spinal meningitis. This major illness left CJ with a profound hearing loss. To further his education, CJ transferred to Missouri School for the Deaf (MSD), moving away from his entire family. His deaf father, Clarence, fought the Missouri school system to get CJ a place in the all deaf school when they were told CJ’s residual hearing was too good to qualify for MSD. CJ said his dad, "showed a lot of love and support, encouraging us to have the best education." CJ excelled in the communication rich environment at MSD, which taught in his native American Sign Language. After graduating high school, CJ continued his education by enrolling at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) in Rochester, New York. He immediately joined and then later toured for two years with NTID’s National Theater for the Deaf, which started him on his way to popularity and becoming nationally known for his hilarious and heart-warming comedy routines.

The Traveling Comedian

CJ Jones One-Man Comedy Show
CJ Jones One-Man Comedy Show

CJ remembers while he was growing up, he was always a comedian, making everyone laugh and feel at ease no matter who and where they were in life. Now as an adult, traveling around the world, he says things are still the same. He likes making people smile. His good-natured ways and high-spirited personality has set him up for a profession in entertainment. People, both deaf and hearing, are drawn to his fast-paced humor and quick-witted performances, poking fun, and using his graciousness and passion for communicating through humor and American Sign Language.

The Restless Entertainer

CJ Jones in See What I’m Saying
CJ Jones in “See What I’m Saying: The Deaf Entertainers Documentary" (2009) (Photo Credit: IMDb, See What I’m Saying: The Deaf Entertainers Documentary)

CJ has been in the business of entertaining for the past thirty-five years, spreading his message that being different does not mean being less worthwhile. He developed 3 one-man shows and is the only Deaf African American comedian that has traveled all over the world. He is also one of only four Deaf performers showcased in the 2009 documentary "See What I’m Saying: The Deaf Entertainers Documentary." He appeared in PBS’s "Through Deaf Eyes" and has had roles in several television shows, including Cold Case, A Different World, Frasier, and Sesame Street. He co-wrote and directed all six of the children’s fairytales in the "Once Upon A Sign" television series. Undoubtedly, these television roles were his best promotional roles. Movies are another claim to CJ Jones’ fame with roles in "Baby Driver," HULU’s "Castle Rock" and the upcoming 2020, Avatar Sequels.

“I think I have made an impact on the deaf community through my humor, experience, and share my success by overcoming obstacles and discrimination. I can prove that anything is possible. It has nothing to do with being deaf or black or any disability and color, it has to do with passion to do greater things in life!”
     - CJ Jones

The Inspirational Role Model

When looking at his life, CJ is himself amazed at all he has accomplished in his sixty-eight years. From childhood of being black and deaf, he has never had a problem expressing himself and turned that ability into a profession of outstanding success. He is adamant about American Sign Language being his connection to his profession and communicating to the world. He is proud of the fact he has performed in thousands of schools, theaters, and universities.

This quote from CJ says it all, "I think I have made an impact on the deaf community through my humor, experience, and share my success by overcoming obstacles and discrimination. I can prove that anything is possible. It has nothing to do with being deaf or black or any disability and color, it has to do with passion to do greater things in life!"



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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

International Week of the Deaf, Deaf Awareness Week, and International Day of Sign Languages 2018

Deaf Culture   |  Sunday, September 23, 2018

By Jillian Winn

On September 23, 2018, International Day of Sign Languages (IDSL) will kick off International Week of the Deaf (abbreviated as IWDeaf; used to be IWD), which is September 24-30, 2018 this year. You may also hear this week called Deaf Awareness Week, but the official name is International Week of the Deaf.

This year is the first International Day of Sign Languages (IDSL). It was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly and will be celebrated annually on September 23.

The World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) started International Week of the Deaf in 1958 and it is celebrated annually by national and regional associations of the deaf, local communities, and individuals worldwide.

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

International Week of the Deaf 2018 Poster

Since 2009, the World Federation of the Deaf has created themes for International Week of the Deaf. The theme for 2018 is “With Sign Language, Everyone is Included!” Find out more about the 2018 International Week of the Deaf and download their campaign materials on the World Federation of the Deaf website.

You can also spread the message using the hashtags: #IWDeaf2018 #IDSL2018 #SignLanguagesDay


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Common Fingerspelling Mistakes New Signers Make

Learning Tips   |  Friday, September 14, 2018

By John Miller

One of the first concepts covered in beginning or basic sign language classes is fingerspelling. There are a few common mistakes that are made by many beginner signers related to fingerspelling. Hopefully you can recognize them in your own practice and avoid making bad habits that are difficult to break.

Signing Space When Fingerspelling

First of all, the misuse of sign space is a common mistake, specifically as it is related to fingerspelling. Yes, we have an imaginary box around us, almost like a television set that is just inches above our heads and goes off to either sides of our bodies, and then ends around our waists.

However, that does not mean that all that space is fair game for fingerspelling. For right handed signers (right dominant), fingerspelling should be done in the area to the right of center of the chest. For left handed signers (left dominant), fingerspelling should be done in the area to the left of center. It should be out away from the body about 6-8 inches (not too far and not too close) and your letters should not be "thrown forward" or bounced up and down within that area.


Example of fingerspelling A-V-O-C-A-D-O.

The Directional Movement While Fingerspelling

When spelling double letters or starting a new word, you should slide away from the center of your body. That is, if you are right dominant, move outward from left to right just like you were reading a book. If you are left dominant, move outward from right to left which is actually backwards from the way you read. In both cases, DON'T move back towards the center of the body. Many new signers do this and it looks so awkward to seasoned signers, they can see the mistake immediately.


Example fingerspelling A-R-M-A-D-I-L-L-O.
Notice how the double L-L slides away from the body.

Common Formation Mistakes When Fingerspelling

There are several common letter formation mistakes that new signers make. Here are a few examples to watch out for.

The letter Z is produced with the index finger NOT the little finger.

This seems to be a misconception that started with incorrect information and then caught hold with some people, but it is INCORRECT! The letter Z is produced with the index finger.


Example "Z" handshape.

Use a closed E, instead of an open or "screaming" E.

Fingerspelling Example: E

The letter E should be closed (as shown below) with the finger tips tight against the hand, not opened. An open E is sometimes called a “screaming E” because it looks like an open mouth that is screaming. This is not horrible, but it is something native signers will notice as sloppy form.

The screaming E has a tighter grip at the top of the fingers with the tips pulled back very tight against the lower part of the fingers, where the correct E (with the tips resting just over the horizontal thumb) are much loser of a grip and much more comfortable.
Because you have to pull the fingertips back much tighter to make the screaming E, it slows down the flow of the signing.


Example "E" handshape.

Point your fingers straight out over the thumb for letters M and N.

Other letters that can slow you down when fingerspelling if done too “tight” are the letters M and N.  You will often see the fingers on the M and N folded over tight over the thumb.  Again, this isn’t really wrong, as much as unnecessary.  If your fingers are this tight over the thumb, it slows you down in your fingerspelling as you become more fluent.  Leaving the fingers pointing straight out over the thumb frees up the hand to make faster movements while fingerspelling.


Example "M" handshape.

Example "N" handshape.

Do not use a flat hand when signing the letter O.

Fingerspelling Example: O

Fingerspelling Example: O

When signing the letter O, use a rounded O shape and do not make a flat O.


The letters O and C should face forward.

Fingerspelling Example: O

Fingerspelling Example: C

Another common mistake is that the letters O and C are turned to the side rather than facing outward like they should be. I think because many books will show a side or slightly turned angle of the hand in order for people to get the correct hand shape, people think that the turned O and C are the way to actually sign them. This is not correct. See the proper way below.


Example "O" handshape.

Example "C" handshape.

The letters K and P should face forward.

Fingerspelling Example: P

The letters K and P also run into that same issue. New signers want to turn them as they see them presented in books and they end up looking very awkward and uncomfortable to sign. Get the K-hand as it should be, facing forward, and then to go to the P-hand, just drop the wrist. The change from a K to a P is all wrist, nothing else.


Example "K" handshape.

Example "P" handshape.

The letters G and H should be turned sideways (so the palm faces the body).

Fingerspelling Example: H

Many books will show these letters from a different angle in an attempt to show the handshapes better. The letters G and H should be turned sideways (so the palm faces the body). See the examples below.


Example "G" handshape.

Example "H" handshape.

Don’t Read the Letter Names, Sound It Out

Whether it is you signing the letters yourself (expressive skills), or you reading others fingerspelling (receptive skills), you need to think of the sounds that are connected to those letters, and NOT the letter name itself. This will help you to be able to figure out the words better down the road as you are trying to read bigger and bigger words. You may miss a letter, but if you have been saying the sounds in your head, you will more than likely be able to figure out the word.

Try it! In the example below, don’t spell out each letter as they are signed, sound out the word.


Reference Sheets to Help you with Fingerspelling

Alphabet Letters in American Sign Language (ASL)

Signing Savvy Member Feature: Download this image / flyer as a printable PDF page.

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