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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Interpreter Q & A: Giving Feedback to Interpreters

Interpreter Q & A: Giving Feedback to Interpreters

Interpreter Tips   |  Monday, May 16, 2016

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,

Interpreters who are not easy to lip-read can be rough for me to understand. It makes it difficult for me to know the tone of the conversation. A lack of proper facial expressions just further compounds the problem. Is this something I should point out to even a nationally certified interpreter?

Sincerely,
Trying to be constructive

An Experienced Interpreter's Perspective:

Based on my experience, I think most interpreters – nationally certified, pre-certified, ITP students – appreciate feedback and are willing to attempt to immediately put the feedback to use. Being nationally certified does not mean that an interpreter is unable to benefit from suggestions, feedback or exploration of new ideas.

If the interpreter is difficult to lip-read (and that is something that person might not be able to change), I think it is fine to tell the interpreter that you will be relying even more on facial expression during the meeting. I always appreciate that kind of heads-up because it gives me a better take on the deaf person’s perspective and I can attempt to adjust my work accordingly.

Certified or not, let interpreters know what you’re thinking.

Experienced Deaf Consumer's Perspective:

I feel that any time you are not happy about what the interpreter is doing; your concerns should be made known. This is especially crucial when the delivery of the message from the interpreter interferes with complete comprehension of the message.

Your example of not being able to lip-read is one issue and not having any visible facial expressions which help clarify the message is another issue. Each issue should be addressed as they are both significant issues to be looked at. It would be appropriate for you and the interpreter to look at each issue and see how improvements/modifications can be made.

A nationally certified interpreter should definitely be told of these issues because they need to adjust their skills to meet different needs of different consumers. If they are not meeting your needs, you can feel better about telling them because they have invested a lot in the process of becoming a nationally certified interpreter and usually they have the Deaf consumer’s best interests at heart.

What's your perspective? 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.

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Signing Savvy Featured as 1 of 15 Pure Michigan Businesses

Signing Savvy Featured as 1 of 15 Pure Michigan Businesses

Site News   |  Thursday, May 5, 2016

By Jillian Winn

You may not know this, but Signing Savvy is based in Michigan. That does not mean the signs on Signing Savvy are regional to Michigan or that only people from Michigan work for Signing Savvy, just that the company itself was founded and exists physically in Michigan. Of course, we are an online business so we connect with you wherever you are. So far, over 10 million people have used Signing Savvy - the majority of people who use Signing Savvy are from the U.S. and Canada (where ASL is most used), but people from over 200 countries have used Signing Savvy. It is all of you that keep us passionate and working hard to continue to improve Signing Savvy.

We are excited to announce Signing Savvy was chosen as 1 of 15 businesses in the state of Michigan to be featured in a webisode through the PBS program, START UP. We are proud to share our story with you - watch the Pure Michigan / Michigan Economic Development Corporation video on Signing Savvy:

NOTE: Captions are available for this video, you just have to turn them on if your computer’s settings do not already have them on by default (rollover the video and click on the "CC" in the playback bar).

From the start, our mission has been to provide the most comprehensive online sign language resource for parents, educators, interpreters, students, or anyone interested in American Sign Language (ASL). We say "comprehensive" because Signing Savvy includes ASL signs, regional signs, and English signs - each sign is clearly labeled with what type of sign it is and you can see multiple sign variations for words, when available. We have an Advisory Board made up of experts around the country that give us feedback and advise us. We continue to shoot and reshoot signs and add features to the Signing Savvy website because we are passionate about being a high-quality, comprehensive resource that helps people.

We're excited to be working on some cool new updates and features (including one that was mentioned in the video)... stay tuned for the release in the coming months!

 

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Guide to Using Sign Language With Your Hearing Baby: 0 to 6 Months

Guide to Using Sign Language With Your Hearing Baby: 0 to 6 Months

Learning Tips   |  Tuesday, April 26, 2016

By Jillian Winn

It’s easy to start signing with your baby and it’s amazing to be able to communicate with them through sign before they are able to talk. To get started, simply use signs when communicating with your child. There isn’t a "right" way or specific order to learning or teaching signs, just start by picking signs that make the most sense in the context of your baby’s life. There is no limit to how many signs you should introduce at a time, so sign as much as you are comfortable with. In particular, fluent signers and parents with deaf children should sign as much as possible.

This is just one example of how you could introduce signs to a baby that is 0 to 6 months old and comes from the prospective of hearing parents with hearing children.

Who lives in the household and who do they interact with the most?

When we had our first son, our household included my husband and I and our new son, so we signed MOM and DAD to him. Now we have a new baby boy, so we also sign BABY and BROTHER.

If you have others that interact with your baby on a regular basis, you can also sign their names, such as GRANDPA, GRANDMA, AUNT, UNCLE, etc. Our family doesn’t live in the same city as us, so we mostly stuck to signing just MOM and DAD. We would sign in context to when we were talking about that person or when they were in the room. For example, "DAD is on his way home." "Look, DAD is home!"

When we would call family, we would use the sign then as well. For example, we would say, "We’re going to call GRANDPA and GRANDMA now," and sign GRANDPA and GRANDMA. We would sign GRANDPA and GRANDMA again when we were on the phone with them. We would often do video calls (FaceTime or Skype) and point to them and say and sign, "That’s GRANDPA. That’s GRANDMA."

Don’t forget about your pets, they’re a part of your household too! We have a cat, so we would sign CAT when he came in the room with us. 

Think about anyone that your baby interacts with on a regular or daily basis. Who watches them during the day? A parent? A family member? A BABYSITTER?

What activities do they do the most?

Think about what your baby does the most throughout the day – these are the things that are most common to your baby’s world and the best signs to start with.

Newborns do very little – mostly they eat/drink milk, sleep, and go to the bathroom.

The most common sign we would use is MILK.  Every time our son would have a feeding or bottle we would sign MILK. We would say, "Are you hungry, do you want some MILK?" While feeding him, we would say and sign, "Here’s your MILK."

We would also sign SLEEP. "Are you ready to go to SLEEP?" "Have a good night SLEEP." "SLEEP tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite." "How did you SLEEP?"

Newborns also go to the bathroom… a lot! When we would change our son’s diaper, we would sign POTTY / BATHROOM. You could sign DIAPER, but I found signing DIAPER to be a little impractical because it is signed at the waist and either I was holding him or he was on the changing table, my waist would typically be below my son’s eye level and I wanted him to be able to see when I signed, so using the sign POTTY just worked better for us.

We would sign BATH – "Are you ready for your BATH?" "Time for your BATH!" "You’re taking a BATH" "Isn’t it fun to take a BATH?"

As the baby grows and does more things during the day, you can incorporate more signs into your daily usage, like the sign PLAY

Introduce new signs contextually, when something is happening or about to happen. For example, if you are taking your baby to daycare, start signing SCHOOL the week before daycare starts (lots of people call daycare "school," but use whatever terminology you prefer to call it). Say, "Next week you’re going to SCHOOL." "Today you’re going to SCHOOL." "This is your SCHOOL."

Fingerspelling and the Alphabet

Fingerspelling is an important part of American Sign Language. Fingerspelling is signing the individual letters of the alphabet to spell out words. If you’re not sure what the sign is for an individual English word, you should think about the meaning of the word because that may help you think of a sign has that same meaning, however, there are many English words that do not have an ASL sign and should be fingerspelled. Names are often fingerspelled, such as the name of a company or of a person that does not have a sign name.

There are a number of ways you can introduce the alphabet and fingerspelling to your child.

  • Sign the Alphabet song
  • Read the book Chika Chika Boom Boom and sign the letters as they are mentioned throughout the book
  • Sign names – say, "Your name is ________" and fingerspell their name. You can also say, "Your name is spelled _______." You can tell them other people’s names and spell them, like siblings’ names, etc. Don't forget about your pet's names too!

While spelling is likely beyond the cognitive abilities of this age range, it never hurts to start to lay the foundation earlier and I like the excuse to practice my fingerspelling! Children do recognize the shapes that you are making and will learn what a name looks like over time and will eventually realize the sign is made up of individual letters. It’s not expected, or is it the point, that they understand individual letters at this young age, but what’s important is that introducing fingerspelling continues to enhance communication and language skills.

Again, remember these are just suggestions. There isn’t a "right" way or specific order to learning or teaching signs, just start by picking signs that make the most sense in the context of your baby’s life. And keep doing it!

More Resources to Help You Get Started

Signing Savvy Wordlist:

Baby Signs - 0 to 6 months old Wordlist

Printable Poster:

Alphabet Letters in American Sign Language (ASL)

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

 

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Signs That Are Close... But Not the Same - Set 1

Signs That Are Close... But Not the Same - Set 1

Learning Tips   |  Friday, April 8, 2016

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.

This article is part of our “Signs That Are Close... But Not the Same” series, which highlights signs that look similar, but have different meanings. This is the first article of this series, but watch for more to come!

Hello! I’m Brenda Cartwright (BC) and today’s fun topic is: “Signs That Are Close... But Not the Same.”

The ASL signs shown below look similar, but are not the same. There are many ASL signs that when produced look similar, but in fact have a completely different meaning. Below you will find examples of such signs. Watch closely to see if you can see the difference. In addition, watch my eyebrows, look to see when I tilt my head or lean my body in a certain way, even what my mouth is doing. These nuances are called inflections and trust me, inflections matter. Enjoy!

1. Sick vs. Disease

You can remember the signs for SICK and DISEASE because your extended middle fingers point at the areas where we often feel sick - at your forehead and stomach. For SICK, touch your forehead and stomach at the same time. DISEASE is similar, but you make small circles in and out from the body.

sick
disease

2. Ask vs. Question

The signs for ASK and QUESTION can look similar, but for ASK you make a bent motion with your index finger as it moves in the direction of who you are asking the question of, while when you sign QUESTION you make the outline of a question mark in the air.

ask
question

3. Senate vs. Committee

SENATE and COMMITTEE look similar because they are both ASL initialized signs of the sign for MEMBER. The S-hand is used when signing SENATE and the C-hand is used when signing COMMITTEE.

Senate
Committee

4. Science vs. Experiment

To remember these signs, think of combining the contents of two beakers or test tubes by pouring them into a single container. SCIENCE uses A-hands and EXPERIMENT is an ASL initialized sign of SCIENCE that uses E-hands. CHEMISTRY (C-hands) and BIOLOGY (B-hands) are also ASL initialized signs of SCIENCE.

Science
Experiment

5. Convince me vs. Convince you

Convince is a directional sign. To sign CONVINCE ME, your B-hands make a chopping motion at the same time towards your neck and to sign CONVINCE YOU the motion is done outward, towards the person you are trying to convince.

Convince me
Convince you

6. Pray vs. Request

PRAY and REQUEST are similar, but for PRAY your hands are together and make a downward motion in front of your chest, while REQUEST starts with your hands away from your body and then they move in to come together and make the PRAY sign.

Pray
Request

7. Attention vs. Focus

ATTENTION has both open flat hands start by the eyes and make small forward movements, while your hands when signing FOCUS move forward and down as they focus in on a point.

Attention
Focus

8. Russia vs. Brag

RUSSIA and BRAG are both signed at the waist, but RUSSIA uses 5-hands (think of placing the hands at the waist during a Russian dance), while BRAG alternates Y-hands (think of strutting around).

Russia
Brag

9. Drink (as in "drink something non-alcoholic") vs. Drink (as in "drink liquor")

It’s easy to get the different signs for DRINK confused, but signing you need a drink can have two very different meanings depending on what sign you use. The two signs use the same movement and placement, but DRINK (as in "drink something non-alcoholic") uses a C-hand, while DRINK (as in "drink liquor") uses a modified C-hand with three fingers.

Drink (water)
Drink (alcohol)

10. Don't mind vs. Don't care

DON’T MIND and DON’T CARE both start at the nose and move away from the face, but DON’T MIND uses the index finger, while DON’T CARE starts as a flat O-hand and opens up.

Don't mind
Don't care

11. Glasses vs. Gallaudet

This example shows that small differences in movement matter. For both signs, the G-hand starts open and closes as it pulls back - there is one movement for GALLAUDET and two movements for GLASSES. You can remember that the sign for GALLAUDET is like the sign for GLASSES because Thomas Gallaudet wore glasses.

Glasses
Gallaudet

12. Empty vs. Available

This is another example of how small differences in movement matter. For both signs the middle finger slides out along the back of the non-dominant hand - there is one movement for EMPTY and two movements for AVAILABLE.

Empty
Available

13. Sad vs. Friendly

Facial expressions are important when conveying meaning in sign language, but especially when it comes to signing emotions. When signing SAD, the open 5 hands slowly slide down the face, while for FRIENDLY they make a fluttering motion while moving up and away from the face.

Sad
Friendly

14. March vs. Funeral

A similar movement is made when signing MARCH and FUNERAL, but MARCH uses 4-hands with the palms down marching out (think of your fingers as two rows of (four) band members marching together in sync in a parade), while FUNERAL uses upright V-hands (remember your fingers point up by thinking of them as the legs of cartoon characters - they always die with their legs/feet sticking up in the air).

March
Funeral

These examples are aligned with the Visual Discrimination section of Lesson 8 (page 98) from Lessons and Activities in American Sign Language by Brenda E. Cartwright and Suellen J. Bahleda. Check out the book for more ASL Activities and watch for more examples from this series: “Signs That Are Close... But Not the Same.”

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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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ASL in the Classroom: One Thanksgiving Story with Many Titles

ASL in the Classroom: One Thanksgiving Story with Many Titles

Teaching Tips   |  Monday, March 21, 2016

By Kathleen Marcath

This article is by guest blogger Kathleen Marcath. Kathleen has a BA in Deaf Community Studies and is passionate about helping students and families make connections through American Sign Language.

Signing Savvy membership is a great tool and has saved me lots of time! I have the wonderful privilege to share ASL with the students at St. Peter's Lutheran School. Together with the classroom teacher, Mrs. Susan Bennett, we wanted to create a project for the students to learn ASL.  We picked the topic, Thanksgiving. The goal of the project was for the students to be able to share sign language with their families on Thanksgiving Day. We had six weeks to get it done. Before learning of the potential of a membership with Signing Savvy, I had spent tremendous amounts of time and energy locating printable signs for our projects. 

Signing Savvy has great video resources to teach a class signs which are also printable.  Using “My List” on Signing Savvy, I created lists with everything this class loved about Thanksgiving. This list included: going to church, inviting friends and family for dinner, favorite holiday foods, the parades, and football. The class gained knowledge and signing skills each week as we practiced their vocabulary on "My Lists." They continued building their sign language vocabulary through the printable signs. They could take them home for reference to practice independently, which further fueled their passion for learning ASL.  

Screenshot of a sign from my list with printing options
Screenshot of a sign from my wordlist, also shows printing options.

The students were so excited, they decided to create a book for Thanksgiving which was only weeks away. The students were put in groups of two or three. Using printable materials from Signing Savvy; each group designed a page in the book using different signs printed from the website. We decided John Miller would be our guest of honor, because he was “the man in the blue shirt” on every page in their storybook. We compiled all of the pages of literature, drawings and photos of our guest of honor for one great Thanksgiving story. These third graders loved being set free to write and illustrate a storybook. Now they needed a title. 

Students making book
Students working on cutting out printed signs for their book.

Every story needs a good title. With crayons and markers, pictures and pen, each student expressed themselves with their own title and book cover. One story with many different titles: Pass the Turkey, Signing Thanksgiving, Pie Time!, Happy Thanksgiving Praise, John and the Drink Choice, and Our First Thanksgiving Signing.

Class with their books
Students with their books: one Thanksgiving story with many titles!

The best part was seeing the entire class proud of their accomplishments. They achieved their goal. They created a great Thanksgiving story filled with the things they love, to share with the people they love on a special Thanksgiving Day. This was a fun learning experience for everyone. Many thanks to Signing Savvy, oh what a fun and enjoyable time we all had!

Presenting finished book
Students presenting their completed book.

After our Thanksgiving storybook project was completed, we sent a copy of the book to John, the man in the blue shirt, on Signing Savvy. The students were excited when John volunteered to "meet" with us via skype. The class got to practice their signing with him and ask questions about Signing Savvy.

Students meeting with John
Students meeting with John, the man in the blue shirt from Signing Savvy.

It was a great project that expanded their sign language vocabulary and got them excited about sharing what they learned with their families.

We would love to hear how you use Signing Savvy. Contact us if you would like to share your experience with us

 

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About the Author

Kathleen MarcathKathleen Marcath has a BA in Deaf Community Studies and is passionate about helping students and families make connections through American Sign Language. Kathleen has the privilege to work with hard of hearing students providing sign language support, building vocabulary, confidence and community. She strives to create an atmosphere that promotes harmony, excellence, exploration and certainly fun. In establishing ASL Educational Services – Making Connections she is helping people tap into their potential and and the hidden potential of American Sign Language. Currently, Kathleen serves as President for the Michigan Chapter of the Foundation Fighting Blindness. If you are interested in creating new possibilities for yourself, your family or your school, Kathleen can be contacted at ASLMakingConnections@gmail.com.

More about Kathleen  |  Articles by Kathleen

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