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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Living Loud: Charles Jules Henry Nicolle - First Deaf Nobel Award Recipient

Deaf Culture   |  Wednesday, September 28, 2016

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.

Charles Jules Henry Nicolle was the first deaf Nobel Prize recipient. The Nobel Prize is awarded annually in Stockholm, Sweden and is widely regarded as the most prestigious award available in the fields of literature, medicine, physics, chemistry, peace, and economics. Nicolle received the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1928.

Charles Nicolle
Charles Nicolle at his microscope - the most famous photo of him. (Photo Credit: Henri Roussel [Public Domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

Charles Nicolle was born hearing, in Rouen, France, on September 21, 1866. His father was a physician, and so, in spite of a wide range of interests including history, literature, and philosophy, he followed his father’s footsteps and also became a doctor. His choice became a challenge as he experienced a progressive hearing loss, and by the age of 20 was deaf.

Nicolle became the Director of Pasteur Institute in Tunis, Tunisia in 1902. North Africa was a good place to study infectious diseases, including brucellosis, diphtheria, leprosy, malaria, measles, Mediterranean spotted fever, relapsing fever, scarlet fever, tuberculosis, and typhus.

Typhus had been highly communicable and a frequently fatal disease. It devastated armies during wars and prisoners living under unsanitary conditions, it affected displaced populations suffering from famine, floods, and other natural disasters, and in general, it was a disease of poverty. Dr. Nicolle studied this disease for seven years, and discovered that lice were responsible for transmitting the disease. The discovery came about after he observed typhus patients spread the disease to others both inside and outside of the hospital, even their clothes seemed to spread the disease. The patients were no longer infectious after they had a hot bath and clean clothes. Controlling and eliminating lice meant controlling and eliminating typhus. For this life-saving discovery, Dr. Nicolle won the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1928.

"The disclosure of a new fact, the leap forward, the conquest over yesterday’s ignorance, is an act not of reason but of imagination, of intuition."

  - Charles Nicolle

Nicolle died in 1936 at the age of 69 in Tunis, where he was still a bacteriologist and Director of the Pasteur Institute. Both of his two sons, Marcelle and Pierre, followed in his footsteps and became well-known physicians. Nicolle has been honored on postage stamps in France, Tunis, and Guyana. He forever changed biomedical science and his discoveries helped to save millions of lives.

Charles Nicolle Postage Stamps
Charles Nicolle Postage Stamps from France, Tunisia (1952), and Guyana.
(Photo Credits: The Postage Stamp Collection Modern Medicine Foundations, Truman G. Blocker, Jr. History of Medicine Collections, Moody Medical Library, UTMB Health, Nobel Stamps)


  1. Schultz, M. and Morens, D. (2009, September). Charles-Jules-Henri Nicolle. Emerging Infectious Disease, 15(9). Retrieved 8/16/2016 from
  2. Charles Nicolle. Wikipedia. Retrieved 8/16/2016 from
  3. Nobel Prize. Wikipedia. Retrieved 8/16/2016 from


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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

Practice American Sign Language (ASL) With an ASL Expert Through Video Chat

Practice American Sign Language (ASL) With an ASL Expert Through Video Chat

Site News   |  Monday, September 19, 2016

By Jillian Winn

We’re excited to announce that we are launching a new service where you can practice American Sign Language (ASL) with an ASL expert through video chat. We are calling this new service Savvy Chat. All chats are one-on-one 30 minute sessions using video conferencing software online. You can practice your receptive and expressive ASL skills and/or get help with a specific aspect of ASL. 
To use Savvy Chat, you will need a webcam, high speed internet, and a device that will allow you to download and install the Zoom video conferencing software (you can use a Windows or Mac OS X computer, iPhone, or Android device). 
We are starting with a limited number of spots for roll out of Savvy Chat to see if there is interest in this service.

Schedule a time for a Savvy Chat before they all fill up!

If a lot of people are interested in Savvy Chat, we will add more availability in the future.


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Deaf Awareness Week 2016

Deaf Culture   |  Sunday, September 18, 2016

By Jillian Winn

Deaf Awareness Week this year is September 19-25, 2016. 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 September. 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. Find more information on Deaf Awareness Week.

2016 Theme: With sign language, I am equal

Since 2009, the World Federation of the Deaf has created themes for International Week of the Deaf. The theme for 2016 is “With Sign Language, I am Equal.” Find out more about the 2016 International Week of the Deaf on the World Federation of the Deaf website and download their campaign materials.

You can also spread the message using the hashtags: #InternationalWeekOftheDeaf2016 #WithSignLanguageIAmEqual #IWD2016


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Signs That Are Close... But Not the Same - Set 2

Signs That Are Close... But Not the Same - Set 2

Learning Tips   |  Tuesday, September 13, 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.

Hello! Brenda Cartwright (BC) here. Let's continue on the fun topic of: “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. Please vs. Enjoy

Both PLEASE and ENJOY have the dominate open flat hand make a circle over the chest, ENJOY also has the non-dominate hand circling over the stomach at the same time. To remember PLEASE, think of when something is pleasing it warms your heart. Think of all the different kinds of food you enjoy to remember ENJOY also circles over the stomach.


2. Hot vs. Yell

HOT and YELL look similar, but HOT moves down from the mouth like you are forcefully pushing something hot away from your mouth and dropping it, while the gesture made when signing YELL indicates something loud is coming out of your mouth and going up into the air for everyone to hear.


3. Brown vs. Beer

BROWN and BEER both use the B-hand moving downward on the face. You can remember BEER slides down the side of the mouth with a repeated motion by thinking of spilling a little bit as you drink and wiping it with your hand (and wiping again to make sure you got it all).


4. Food vs. Eat a lot

FOOD and EAT use the same sign - the dominant modified O-hand (also called AND-hand) make repeated movements to the mouth, symbolizing bringing food to the mouth as you eat it. EAT A LOT uses an exaggerated repeated motion because when you EAT A LOT you eat and eat (and eat!). EAT A LOT can also be signed with two hands.

Eat a lot

5. Read vs. Dance

READ and DANCE both use dominant V-hands and non-dominant open palms. However, they are easy to remember because the gestures represent reading and dancing. When signing READ the V-hand represents eyes moving down the page (the open palm) while reading. When signing DANCE the V-hand represents legs dancing on a dance floor (the open palm).


These examples are aligned with the Visual Discrimination section of Lesson 5 (page 60) 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.

More about BC  |  Articles by BC

Living Loud: Terence Parkin - Olympian

Deaf Culture   |  Wednesday, August 17, 2016

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.

Terence Parkin, nicknamed the “Silent Torpedo,” has been called the Michael Phelps of the Deaflympics.1 He has competed for South Africa in Olympic and Deaflympic Games, World Cup and Pan American Competitions. Parkin is the Deaflympics’ most successful athlete since its inception in 1929; holding the record of the most medals - 34 in total. He has participated in 5 Deaflympics, in which he won 29 gold, 3 silver, and 1 bronze medals, plus South Africa won the bronze when he competed in the 2005 Deaflympics in Melbourne.2 He also earned an Olympic Medal for the 200m breaststroke in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.3

Terence Parkin was born in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe on April 12, 1980. He was born deaf, but his parents, Neville and Bev didn’t realize he was deaf and it was not confirmed by doctors until he was 18 months old. His father Neville said, "We were both young when he was born and, being our first kid, we weren't really sure. His baby talk was normal, he laughed, he smiled - he was like a normal kid." There was a lack of educational options and support system for deaf children in Zimbabwe at that time, so the Parkins decided to move to Durban, South Africa when Terence was three years old. Another literal bump in the road for Parkin occurred when he was in a car accent as a child. He preserved and his scar and shaved head became one of his trademarks in swimming competitions.6

Parkin at the pool
Parkin at the pool. (Photo Credit: Terence Parkin / Son Koerant Twitter)

He loved water and began swimming at age 12. He said, "I just love swimming, I enjoy it so much. I actually enjoy the feeling of getting tired from swimming.”6 But it was hard work and dedication that propelled Parkin to success. His coach, Graham Hill said, "I saw a kid who really wanted to get into swimming, but wasn't quite up to the standard of the other kids his age. He had more enthusiasm than the other kids. but just wasn't there. We used to laugh about it, we still do laugh about it. Terence was really slow when he came.”6

It was at the Midmar Mile held in South Africa, the world’s largest open water swimming event, that he first made his mark. “Starting in the second batch of swimmers in the 13-and-under age group, behind all the seeds, he powered through the field and, when the times had been adjusted, he had taken a stunning victory. It was astounding, but Parkin has been doing astounding things all his life.”7

Parkin was dedicated to training and would spend hours everyday swimming, cycling, and running. He said, “Success is 90% attitude and 10% training….with the right attitude you can do anything.  The worst disability is (bad) attitude!”1

Just getting warmed up.

In 1997, at age 17, Parkin competed in his first Deaflympics in Copenhagen, and won seven medals: five gold and two silver.

Parkin's Olympic Silver Medal for the 200m Breaststroke
Parkin's 2000 Olympic Silver Medal for the 200m Breaststroke (Photo Credit: Terence Parkin / Graham Hill News Twitter)

In 2000, Parkin completed in his first Olympic games at the age of 20 in Sydney. He said "I am going to the Olympics to represent South Africa, but it's so vitally important for me to go, to show that the deaf can do anything. They can't hear, they can see everything. I would like to show the world that there's opportunities for the deaf.”5 He was the only deaf swimmer in the Games and claimed a silver medal in the 200m breaststroke.3 After he finished the race, unable to hear stadium commentators announcing the results, Parkin looked to the scoreboard, where he saw a “2” next to his name and thought that was just his lane number. He was ecstatic a few moments later when he realized the "2" meant he had gotten second place and won the Olympic silver medal.9

People often wonder how Parkin can hear the sound that signals the start of the race. The “signal” to start races has changed over time, from a gun being shot in the air, to a very loud buzzer, to a buzzer and a strobe light. Parkin watches for the strobe light, but before strobe lights were used his couch would signal to him or use a light like a camera flash.6 In footage of Parkin’s races at the Sydney games, it appears the FINA referee holds his hand out, giving the visual signal for “set.”8

Parkin Swimming
Parkin swimming (Photo Credit: Aquatic Sports History of South Africa)

Terence tried to use hearing aids during a race once, but the crowd noise was distracting. "I can concentrate, I can focus on what I'm doing. I don't have to listen to the discussion or negative talk around me, So I'm able to focus. I don't have to worry about what other people say.”6 He hopes to inspire deaf athletes, as well as athletes from smaller countries, and show that with hard work you can be successful and you can win Olympic medals.4 5

In 2001, at the Rome Deaflympics, Parkin claimed five more golds – the 100m and 200m freestyle, the 100m and 200m breaststroke, and the 400m individual medley.

Parkin won the Midmar Mile in 2000 and 2002 - the world's largest open water swimming event and the race where he first felt a taste of success when he participated in the 13-and-under age group.

And the medal count climbs.

Parkin with many medals
Parkin with many Deaflympic medals. (Photo Credit: Aquatic Sports History of South Africa)

At the 2005 Deaflympics in Melbourne, Parkin became the most successful competitor in the history of the Games, winning an incredible 12 gold medals and one silver.

In the freestyle, he won the 100m and 400m in Games record times and captured the 200m and 1500m with world records.

He won the 50m breaststroke with a world record time, and also claimed the 100m and 200m breaststroke titles.

To this he added the 200m butterfly, with another world record, as well as the 200m and 400m individual medley. Parkin was also part of another two world records, in the 4x100m medley relay and the 4x200m freestyle relay. His silver came in the 4x100m freestyle relay.

Parkin cycling
Parkin cycling. (Photo Credit: Aquatic Sports History of South Africa)

Additionally, his 13 medals help South Africa to win bronze in the overall medal count at the 2005 Deaflympics, with a total of 19 metals.

At the 2009 Deaflympics in Taipei, Parkin was back on the winner’s podium with 7 gold medals for the 50m, 100m, and 200m breaststroke, the 200m and 400m individual medley, and the 200m and 1500m freestyle.

Oh, and he also won a cycling bronze in the 93-kilometer road race! It wasn’t his first race; in 2005, he won gold at the World Deaf Cycling Championships in the 120km road race and picked up silver in the mountain bike event.

Legacy of a Champion

Parkin South African Stamp
Parkin's 2001 South African Stamp cycling. (Photo Credit: Colnect)

Parkin has become an icon. He has won over 400 gold medals, 200 silver medals, and 50 bronze medals through various competitions, and continues to hold Deaf World Records.1 He has participated in 2 Olympics, 5 Deaflympics, 2 Commonwealth Games, 1 Goodwill Games, FINA World Championships, FINA Swimming World Cups, Pan Pacific Championships, Africa Games, South Africa National Championships, and 24 Midmar Miles. He had a South African stamp issued in his honor in 2001. He has also been named an ambassador of the Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation. He has received many awards including World Deaf Sportsman of the Year (1997, 2000, 2001, 2005), CISS Sportsman of the Century (2000), SA Schools Sportsman of the Year (2002), and Gold Presidential Awards (2000, 2001, 2002).1 Additionally, in 2011 Parkin saved a 7 year old boy from drowning after he got his arm stuck in a swimming pool vent at a Johannesburg gym.10

Today Parkin lives in Johannesburg, South Africa with his wife and two children. He coaches sports at the St. Vincent School for the Deaf.11


  1. Ambassadors & Advisors: Terence Parkin. Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation. Retrieved 8/12/2016 from
  2. Terence Parkin. Deaflympics. Retrieved 8/12/2016 from
  3. Terence Parkin. Olympics. Retrieved 8/12/2016 from
  4. Griffin, Stan. Olympic Silver to Deaf South African Swimmer. Deaf Friends International. Retrieved 8/12/2016 from
  5. Terence Parkin. Wikipedia. Retrieved 8/12/2016 from
  6. (2000, March 12). Terence Parkin - The silent success. SABC Carte Blanche. Retrieved 8/12/2016 from
  7. (2013, July 12). Parkin: Deaflympics legend continues South African. Retrieved 8/12/2016 from
  8. Flaherty, Bryan (2012, April 19). USA Swimming will allow hand signals to accommodate deaf athletes at Olympic trials. The Washington Post. Retrieved 8/12/2016 from
  9. Cloete, Rob (2011, November 1). The Hard of Hearing Hero. The South African. Retrieved 8/12/2016 from
  10. (2011, January 21). Olympic swimmer saves boy. Sport24. Retrieved 8/12/2016 from
  11. romanSA (2005, April). Celebrating Terence Parkin, a South African sporting hero and icon. SkyScraperCity. Retrieved 8/12/2016 from
  12. Terence Parkin. Twitter. Retrieved 8/12/2016 from


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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

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