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

Sign of the Day - MOUNTAIN

Blog Articles by: John Miller

Misconception: There is only one sign language

Learning Tips   |  Monday, April 18, 2011

By John Miller

Question: Is sign language universal throughout the world? ...and if not, why don't we just make it that way since it would make the world have at least one language that everyone could understand and use?

Answer: Unfortunately sign language is NOT universal throughout the world. There is American Sign Language, British Sign Language, Spanish Sign Language, Japanese Sign Language, Ausian (Australian Sign Language) and many more. In fact, there are even multiple sign languages used in the United States (American Sign Language and Signed Exact English). Although one universal sign language would probably make things easier, just like with spoken language, I'm sure the world would have a very difficult time trying to come up with whose way of doing it was the best way so I don't see it happening anytime soon!

Signing Savvy focuses primarily on American Sign Language (ASL). ASL 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. American Sign Language is used through the United States, Canada, and a few other parts of the world.

Since Signing Savvy is first and foremost a reference for folks signing or learning to sign in North America, it is important for us to also include other signs that you may encounter beyond just ASL signs. For that reason, we also include some commonly used English signs. However, we try to always list the ASL sign as the first sign variation on any given word.

For more on the difference between ASL and English signs, see our previous blog post on the difference between ASL and English signs.

 

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Addressing Top Signing Misconceptions

Learning Tips   |  Sunday, April 17, 2011

By John Miller

My next few blog posts are going to focus on the "TOP MISCONCEPTIONS" or questions that I seem to get asked about on weekly basis either in person or from users of the site. For those of you that go back and read old blogs these may sound familiar but they still seem to come up, so I thought I would readdress them and maybe word them a little differently to see if we can make them more easily understood.

 

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The mysterious confusion between deafness and blindness

General Interest   |  Wednesday, February 2, 2011

By John Miller

"Oh, so you work with deaf people...so does that mean you know Braille?"

I am sure many of you who have told people you are interested in sign language have heard a question similar to the one above. Although Braille is used by the blind, people often confuse it as a tool for the deaf. As a former teacher of deaf and hard of hearing children, I have witnessed confusion between deafness and blindess several times in my career. I am not sure why people confuse deafness and blindness...and the communication techniques of each, but it happens all the time!

I wonder if it has something to do with the famous story of Helen Keller (see video below).

She was a deafblind woman who used, among other things, sign language to communicate. But it was tactile signing that she used, not American Sign Language.

As a young man I saw the movie, The Miracle Worker (1962), in school. I think everyone in my class learned the sign WATER from watching the story of the young Helen and her teacher, Anne Sullivan, unfold in-front of us.

Because of the combination of deafness and blindness in some individuals, such as Helen Keller, I would like to give you a little background about how people who are deaf AND blind are communicated with.

Anne Sullivan was the first true intervener, although it was not called that in her day. An intervener (or intervenor, in Canada) is defined as a person who provides intervention to an individual who is deaf blind. An intervener mediates between the person who is deafblind and his or her environment to enable him or her to communicate effectively with and receive non-distorted information from the world around them. An intervener acts as the eyes and ears of the person with deafblindness.

The promotional video below from George Brown College, in Toronto, Canada, does a nice job of explaining what an intervener does.

Many people confuse the role of an interpreter and an intervener. An interpreter is a person fluent in sign language that has gone through an interpreter training program and certification process. An interpreters primary role is to mediate communication between the hearing and the deaf.

A person CAN be both an interpreter AND an intervener. In addition to the standard interpreter qualifications, the person would need to have training in the field of intervention with deafblind people.

But, one DOES NOT have to be an interpreter in order to be an intervener. Some people who are considered deafblind may not use sign language but still may need the services of an intervener. Further, some deafblind people may also have additional special needs such as cognitive issues that cause them to not have a large sign language vocabulary so an intervener that works with them may be able to have some knowledge of sign language but not nearly that of a certified interpreter.

For a bit more background on the amazing life of Helen Keller, watch the mini-documentary above.

 

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Signing is like being a thesaurus

Learning Tips   |  Tuesday, November 16, 2010

By John Miller

I am often asked "I can't find the sign for....." And it will be words like FINALIZATION or SUMMARIZATION. My answer is often...."It is there." You may not get a result when you search for FINALIZATION, but that does not mean you are out of luck.

Unlike the spelling in the English language where one spelling is equal to one word, sign language is different. There are many signs that can mean more than one word. We have tried to connect any of the signs on our site with the English words they can represent, but this is not always possible or practical (as there are hundreds of thousands of potential word variations).

If you are having trouble finding the way to sign a certain word, think about what the true basic meaning of the word is, then, like using a thesaurus, look up words that could be interchanged with the word you are looking for without drastically changing the meaning.

Examples

An example: FINALIZATION - Think of the meaning you are looking for....How are you using the word? Is it that you want to FINISH? Or would the word LAST work better for you? Be sure to use the word that will be the most conceptually correct in the context that you are using the word.

A second example: SUMMARIZATION - We do have the word SUMMARIZE so maybe that will work for you. If not that sign, what about to SHORTEN, or to make SMALLER. I have seen both of those signs also used for SUMMARIZATION.

Conclusion

The biggest misconception is that there is one sign for one word and when translating from English to ASL, you must do a direct and exact translation. This is not the case. I think it is very interesting to watch five different interpreters signing the same exact story. I can pretty much guarantee that there will be variations. That is fine as long as the general concepts of the story are all there and clear to the client.

In summary, my advice when signing (and using the Signing Savvy site) is to think like a thesaurus and focus on the core concept or meaning of what is being signed and not get hung up on the exact English words you are translating.

 

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The Importance of Facial Expressions

Learning Tips   |  Sunday, October 3, 2010

By John Miller

Facial expression plays a very important part in the meaning of a sign. The same exact hand-shape and movement can totally change meaning because of the facial expression that is used to accompany it.

One example of this is the word MUCH. The degree of how much can totally be determined by the facial expression alone while the sign stays the same.

Other examples would be the words INTERESTING and FUNNY. Both of these words can be changed to different varying degrees all by the changes in facial expression.

One question that some users have asked then is why we don't show a great deal of facial expression in most of the videos on the site. This is a legitimate question. With the video on the site, we have focused more on the formulation of the sign (the hand-shape and movement). We understand that in your day-to-day signing, there would be more facial expression used depending on the emphasis in the context of the sentence.

Not only the hands, but also the face, the eyes, and the whole body work together to communicate in sign language. Because of this, we want to inform people who are using sign language that the wearing of sun glasses, excessive jewelry or facial hair that is long (like handlebar mustaches and long beards), can be distracting to the person you are signing with. If you ever watch an interpreter while working, they will be wearing solid dark colored clothing (as opposed to patterns) with very little jewelry and no sunglasses! This all helps in communicating clearly to the Deaf client through both signs and facial expressions.

 

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