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 - SWEET POTATO

Blog Articles by: Brenda Cartwright

Interpreter Q & A: What are our boundaries as interpreters to say something to a Deaf client about their right to request a qualified interpreter?

Interpreter Tips   |  Wednesday, February 20, 2019

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 "Dear BC, Interpreter Q & A” series, which answers questions on interpreting and Deaf culture from multiple perspectives. This article was also published in the Fall 2018 (Issue 35 Volume 4) Edition of VIEWS Magazine from RID. VIEWS is a digital publication distributed quarterly by the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) and dedicated to the interpreting profession. The magazine includes RID member spotlights, announcements from the RID board, and engaging stories about issues impacting the interpreting community. See this article (on page 28) and more in the Fall 2018 Edition of VIEWS Magazine from RID.

Dear BC,

During a doctor’s appointment I interpreted, the doctor referred the Deaf patient to physical therapy. When we were leaving the office, the Deaf client asked me about my availability to interpret her upcoming physical therapy appointments. I told the Deaf woman my schedule and she said, “Oh well, that’s fine, if you can’t come, my daughter will come and interpret.” Her daughter is a young girl who can sign, but she is not an interpreter. The daughter has no training or certification.

What are our boundaries as interpreters to say something to a Deaf client about their right to request a qualified interpreter? I don’t want to look like I’m just trying to make money. My concern is also that her doctors will begin to think that they don’t need to hire interpreters for her because she can just bring her daughter for free.

Sincerely,
Concerned Interpreter 

The video features a full interpretation of what is discussed in this article.

An Experienced Interpreter's Perspective:

If the patient prefers a relative, that is their choice. At the same time, doctors need to be educated about the hazards of using family members to interpret. Liability issues should compel them to want to avoid lawsuits.

An Experienced Deaf Consumer's Perspective:

The NAD has a position paper on this topic. It explains the cons of using family members to interpret. This is an on-going dilemma, especially in rural and remote areas where there are few interpreters. It is unfair to put the burden to interpret on family members, regardless if they are qualified/certified.

What's your perspective? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

 

View/Add Comments (0 comments)

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

Interpreter Q & A: Will Technology and Cochlear Implants Make Interpreters Become Obsolete

Interpreter Q & A: Will Technology and Cochlear Implants Make Interpreters Become Obsolete

Interpreter Tips   |  Sunday, February 3, 2019

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,

I am currently in an interpreter training program, but I’m starting to have doubts about the viability of my choice of careers. My concern is twofold. I’ve heard several experts say that interpreters will one day be replaced by technology! I also am aware that cochlear implants are a big deal for parents with young deaf children, so I’m wondering if maybe interpreters will become obsolete. What do you think?

Sincerely,
Having Second Thoughts

An Experienced Interpreter's Perspective:

I too have concerns about all the technological advances we see continuing to creep into our lives. It seems like I’m always reading or hearing about new gizmos and inventions that sound pretty unbelievable and the unknown can seem scary and daunting. In fact, I just read an article about children and adults who received cochlear implants and interpreters are still very much in demand to augment what they still can’t hear or when they are in group settings.

Admittedly, technology usually intimidates me, but technology is only as good as those who are trained to use it. While these advances may invariably lighten our burdens, my sense is that Deaf people are still going to want a real live person rendering the message to them. The subtleties of facial expressions, non-manual markers and the brain’s ability to sift through the morass of our language to come up with the kernel, the concept, the essence of what a speaker is saying just can’t be done by a computer.

I may sound naïve here because I know that technological improvements and discoveries are going to happen despite any protests or fear. I’d like to think, though, that these new innovations will ultimately be positive in ameliorating situations for deaf and hard of hearing people. We are human, after all, and communication replicated artificially is prone to misunderstandings. It cannot compare to the connection or the very human bond that is possible in person with a real live person. Perhaps we need to reframe our apprehensions and instead look at technology as something that will hopefully make our jobs easier, better, more efficient and complement our craft.

Experienced Deaf Consumer's Perspective:

After reading your letter, I understand how you might be concerned about the viability of your future career choice. However, speaking as a Certified Deaf Interpreter, I feel more than ever that we (the Deaf community) will need ASL interpreters in schools, jobs, and theaters, various performances, judicial settings, medical visits, etc. for many more years to come. As to your concerns about the prominence of technology eradicating the need for interpreters, you need to realize that not all Deaf children will benefit from these advances. For example, children with profound or severe hearing losses will receive little to no advantage if they undergo cochlear implant surgery. Years ago, I considered getting a cochlear implant but my doctor advised against it because of the severe nerve damage to my ear. I strongly believe that ASL interpreters will be needed for many more Deaf generations to come. I cannot and will not depend on technology to “cure” my deafness – that is impossible. Deafness is caused by a variety of factors, so finding a cure-all using technology is highly improbably. While it is true that the future is not “set in stone,” I cannot imagine a world where ASL interpreters or the profession of interpreting will become obsolete.

What's your perspective? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
 

View/Add Comments (0 comments)

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

Signs That Are Close... But Not the Same - Set 9

Signs That Are Close... But Not the Same - Set 9

Learning Tips   |  Sunday, January 20, 2019

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. Child vs. Short

The bent B handshape, with the palm facing down, starts at the side of the body and moves down to sign both CHILD and SHORT. You can remember the hand usually starts higher, by the head, when signing SHORT because height is measured by the top of the head.

Child
Short

2. Pig vs. Dirty

PIG and DIRTY both have the dominant hand, with the palm down, placed under the chin.

These signs are similar because they both originate from the old French sign for COCHON (pig).1 It is easy to remember DIRTY is signed similarly to PIG because pigs are known to be dirty.

However, the handshape and movement is different when signing PIG and DIRTY. PIG uses a bent B handshape, while DIRTY uses a 5 handshape. 

To sign PIG, the fingers bend and flap down together twice, while to sign DIRTY the fingers wiggle. To remember the difference between the two signs, think of a PIG oinking as the fingers bend and flap down in a single motion together, two times (oink, oink!). When signing DIRTY, think of having dirt on your fingers and wiggling them to have the dirt fall off. You can also think of a child with a messy chin.

Pig
Dirty

3. Chair vs. Sit

To sign both CHAIR and SIT, the dominant hand is in the U handshape with the palm facing down. When signing CHAIR, the dominant U handshape taps twice on the non-dominant U handshape and when signing SIT it taps once. This is a common pattern you will find in ASL - the noun version of a word will have two movements, while the verb version will have one movement.

Chair
Sit

4. True vs. Tell

When signing TRUE, the dominant index finger, with the palm facing the non-dominant side of your body, starts at the mouth and moves out, away from the body. The straight-forward motion suggests the truth. The direct path of movement represents evenness and moving the sign away from the body represents sincerity. This sign originated from the French sign for VÉRITABLE (true).1

To sign TELL (as in "to tell someone"), the dominant index finger, faces the body, and starts at the chin and moves out, away from the body. The movement represents the act of words coming out of the mouth. This sign originated from the French sign for DIRE (tell, say) and has been documented (and unchanged) in the U.S. since the early twentieth century.1

Remember that TRUE has the index finger point out (the palm is facing the non-dominant side of your body), while the index finger (and palm) faces the body when signing TELL. The starting point and movement used when signing TELL is also a better representation of words coming from the throat and out of the mouth, than TRUE.

True
Tell

5. But vs. Different

The emphasis of the movement is the main difference between BUT (as in "except") and DIFFERENT. For both signs, the index fingers begin crossed in front of the chest and then separate apart from each other. These signs originated from the French sign for CONTRAIRE, DIFFÉRENT (contrary, different).1

The movement when signing BUT is smaller and the hands move farther apart when signing DIFFERENT. Think of BUT as introducing a contrasting opinion, which may be small, and DIFFERENT as pointing out a significant difference, so a larger movement is used.

But
Different

How can I figure out the difference between signs on my own?

If you see two signs that look close, but not the same, but you’re not sure, you can use Signing Savvy features to help you figure out the difference. All of our signs have sign descriptions and memory aids that members can access. Reading the sign description and memory aids for the signs can help you figure out the small differences between them that your eyes don’t catch at first. We also recommend using the pause and slow motion feature to slow down the video, so you can take a closer look. These features are available to Signing Savvy members.

Take a look, it's in a book!

These examples are aligned with the Visual Discrimination section of Lesson 6 (page 72) 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.”

Resources

  1. Shaw, E. & Delaporte, Y. (2014). A Historical and Etymological Dictionary of American Sign Language. Washington: Gallaudet University Press.
 

View/Add Comments (2 comments)

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

Signs That Are Close... But Not the Same - Set 8

Signs That Are Close... But Not the Same - Set 8

Learning Tips   |  Tuesday, November 27, 2018

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. Bathroom vs. Tuesday

These signs look similar because they both use one hand in the T handshape, however, both the palm orientation and movement is different. BATHROOM has the palm facing away from the body and has a shaking motion from side-to-side, while TUESDAY has the palm facing the body and uses a circular motion.

You can remember the difference in motion by thinking about how other days of the week are signed. TUESDAY follows the same circular movement pattern, with the palm towards the body, as the signs for MONDAY, WEDNESDAY, FRIDAY, and SATURDAY.

Bathroom
Tuesday

2. Wonderful vs. Sunday

It’s no wonder WONDERFUL and SUNDAY are often confused - they both use two hands, in the 5 handshape, with the palm facing forward, and start in the same location with your hands held up on either side of your head.

However, you will notice that the motion made when signing these two signs is different. When signing WONDERFUL, your hands make small forward movements, while your hands when signing SUNDAY move from being by your head and then move down.

To remember the difference between these signs, think of giving someone two high fives to congratulate them on how WONDERFUL or great something is when signing WONDERFUL.

If you know how to sign all of the days of the week, you may have always wondered why SUNDAY is signed differently from all of the other days (the signs for the other days of the week incorporate the first letter of the word, or in the case of THURSDAY, the first two letters). Historians as far back as 1885, described the sign for SUNDAY originating from thinking of SUNDAY as a holy day. Some say the two raised, open hands represented the large, opened doors of a church. Others have described the sign as a gesture of praise to God.1 So to remember the sign for SUNDAY, you can think of how church is often on SUNDAY and the motion made is for giving praise or hallelujah.

Wonderful
Sunday

3. Husband vs. Wife

If you look closely, you will see that HUSBAND is a compound sign, made up of a combination of the signs for MAN and MARRY, and WIFE is a compound sign, made up of the signs for WOMAN and MARRY.

The signs end the same (like how MARRY ends), but start differently, with HUSBAND starting by the forehead (like MAN) and WIFE starting near the chin (like WOMAN).

You can remember which sign is which, if you understand the pattern these signs follow. There are several signs that follow a pattern based on gender. This gender-based pattern in signs was started back when women regularly wore bonnets and men wore tall hats (remember these signs have been around a long time!). The female signs are signed near the chin because it used to symbolize the place where girls would tie the drawstrings for their bonnets. The male signs are signed near the forehead because it used to symbolize where men wore hats and where the brim of their tall hat was.1 HUSBAND (like MAN) and WIFE (like WOMAN) follow this gender pattern, so HUSBAND starts by the forehead and WIFE starts by the chin. Some other signs that also follow this pattern are GIRL / BOY, DAUGHTER / SON, MOM / DAD, GRANDMA / GRANDPA, AUNT / UNCLE, NIECE / NEPHEW, and FEMALE COUSIN / MALE COUSIN.

Husband
Wife

4. Marriage vs. Hamburger

MARRIAGE and HAMBURGER both use two flat C handshapes in similar locations and with similar palm orientations, however, the movement is different.

Looking at the start of the signs will signal, right away, which sign is being used. MARRIAGE starts with the hands apart, while HAMBURGER starts with the hands together (although, you could argue that HAMBURGER also starts apart before the hands can come together, which only adds to the confusion about these two signs, but the dominant hand starts higher up when signing MARRIAGE).

You can remember the difference between these signs by thinking of forming a HAMBURGER patty with your hands when signing HAMBURGER. The hands start apart and then join together to symbolize coming together in MARRIAGE.

Marriage
Hamburger

5. Mother vs. Vomit

Poor MOM, let’s not confuse her sign with VOMIT! Although these signs start in the same location, the look on the signer’s face alone, should give you a good clue to which sign they are signing… unless, of course, they are really disgusted with their MOM!

You can remember the difference between these signs because VOMIT has the dominant hand come away from the body much farther, to represent VOMIT coming out from the mouth, while the movement while signing MOM stays much closer to the chin. (Remember why MOM is signed by the chin? If not, read #3 about HUSBAND and WIFE again!)

Mother
Vomit

How can I figure out the difference between signs on my own?

If you see two signs that look close, but not the same, but you’re not sure, you can use Signing Savvy features to help you figure out the difference. All of our signs have sign descriptions and memory aids that members can access. Reading the sign description and memory aids for the signs can help you figure out the small differences between them that your eyes don’t catch at first. We also recommend using the pause and slow motion feature to slow down the video, so you can take a closer look. These features are available to Signing Savvy members.

Take a look, it's in a book!

These examples are aligned with the Visual Discrimination section of Lesson 6 (page 72) 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.”

 

View/Add Comments (0 comments)

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

Interpreter Q & A: Is it ok to eat at a work event once my assignment ends?

Interpreter Tips   |  Friday, November 16, 2018

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 "Dear BC, Interpreter Q & A” series, which answers questions on interpreting and Deaf culture from multiple perspectives. This article was also published in the Summer 2018 (Issue 35 Volume 3) Edition of VIEWS Magazine from RID. VIEWS is a digital publication distributed quarterly by the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) and dedicated to the interpreting profession. The magazine includes RID member spotlights, announcements from the RID board, and engaging stories about issues impacting the interpreting community. See this article (on page 26) and more in the Summer 2018 Edition of VIEWS Magazine from RID.

Dear BC,

I was asked to interpret for an art department showcase. Food was served during the presentations. After it was over there was an announcement that there was tons of food left and for everyone to "eat up!" My client encouraged me to get some food. My interpreting duties were finished, but I still felt strange about it. I wasn’t sure if it was appropriate?

Sincerely,
Hungry Observer

The video features a full interpretation of what is discussed in this article.

An Experienced Interpreter's Perspective:

As long as the assignment is truly over I think the interpreter can partake of the food.

An Experienced Deaf Consumer's Perspective:

I think the interpreter should politely decline offers of food. You are not a member of the organization hosting the event.

What's your perspective? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

 

View/Add Comments (2 comments)

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

View More Blog Posts:

 

Savvy Tutoring and Savvy Chat



SOTD ASL gloss video