An ASL Dictionary

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Guide to Using Sign Language With Your Hearing Baby: Signing With Food - Starting at 4 to 6 Months (whenever they start eating)

Guide to Using Sign Language With Your Hearing Baby: Signing With Food - Starting at 4 to 6 Months (whenever they start eating)

Learning Tips   |  Tuesday, June 14, 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 4 to 6 months old and comes from the prospective of hearing parents with hearing children.

What’s for dinner?

Doctors recommend first introducing food to babies around the age of 4 to 6 months (check with your doctor to see what they recommend for your baby). Because of this, it is a great time to introduce food signs. You can simply introduce the sign for each new food as they try it. Remember that repetition is important in learning language, so sign the food each time you give it to your child.

In addition to specific food signs, you may also want to use EAT (Let’s EAT; Do you want to EAT?), DRINK (Take a DRINK; Do you want a DRINK?), HUNGRY, and THIRSTY (Are you HUNGRY/THIRSTY? I am HUNGRY/THIRSTY.). The sign for EAT is a common sign that can also be used to mean food, meal, snack, and dine.

Some basic signs for describing food at this age/stage are HOT, COLD, MORE (“Do you want MORE?”) and ALL DONE (“Are you ALL DONE?”).

 Describing Mealtime in American Sign Language (ASL)

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Don’t play with your food? Describing food, including the color.

As soon as your child is born, they are developing their senses. Even introducing food to your little one is a great sensory activity. Children love to look, taste, and feel the world around them, including food. It’s actually great for them to play with their food; they learn a lot through play! As they try new foods, encourage them to check it out, pick it up, and feel it in the process of tasting it. One of my favorite and most used items is a good plastic bib with a pocket – it makes cleanup easier when your bib catches fallen food and you can just rinse the bib off in the sink or throw it in the dishwasher (and when cleanup is easier, you’re not as worried about your little one making a mess).

Ask them if they like how the food tastes, how it feels and describe it to them – what texture is it, what temperature is it, what color is it? Remember that although your child can’t answer your questions, they are learning through play and from your actions, how you describe the food items, and what you sign. This is a great opportunity to introduce color signs (and other descriptive signs) as you talk about the food you give your child.

 Colors of the Food Rainbow in American Sign Language (ASL)

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Reading Time

In addition to signing food and color signs while you are eating, you can sign while reading books that talk about food, like The Very Hungry Caterpillar, where you learn about all the things the very hungry caterpillar ate throughout the week. Reading books that incorporate the same vocabulary/signs that you use throughout the day will increase exposure, reinforce the use of them, and help your little one learn them.

More Resources to Help You Get Started

Signing Savvy Wordlists:   

Baby Signs - Starting Around 4 to 6 MonthsBaby Signs - Getting Started with FoodDescribing Mealtime in American Sign LanguageColors in American Sign Language

Printable Posters

 Colors in American Sign Language (ASL) Colors of the Food Rainbow in American Sign Language (ASL)

 Describing Mealtime in American Sign Language (ASL) Fruit in American Sign Language (ASL) Vegetables in American Sign Language (ASL)

Book: The Very Hungry Caterpillar

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Bib: Plastic bib with a pocket to catch food

BABYBJORN Soft Bib, Green/Yellow, 2 Pack

 

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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 Activities in American Sign Language by Brenda Cartwright and Sue 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 Brenda  |  Articles by Brenda

When and How to Start Using Sign Language With Your Hearing Baby

When and How to Start Using Sign Language With Your Hearing Baby

Learning Tips   |  Thursday, February 4, 2016

By Jillian Winn

When to start signing with your hearing baby?

Experts recommend to start talking to your child at birth – even newborns benefit from hearing speech and talking to your child is an important part of how they learn language and to speak. You can talk to them, describe what you are doing as you’re doing it, describe what’s going on around you, tell stories, sing songs, and read books.

Because we would talk to our son when he was born, it just seemed natural to also start signing right away as well.  Plus, research has shown signing activates the area of the brain that makes learning a new word easier,1 2 so why not! It’s never too early (or late) to start signing with children. Babies as young as 4 months old can start using signs (signing them) if they have been introduced to the signs for at least a month.3 The wait for the first sign is usually the longest, but often there will be an increase of signs used.4 Don’t be discouraged if your child is older, it is never too late to start learning sign language and there are benefits to learning sign language at any age.

How many signs should we start with?

There isn’t an ideal number of signs to start with.  Many children grow up in bilingual households and are able to learn multiple languages.  How many signs you start using with your baby really depends on what works for you and your family.

  • If you are a fluent or native signer, use sign language all of the time.
  • If you are not a fluent signer, but have a deaf infant, try to learn ASL yourself and use it as much as you can.
  • If you are excited about learning sign language, learn as much as you can and incorporate as much as you can into your daily language.
  • If you’re new to sign language and want to start signing with your hearing baby, the key is to do what you’re comfortable with and don’t get overwhelmed.  Start with a few signs and go from there.  Add more signs as it makes sense to do so, just keep with it!  Being able to communicate with your baby using sign before they can talk is rewarding for both you and your child.

We are hearing parents of hearing children. When we started signing with our first son, we wouldn’t sign everything we said, just the words that were most common to his world. For example, when saying, “Do you want milk?” We would just sign MILK (with the appropriate facial expression for asking a question).  Eventually we would add more signs, such as MILK + WANT.

Repetition is also an important part to learning new things, so we tried to be consistent in the signs that we used and picked signs that would occur naturally during a typical day. Now, with our second son, in addition to signing signs, I like to fingerspell words to him, like his name, his brother’s name, etc. (I like to have the excuse to practice my fingerspelling!). The “right” way to introduce signs to your baby is whatever works for you and your family, just keep at it and keep adding more signs!

What signs should we start with?

There has been an increasing trend for hearing parents to teach their hearing babies sign language, because of that, there are a number of baby signing resources available and varying opinions on how to do it and how to get started.

The most common recommendations of signs to start with are:

But I wouldn’t recommend starting with the most “common” baby signs or sticking to any get-started list. After all, you’re not creating lesson plans and teaching class, you’re just living life and incorporating signing into your everyday activities. The best strategy is to pick signs that make the most sense in the context of your baby’s life.  For example, if your baby doesn’t use a PACIFIER or have a TEDDY BEAR, then there is no reason to have those included in the signs you start with.

You will also want to think about timing – when you start signing with your baby and what they do on a regular basis should have a big influence on the signs you start with.  For example, if you start signing right away with your baby, the first signs you choose may be MILK, SLEEP, and POTTY because all they do is eat, sleep and go to the bathroom.  You wouldn’t want COOKIE to be one of the first signs at that age because you don’t give a newborn a cookie and it wouldn’t be a regular part of their world yet.

Read our other articles on suggestions of what to sign at different baby ages.  These include examples of what I signed with my son and are meant to be a rough guide, but make sure that you only use suggestions as a guide and pick signs that make the most sense in the context of your baby’s world.

You can easily use Signing Savvy to create your own custom word list of signs for each stage or age of your baby’s life. Sharing the word lists you have created is a great way to get other people, like grandparents and babysitters, in the loop on what signs your baby is learning or knows.

Resources

  1. Kelly, S., McDevitt, T., and Esch, M. (2009). Brief training with co-speech gesture lends a hand to word learning in a foreign language. Language and Cognitive Processes, 24(2), 313-334.
  2. Xu, J., Gannon, P., Emmorey, K., Smith, J., & Braun, A. (2009). Symbolic gestures and spoken language are processed by a common neural system. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106(49), 20664-20669.
  3. Thorne, B. (2011, August 20). More day care centers, parents using sign language to communicate with babies. MLive. Retrieved 10/29/2014 from http://www.mlive.com/news/flint/index.ssf/2011/08/more_day_care_centers_parents.html
  4. Berg, L. (2012). The Baby Signing Bible. New York: Penguin Group.

 

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5 Tips for Creating a Language Rich Environment for Deaf Children Through Routines and Consistency

5 Tips for Creating a Language Rich Environment for Deaf Children Through Routines and Consistency

Learning Tips   |  Monday, October 5, 2015

By John Miller

Deaf adults who grew up in hearing families often talk about their lives as young children being a blur because they never knew what was happening or why. Being herded around and gestured to without proper communication are commonly reported.

You may have heard the old saying, "chaos breads discontent." It’s true. Children thrive on a routine and consistency in their lives.  For many young children, the beginning of their school career is the first time they are exposed to a schedule and have to follow a routine. The transition may be difficult in the beginning, but before long most children have settled into this new way of life and feel comfortable because the routine helps them to know what to expect.

The same thing holds true for deaf children, maybe even more so. Many deaf children are born into families where communication is a struggle and if the household lacks routine, the child may have more difficulties understanding what’s going on. This is where routines and consistency will be helpful for them. Routines and consistency also help with reinforcing language and vocabulary learning, as well as concept development.

Here are 5 tips to help with creating a language rich environment through routine and consistency:

1. Eat at the dinner table with the family as often as possible.

Set a realistic goal of eating dinner together as often as you can. While at the dinner table, take advantage of the "captive audience" by asking questions and getting them talking/signing.

2. Read at least one book a night to your child.

Read at least one book a night even if in the beginning it only consists of looking through the book and doing signs here and there for the various pictures. You can create wordlists on Signing Savvy to go along with the books to help you and your child learn the signs from the book. Your child’s teacher can help with this also.

Also see our article on Tips for Reading with Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children

3. Communicate daily with your child’s teacher.

If your child is in school (or daycare), ask the teacher for topics discussed and activities conducted each day so that you can review them with your child before bed. This is great example of an activity to help expand you and your child's vocabulary.  Signing Savvy's ability to look up signs and create shared word lists, especially if done in collaboration with the teacher, can assist with this routine.

4. Create a schedule with signs. 

Creating a schedule helps to give your deaf child a clear idea of what will be happening throughout their day. When creating the schedule, include  pictures, words, and signs (you can print signs from Signing Savvy).

Create a schedule for a consistent routine

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5. Have your child write about their day.

Have your child keep a special notebook or journal where they write about their day. "Writing" in the journal can consist of pictures, words, signs, and/or shadow writing through parents as helpers. This is a great way to create memories, brainstorm things to talk about, and go back to read what they wrote so they can reflect on their week. The journal can also be shown and shared with others. 

To get started, any notebook will do, but if you are looking for a journal with questions and prompts to help get your child writing and doodling, here are some you could try.

Starter Journals for Younger Children (4 - 8 years old):

My Book About Me

Draw & Write Children's Journal

Doodle Books for tweens and teens (8 - 16 years old):

Doodle Diary: Art Journaling for Girls

Doodle Sketchbook: Art Journaling for Boys

The key with any of these suggestions is to be consistent. Consistent, predictable routines with language can help make their world a "clearer" one.

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