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

Sign of the Day - PLAN

Blog Articles in Category: Learning Tips

How do I get my signs to flow together so that I don't look choppy when I am signing?

Learning Tips   |  Friday, April 30, 2010

By John Miller

As a beginning signer, it is just natural that you will be choppy. Once you get a larger sign vocabulary, you will not be so worried about searching for a way to say something that you know the signs for and you will be able to focus on the flow of your signs.

When you sign music it also helps with the flow if you let the music guide you. There are a few different sites on the internet for you to watch music being signed to show you what I mean. For example, check out the D-Pan. Remember as I have stated in previous blogs, when you are signing music it is glossed (changed into concepts rather than word for word). Check out some songs that are popular and see if you can catch what the people are signing and why they are signing them that way. It is actually an art form all it's own.

 

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How long until I am a fluent signer?

Learning Tips   |  Friday, April 30, 2010

By John Miller

Many people often ask me this question. That is really a hard one to answer because everyone's rate of learning a new language varies greatly. The motivation behind the learning is going to be a key factor as well as the opportunity to actually practice what you are learning with multiple signers.

It is important to practice signing with, and reading from, many signers as you learn so you don't just get used to the way one particular person signs. Reading the sign of small children is always an interesting feat because of their tiny hands and the ways they may modify the sign (baby sign). Then again reading the sign of teenagers who may have their own "twist" to their sign style can be a challenge as well. Don't be intimidated if you have trouble understanding someone when you first meet him or her. Just try to relax and grasp the concepts being discussed rather than getting word for word (or sign for sign) of what they are saying.

My first sign language instructor told me, "You will know when you have become a fluent signer when you have your first dream in sign language." I thought that was really strange but sure enough, after about two years of signing, I had my first sign language dream...no voice, only sign. Since then it happens often for me. I find myself also using sign language in noisy situations or at times when I am extremely frustrated and trying to get my point across...even when I'm communicating with people who I know don't sign. I think it just shows that it has become that much a part of my life after almost thirty years of signing!

 

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Tips for Reading Fingerspelling

Learning Tips   |  Saturday, March 13, 2010

By John Miller

Many people talk to me about their frustrations with fingerspelling and want suggestions on how to improve their receptive skills when it comes to reading fingerspelling.

My suggestions tend to follow a lot of the same rules that apply to teaching a child to read:

  1. Practice, practice, pratice...the more you work on reading other people's fingerspelling, the better you will get. Everyone's fingers are different so it is important to practice with many different partners in order to experience all the styles of hands. (Unfortunately not everyone has long easily read fingers!)
  2. Don't get stuck on reading each letter as an individual letter. Instead think of it and the "shape" of the word. Watch for double letters and the beginning and ending letters. You should be able to fill in the rest with the contextual clues (much like you do with reading an unknown word in a sentence in a written passage).
  3. Instead of saying each letter as you are seeing it, say each SOUND. (You are basically sounding it out.) This will help as you are trying to figure out the word. That way when you miss a letter here and there, by sounding it out you will be able to fill in the blanks.

Fingerspelling, hands-down is one of the trickiest parts of the language. Don't get too frustrated. Take it slow at first. Don't be afraid to ask a deaf person to "spell it again please", they more than likely will be happy to repeat themselves.

Happy Signing!

 

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Using Figurative Language with Sign

Learning Tips   |  Thursday, February 25, 2010

By John Miller

Many people have asked how to sign things that say one thing but mean something else. This happens a lot in the English Language!

Some Examples: It's raining cats and dogs!, or You look really sharp today.

Now as native users of the English language, we know that neither cats or dogs are falling from the skies .nor is the person in the second sentence looking rather pointed. These are concepts that people who are learning English as a second language also struggle with, yet we find phrases like these used in everyday language all the time. The thing for you to focus on as a signer is the main idea of what is being said and then sign it conceptually correct.

It's raining cats and dogs = It's really raining hard

Even with this example you would NOT sign that it is raining HARD (as in the opposite of soft). You would sign RAIN + A LOT or RAIN+RAIN+RAIN (with a facial expression showing a lot).

You look really sharp today = You look really nice today.

You would sign it like this.

Now, with that said, as a former teacher, I would think that it is important for my students to know what someone was saying when they used figurative language (whether it was being said live or they are reading it in a book, and it is actually fun to see my students use it in their everyday use of language). So I would sign it conceptually correct first but then TEACH them the way it is used in figurative language and sign it back and forth interchangeably so that it becomes part of the student's vocabulary.

 

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Conceptually Correct Signs

Learning Tips   |  Friday, November 13, 2009

By John Miller

Consider the following sentences:

I won’t stand for this!

You need to stand up please.

This flag stands for freedom.

In each of these statements the word STAND is used. It is spelled the exact same way, pronounced the exact same way, yet it has VERY different meanings in each of it’s uses above.

Now one form of sign language, Signing Exact English, would tell you to sign the word STAND the same in all three sentences because of their 2 out of 3 rule. (If the word is spelled the same and pronounced the same, then you can sign it the same.) Our philosophy here at Signing Savvy, DOES NOT endorse that way of thinking. We feel that signing things conceptually correct is EXTREMELY important! This is one of the big differences between American Sign Language (ASL) and Signed Exact English.

With that said….let us look back at the three example sentences listed above.

I won’t stand (put up with, or accept) this!

You need to stand (to stand up) up please.

This flag stands (represents) for freedom.

You would want to sign the sentences using the meanings of the words. Those meanings are found in the parenthesis. The sentences that come off the lips would still be using the word STAND but the sign would correspond with the meaning.

Just a quick note about the Signing Savvy Phrase Builder - the phrase builder doesn’t have the intelligence to know what the true conceptual meaning of the words you typed in the search box are. It will simply give you the first variation of the sign for the word you entered. However, you can modify the resulting sign video using the tools in the phrase builder (see the video on the phrase builder for details).

Please consider this, and make sure your phrases are conceptually correct, when you are using the phrase builder OR translating from English to ASL on your own. Happy Signing! John.

 

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