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 - CRACKER

Blog Articles in Category: Learning Tips

Thinking BROAD as you learn sign

Learning Tips   |  Thursday, December 27, 2012

By John Miller

Recently I visited with a group of parents of young deaf children who were sharing their frustrations and struggles with learning sign. They were asking for tips to improve their skills as their families learn the language of their young deaf children.  Their question is one that I hear often, and I know I have addressed it in previous blogs, but because I hear it so much, I thought it might be good to discuss it again. I will also point out a feature from our site that might help bring some clarity to the issue.

 
The parent's confusion was with the idea of how one sign can mean one of many English words AND how to know which English word to voice when the sign that they use could have multiple English translations.
 
Let's use the word FINISH for an example.  If you pull up this word on Signing Savvy, in the "This sign is also used to say" (blue) box near the bottom of the page, you will see that this sign can also be used for ALREADY, COMPLETE, DONE, and ALL DONE.  
 
This concept becomes difficult for new learners of the language to comprehend because they are used to all of these words being said differently and spelled differently in the English language.  Remember, sign language is a visual language and many times if the concept that is being signed is conceptually correct, you don't need to worry if the word you are going to say is exactly the right English word, as long as the meaning of the concept is conveyed.  
 
To further emphasize this point, if you sign FINISH after the sign HAVE, as in HAVE FINISH, you are changing HAVE into the past tense form of that word, which is HAD. This also works with DO (DO FINISH = DID) or pretty much any verb that you want to make into a past tense.
 
So if you revisit our example from above:
 
If the child were to sign:  BOOK READ FINISH, you could voice, "I already read that book" or "I finished reading the book" or " I am done with my reading."  Hearing people get all worked up over which one is right but to a deaf person, they are probably going to say that the concept is clear - the reading of the book is finished. The exact English words aren't important as long as the concept is understood.
 
So think broad, focus on the concepts and the big picture, don't get too wrapped up in English word-by-word breakdown, after all ASL is not English.....oh and breath!
 

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Clearing up the confusion between Translators, Interpreters, and Interveners

Learning Tips   |  Saturday, October 20, 2012

By John Miller

I thought it might be interesting for the Signing Savvy community to hear a little bit about the people who work in communication fields with deaf, deafblind, and hard of hearing individuals.

It's easy to misunderstand the difference (or to even know there is a difference!) between a translator, interpreter, and intervener. However, they are different professions with varying expertise. The type of person you would work with would depend on the situation and needs of the individual, such as the level of hearing loss and if there are other communication needs to consider.

Translators

A Translator converts written materials from one language to another. It is a term that people often use interchangeably with "Interpreter." However, an Interpreter and a Translator are actually considered different professions.1 Translators work with written language and convert written materials from one language to another, while Interpreters work with spoken and sign language.

In the case of sign language, a translator would be someone (or a computer program) that translates written or typed English to Sign Language. Nearly all translation is done on a computer and requires knowledge of both Sign Language and English.

Interpreters

An Interpreter converts information from one spoken language into another— or, in the case of sign language interpreters, between spoken language and sign language. They help people who are deaf or hard of hearing and people who can hear communicate with each other.1

An Interpreter’s primary job is to act as a conduit through which communication is carried out. Although often much of their job is to listen to spoken language and turn it into signs in the air in order to communicate, they also will watch sign language and turn it into an English sentence in a spoken form.

Sign language interpreters must be fluent in English and in American Sign Language (ASL). Some interpreters specialize in oral interpretation (mouthing speech silently to aid in lip reading), cued speech (hand shapes placed near the mouth to aid in lip reading), and signing exact English.1

Interveners

An Intervener helps individuals that are deafblind communicate with others. Deafblind (yes, all one word) have both hearing and vision loss and, therefore, require different help with communication than someone with only hearing loss.

This is a job classification that is relatively new to many parts of the United States and still is a bit confusing for many people. The Intervener role, although newer to the U.S., has been around in Canada for many years. Interveners are typically a one-to-one service provider, while Interpreters often interpret one-to-one or in group settings in the front of a room.

Interveners MAY use tactile signing (making hand signs into the individual's hand) to interpret.  They may also sometimes use Braille (written language used by blind and visually impaired), however, not always. In contrast, Interpreters usually would NOT be using, or be expected to know, tactile signing or Braille to communicate with deaf or hard of hearing individuals.

Related Signing Savvy Blog Articles

  1. The mysterious confusion between deafness and blindness
  2. Braille Explained

Sources

  1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, Interpreters and Translators.  Retrieved on October 10, 2012 from http://www.bls.gov/ooh/media-and-communication/interpreters-and-translators.htm
     

 

 

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Braille Explained

Learning Tips   |  Wednesday, October 10, 2012

By Jillian Winn

There is sometimes confusion between the communication techniques used with deafness versus blindness, especially with understanding what Braille is and who uses it. It's not uncommon to tell someone you know sign language and then they ask if you know Braille.

Braille is typically not used by deaf or hard of hearing individuals. It is a written language used by the blind and visually impaired who may have a hard time, or be unable to, read written text. Braille uses patterns of raised dots to represent the characters of words.  Instead of using sight to read text, the fingertips are used to feel the pattern of the raised dots to read Braille.

Braille

Similar to how there are different types of sign language, there are different versions of Braille.  The United States uses English Braille.  Even within English Braille there are different levels of encoding, similar to how there are different reading levels for English text.

Braille next to elevator buttonBraille usage has declined because of the increased availability and use of screen reading software. However, braille education remains important for developing reading skills - in addition to physical books and other texts, Braille can be found in all types of locations from signs in public areas to in elevators. For example, see the Braille under the number 12 located next to the elevator button in the photo.

For more information on Braille, see the Braille Wikipedia page.  We also have a previous Signing Savvy blog article, The mysterious confusion between deafness and blindness, that you may be interested in.

 

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A blended approach to learning sign language is still the best!

Learning Tips   |  Monday, August 20, 2012

By John Miller

I often am asked what the best way to go about learning sign language is.  My stock answer is to take a blended approach (classes, web resources, books, practicing with others) in order to give yourself the best and most well rounded experience.

Classes of some sort, whether it is through your local community college, church, school class, or becoming enrolled in an actual interpreter training program can all be great ways to learn the language.  The reason for this is that the interactive part of taking a class and being able to actually practice with other new learners is so important!

I know many people have learned from books and through sites like Signing Savvy. However, taking a physical class with a teacher gives you the chance to get some expressive practice with other live individuals that can give you feedback and add a dimension not available through a book and internet resources.

Signing Savvy is the perfect companion when you are taking a class.  Our site currently offers more than five thousand signs (and we’re always adding more).  If you compare that to your average sign language book, that is about three times more signs!  Signing Savvy full membership is comparable to the cost of a sign language textbook, but offers some very unique features that you can’t get from a book.  Many of our customers who have become members are pleasantly surprised by the ability to access other user’s lists and create their own word lists that then allow them to create flashcards and quizzes to their specific learning needs.  The printing capabilities are also a wonderful added perk, which allow you to create your own hardcopy flashcards or even add printed signs to story books and art projects.

There are many ways to use Signing Savvy to learn sign language while taking a class or learning on your own.  See our article on how to use Signing Savvy to learn sign language for more tips.

Signing Savvy aims to be your sign language resource to aid you while taking a class, learning on your own, or as a reference to help you grow your sign language vocabulary.  Whether you start with a class or just a book or the Signing Savvy website, learning sign language can be a wonderful experience that opens you up to a whole new way to communicate and see the world more visually through signs and body language.

 

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Using Signing Savvy to learn sign language

Learning Tips   |  Sunday, August 12, 2012

By Jillian Winn

Signing Savvy is a great resource to use when learning sign language – whether you are taking a class or just trying to learn on your own. 

Using Signing Savvy while taking a class

When you are taking a class, you can use Signing Savvy as a sign reference, build your own wordlists related to what you are learning in the class, and practice your vocabulary using the flash cards and quizzing features.  Like using a textbook, Signing Savvy is a great companion to classroom learning.  At about the same cost of a textbook, our site currently features more than five thousand signs – that’s about three times the number of signs in most sign language books.  But Signing Savvy isn’t a textbook and is so much more than just a sign language dictionary, the site is always changing… we’re always adding more signs, content, and features.  It’s really the features of the website, not just the vocabulary, that help people practice and learn sign language.

Teachers that use Signing Savvy will often create wordlists for each lesson plan or for the week’s vocabulary and then share those wordlists with their students so that they can use the Signing Savvy wordlists they have created to practice and test themselves with flash cards and quizzing.  Teachers with younger students will often share the wordlists they’ve created with their student’s parents as well, so the parents can know what is being taught and try to learn the sign language vocabulary along with their child and help them practice it at home.  Students and/or parents can also try to incorporate the signs from the current lesson’s wordlist into their activities and discussion for the week.  Utilizing Signing Savvy’s wordlists, flash cards, and quizzing features is a great way to practice vocabulary and extend lessons from the classroom into the home.

Using Signing Savvy on your own

Signing Savvy users include people from all backgrounds and people interested in sign language for all types of reasons – from parents, friends, family, and neighbors of someone that uses sign language to communicate to students interested in learning a new language, those that have or are beginning to experience hearing loss, those that are deaf and hard of hearing, parents teaching their baby and young children sign language, people who sign songs and sign in church, teachers, interpreters, and more.

The way that most people use Signing Savvy to learn sign language is by creating wordlists and viewing wordlists created by others and then using the flash card and quizzing features to practice and test themselves.  Full membership lets you have unlimited access to all of the Signing Savvy features including wordlists, flash cards, quizzing and more.

Whether you are new to sign language or a seasoned veteran, a few ways to use Signing Savvy include:

  • Start with the pre-built wordlists that we have (you can see some of our pre-built wordlists at the top of every page next to the search box, where it says "browse signs by...").  Test yourself on each of the wordlists using the flash card or quizzing features.  Sign Language books are often organized into chapters by topics, such as numbers, colors, and animals.  Using the Signing Savvy pre-built wordlists is similar to studying the vocabulary in a chapter of a sign language textbook.
     
  • Create a word list of words you want to start learning.  There may be a specific topic that you’re interested in learning vocabulary for or there may be certain words that you find you would like to be able to sign regularly.  Signing Savvy gives you the flexibility to create your own custom wordlist.  After you have built your wordlist(s), use the flash card or quizzing feature to test yourself on those words.
     
  • View wordlists already created by other people and test your self on those words using the flash card or quizzing feature.  You can view all wordlists that other Signing Savvy members have created and made public by clicking on the "Shared Lists" button, which is just under the "browser signs by..." box.  There are thousand of wordlists that you can browse and search.  For example, if you want to learn signs related to behavior, just type “behavior” in the search box on the shared wordlist page and click “Search for list”.  It results with several lists from you to choose from, including wordlists about behavior and manners (that is just one example).  Once you’ve found a wordlist that you would like to use, you can bookmark it so you can easily find it again and use the flash cards or quizzing features with the list.
     
  • Additionally, any sign or list of signs can be printed if you want to print signs, create a hardcopy of flash cards, or paste printed signs into story books or art projects.

 

 

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