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 - PLAN

Blog Articles in Category: Learning Tips

Does it matter what hand you use?

Learning Tips   |  Thursday, September 10, 2009

By John Miller

When signing, it does not matter if you sign as left-hand or right-hand dominant. The biggest thing to remember is to pick which hand you want to use as the dominant hand and stick with it. You should not switch back and forth between dominant hands. Most signers will be able to understand your signs no matter which hand you use as the dominant hand.

I am actually left-handed but choose to use my right hand as the more dominant hand simply because most people are right handed and it eases understanding for them when first learning to sign.

 

View/Add Comments (6 comments)

Signing People's Names in Sign Language

Signing People's Names in Sign Language

Learning Tips   |  Saturday, March 28, 2009

By John Miller

Signs for common names?

My name is John, which, as you can guess, is a pretty common name. The benefit of having a common name growing up is that whenever I went into a gift shop that had items with names on them, such as cups, buttons, belts, or what-have-you, I could always find one with my name on it. In sign langage, unlike the items in the gift shop, there is no sign for John. That is, there is no specific sign that can be used for everyone who has the name JOHN (or any other name).

Spelling out the name through fingerspelling

Since there is no common sign for a name, when refering to a person by name, you often just fingerspell it.

JOHN Fingerspelled

You can learn more about fingerspelling and the signed alphabet in the "Fingerspelling/Alphabet" section of the site. You can also have any name (or anything else) fingerspelled on Signing Savvy. Just type the name to be fingerspelled in the search box and click the "Find Signs" button.

searching for names

Since there is likely not going to be a sign for the name, the site will inform you that it was not able to find a sign, however you can have it fingerspelled. In this case, I clicked the "Have JOHN fingerspelled?" link.

search results

The resulting video shows the fingerspelling of my name.

fingerspelled name

If you are searching for a name that has another English meaning, such as "AUTUMN", you will see the sign for the non-name meaning. In this case, you want the fingerspelled version of AUTUMN not the sign for the season of the year. To see the fingerspelled version, just click on the "FS" button to the right of the word to switch to the fingerspelled version.

selecting the fingerspelled version of a sign

Sign names

Fingerspelling your name can seem a bit impersonal, especially among friends. So, members of the Deaf community often give each other sign names. Your sign name is often related to something about you (a characteristic). For example, if you have curly hair, your sign name may be a combination of the first letter of your name and the sign for curly hair. Culturally, it is not appropriate to pick your own sign name and only Deaf people assign sign names. When you first use a sign name in a conversation, you would fingerspell the name and then show the sign name. Once the people know who you are talking about, the sign name makes it easier and more personal to refer to the person during the conversation.

Pointing in space

When you are signing directly to someone, you often just sign YOU (point at him or her) to refer to the person you are talking with and ME (point at yourself) to refer to yourself. When you are talking about someone else who is NOT there, you can use a similar technique, called pointing in space. In this case, you would identify the person by fingerspelling their name (or describing them, such a "my father"), and then pointing at a location in space (usually to the left or right of you.) The first point marks the space that represents the person you named. Afterwhich, when refering to the person in the conversation, you can just point to the location you marked. This is another big time saver when refering to someone many times during a conversation.

pointing in space

 

View/Add Comments (6 comments)

The many facets of sign language

Learning Tips   |  Wednesday, February 25, 2009

By John Miller

What is the difference between American Sign Language and other sign languages?

Sign language has many different facets to it. American Sign Language (ASL) is the language created and used by the Deaf in the United States, Canada, parts of Mexico, and some other parts of the world. ASL has a limited amount of signs, but it is the purest language from the Deaf perspective. If you are using strict ASL and interpreting English, you often fingerspell words for which there are no signs. ASL also has it's own language syntax, distinct from English (more on that in a future blog entry.)

Signed Exact English (SEE) and other variations (Manually Coded English, Pidgin, etc…) are also "sign languages" used by some in North America. These languages typically use ASL signs as the base but add a lot more signs to reflect a larger part of the English vocabulary. This is often done using initialization (letter handshapes as you sign) to help clarify a specific word that otherwise might just be fingerspelled or signed with a conceptual similar word by a user that uses strict ASL.

For example, there isn't an ASL sign for the words LEGISLATURE or CONGRESS, but you can sign the ASL sign for MEMBER using an initialized L-hand to mean legislature or the C-handshape to mean congress. In the example of the word LEGISLATURE, if signing using strict ASL you would fingerspell LEGISLATURE or sign the ASL sign for MEMBER and then fingerspell LEGISLATURE depending on your preference.

And yes, different parts of the world also have their own sign languages, just like there are different spoken languages. Currently, Signing Savvy focuses primarily on signs used in North America.

Regional signs and sign variations

There are also regional signs that you will see in different parts of North America. This is similar to the concept of regional accents in spoken languages, such as the southern drawl vs. the New York accent. Another example of regional variations in spoken languages is how in the north carbonated, sugary drinks are called "pop" and in the south, it is called "soda" or even just "coke." These same sort of regional accents and variations happen with signing, as well. Using one sign over another is not wrong... just different.

It is important to remember as you are learning that you are looking for concepts. There are often times that I, even as a fluent signer, may not catch every single word another person is signing to me but I get the gist of the conversation because I'm catching concepts; much like a speed reader who is skimming the page and catching the majority of the content.

At Signing Savvy, we have tried to include known variations of signs, along with how to fingerspell each word. As you communicate through sign with others in your region, you will find out soon enough what is the more accepted or used sign in your area.

An example of a word with multiple sign variations is HAPPY. As you can see in the image below, Signing Savvy provides 3 sign variations for the word HAPPY, along with the fingerspelled version.

image of Happy sign display

Same signs used for multiple words

Notice the sign for HAPPY can also be used to say CHEER, DELIGHTFUL, GLAD, etc. Once again, sign language is conceptual. The concept of happy is similar to the concept of the other words. It is much like synonyms in English. However, there are times that the same sign is used to refer to different concepts all together. For example, the same sign can be used to say CLEAN or NICE. In this case, it is the context the sign is used in that allows you to understand which meaning is intended.

 

View/Add Comments (3 comments)

View More Blog Posts:

 

Gift Memberships



Savvy Tutoring and Savvy Chat



SOTD ASL gloss video