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 - COOK
(as in verb, to cook)

Blog Articles in Category: Learning Tips

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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FINGERSPELLING……that dirty BIG four-teen letter word!

Learning Tips   |  Friday, February 3, 2012

By John Miller

letter i
In all my years of signing, I have never had anyone say to me, "I can’t believe how easy fingerspelling is!" or "Man, I really LOVE fingerspelling all these odd words that don’t have signs for them." It just isn’t a favorite part of the job! It is the thing that makes even seasoned interpreters break into a sweat when they have to start signing for a calculus class or in a court of law with a bunch of foreign names flying through the air.

I have come up with a few tricks through the years to make it easier, but the only true way to improve your fingerspelling skills is to practice. The practice needs to be both receptive and expressive.

Signing Terminology

Expressive - When you are signing/fingerspelling something to someone else.

Receptive - When you are reading(watching) someone else's signing/fingerspelling

There are some good websites out there that offer some examples to get that receptive practice. (See our Facebook page for one sited there.) I also want to take this opportunity to show you a few ways Signing Savvy can help you with your fingerspelling. Although we have many savvy users of the site, it can be easy to overlook features if you have not used them before.

First, Signing Savvy shows a fingerspelled version of every word. When viewing a sign video, the squares next to the word indicate the different versions of the sign that exist and there is always a "FS" version, which lets you see the word fingerspelled. It is a good reference, however, you will notice that the "FS" version individually signs each letter and does not demonstrate the flow between the letters. (Note: There are some words that should always be fingerspelled and the main video is of the word being fingerspelled - see ASL as an example and notice the flow between letters). You will notice that underneath the video it tells you what is currently being signed, including the current letter being signed when fingerspelling a whole word.

Signing Savvy fingerspelling features

Second, if you are a Signing Savvy Full Member you can use the Signing Savvy flashcards and quizzes to test yourself on fingerspelled words by creating a wordlist of only fingerspelled versions of words. If you want to add a word that has multiple signed versions to your wordlist, just make sure you are viewing the "FS" or fingerspelled version before adding it to your wordlist. Once you have all the words you want in your wordlist, use either the flashcard or quizzing feature in Signing Savvy to test yourself.

I thought it would be interesting to put the question out there to our Facebook followers and see if they could come up with a few interesting tricks of their own. Here are some of their suggestions:

  • Fingerspelling while in the car.
    Several people suggested the trick of fingerspelling while in the car (license plates, road signs, building names etc….). I like that idea but I just hope you are the passenger in the car at the time so that you aren’t having to fingerspell the license plate of the car you rear-end because you are too focused on spelling the LONG name on the building you are passing!

    If you are on a longer road trip, you could also play the "alphabet game" where you look for words (on signs, billboards, buildings, cars, etc.) that start with each letter of the alphabet, starting with A. You compete with others in the car by trying to be the first to get to Z. Each word you see, you would point at it and then fingerspell it. An alternate version would be to look for any item, not just words. Of course, again, this game is not recommended for the driver.

  • Focus on the whole word and not letter by letter.
    Another suggestion from our Facebook friends was to focus on the whole word and not letter by letter. This allows you to have a better flow as well. It is also helpful to say the sounds of the letters, NOT the letter itself as you are spelling the word phonetically. (This works well with both expressive and receptive fingerspelling.)

  • Don’t get fixated on each letter.
    Don’t get fixated on each letter, rather focus on the entire word and the flow of the hand changing as you create the word in the air. This will also help in not allowing you to “throw your letters”, which is another common problem for new finger spellers.

  • Signing Terminology

    "Throwing your letters" - This is something that many new signers do and it is a bouncing movement either up and down or forward that is disruptive and bothers with the reading of the fingerspelling. The elbow should stay still and just have the fingers moving and the wrist when appropriate.

    We also need to remember the general rules for fingerspelling. It isn’t right to makeup signs for words you don’t know because they are too long to fingerspell. You may laugh, but I see it happen all the time! Some people have even used the excuse that they work with young children so they can’t fingerspell. That is NOT true. When young children are fingerspelled to for small words that normally can be fingerspelled, they focus on the shape of the word. They will copy the shape to the best of their ability and then later they will make the connection to the alphabet. I have seen little children who are too young to know better, spelling words like BUS and BUG and are not even aware that they are spelling things.

    I invite everyone to join us on our Facebook page where we have regular discussions and questions going back and forth about the hot topics in sign language and Deaf Education. It is just another great resource offered to you by Signing Savvy!

 

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