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 - MENTAL HEALTH

Blog Articles in Category: Learning Tips

Showing TENSE while signing ASL

Learning Tips   |  Thursday, January 12, 2012

By John Miller

One thing that many new signers struggle with is how to show tense (past, present and future) while signing. In ASL, you don't sign words like went or going or suffixes like "ing", "ed" or "s".

By including the sign NOW at the beginning of a sentence, you can clarify the sentence is in the present tense.

English Version: I am going to the store.
ASL Version: NOW + STORE + I + GO.

By including the sign PAST or BEFORE (the open hand waves back over the shoulder in a single motion) at the beginning of a sentence, you can change the meaning of the sentence from present to past.

English Version: I went to the store.
ASL Version: BEFORE + STORE + I + GO

Alternatively, you can make the sentence show past tense by adding the sign FINISH to the end OR the beginning of the sentences.

English Version: I went to the store.
ASL Version 1: STORE + I + GO + FINISH
ASL Version 2: FINISH + STORE + I + GO

You can make the sentence show future tense by adding the sign NEXT to the beginning of the sentences.

English Version: I will go to the store.
ASL Version: NEXT + STORE + I + GO

To summarize, in ASL we use the following signs to clarify the tense:

The time of the day that the signer is signing the phrase can effect how the sentence is interpreted, even though the words/signs are exactly the same.

For example, if the sentence below was signed in the morning, the interpretation would be as shown: "Tonight, I will eat dinner."

English Version: Tonight, I will eat dinner.
ASL Version: NOW + EVENING + I + EAT + DINNER

But if the same sentence was signed late in the evening, its' interpretation would be: "Tonight, I ate dinner".

English Version: Tonight, I ate dinner.
ASL Version: NOW + EVENING + I + EAT + DINNER

As you can see, communicating tense can be a tricky thing sometimes. My recommendation is to pay attention to how others sign tenses and consciously practice it as you sign.

 

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Tips for Learning Sign Language in Your Natural Environment

Learning Tips   |  Saturday, December 10, 2011

By John Miller

One of the most common questions I get from people who are first learning sign language is, "How do you remember so many new words? It's overwhelming!" It is; and unless you plan on incorporating it into your everyday life, it won't stick with you.

Often sign language instructors will divide sign vocabulary up into categories like household items, food, family, colors, shapes etc... Doing this helps you to categorize the words and file them into your memory bank that way. As you are using Signing Savvy to learn, create your own word lists to categorize the signs you are learning or look into the many, many shared word lists that others have already created. This categorization of vocabulary will be very helpful to you in your learning.

Also, start with the words that are a part of your everyday life, the words with which you will have constant interaction. Then using the printing feature from Signing Savvy, print out little cheat sheet photos that you can place around the house on those everyday items. You will be surprised how quickly you will memorize the signs for these words.

Then later, because you have already created the word lists, you will be able to give yourself a quiz online to be able to sharpen those skills even more.

If you have others that live with you, see if they will help you practice both your receptive (you receiving the sign from others) and expressive skills (you signing the words to others). It is this constant interaction that will improve your learning experience.

 

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A look at signing family members: The sign of the day theme from the last week

Learning Tips   |  Wednesday, September 21, 2011

By Jillian Winn

You may have noticed a theme across the signs of the day in the last week. We asked our Twitter followers for suggestions for the sign of the day and someone suggested we try week-long themes. Although we will not be using a theme every week for the sign of the day, we thought it was a great idea to start incorporating a theme occasionally.

We choose family members for our first sign of the day theme, from Wednesday, September 14 to Wednesday, September 21. Signing Savvy Member Tip: To see past sign of the days, view the sign of the day wordlist.

If you follow the sign of the day, we thought it would be a great learning opportunity to point out a few takeaways about the signs from the last week.

Sunday's sign of the day was MOM. For this sign, the thumb of the 5-hand taps the chin. Signing Savvy Member Tip: Take a look at the memory aid for signs to have a better understanding of the origin of signs and a way to remember them. Our memory aid for MOM explains that the lower portion of the face refers to the female gender and that's one way you can remember the sign for MOM is signed on/near your chin. If you look at the sign for FEMALE, you will see you stroke the side of your chin with the thumb of the A-hand.

DAD, which was the sign of the day on Monday, has some similar signing patterns as MOM. DAD is signed on/near the forehead and male signs are typically made on the forehead. See the sign for MALE and DAD.

GRANDMA (the first Wednesday's sign of the day) and GRANDPA are signed similarly to MOM and DAD, but with an additional movement out suggesting a generation out.

The signs for UNCLE (Thursday's sign of the day) and AUNT also follow these same gender patterns with UNCLE signed with the U-hand in a circular motion near the forehead and AUNT signed with the A-hand in a circular motion near the chin. You can easily remember the hand shape that each of these signs use because UNCLE starts with the letter "U" and uses the U-hand and AUNT starts with the letter "A" and uses the A-hand.

Now that you are starting to notice the patterns of signs, you should be able to guess the sign for NIECE (the second Wednesday's sign of the day) and NEPHEW. Both start with the letter "N" and use the N-hand in a circular motion. NIECE is signed near the chin, while NEPHEW is signed near the forehead.

COUSIN (Saturday's sign of the day) is signed using the C-hand in a circular motion close to the head -- that sign could be used for a female or a male cousin. There is also a second way to sign COUSIN where you shake your C-hand by the head instead of using a circular motion. If you wanted to specifically sign FEMALE COUSIN, do the sign by your chin, and if you want to sign MALE COUSIN, do the sign by your forehead.

The signs for SON (Tuesday's sign of the day) and DAUGHTER (Friday's sign of the day) do not follow the exact same sign pattern as the last few signs discussed. SON and DAUGHTER start like the signs for MALE and FEMALE and then transition into the sign for BABY. You can remember these signs because (regardless of age) a SON is one's MALE BABY and a DAUGHTER is someone's FEMALE BABY.

Our featured sign of the day theme of family members did not include any signs for in-laws, but there is also a pattern to be found when signing in-laws. Often it is the sign of the family member, plus the sign for LAW. See MOTHER-IN-LAW as an example.

We hope you enjoyed our first week of using a theme for the sign of the day! We will also be using a theme for the next week. We had a Twitter follower suggest the theme of emotions. Thursday, September 22 - Thursday, September 29 will be emotions - we hope that makes you "happy"!!

 

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There is Not a Sign for Every English Word

Learning Tips   |  Tuesday, April 19, 2011

By John Miller

Question: I am looking for the sign for word (insert word) and cannot find it.

Answer: There is not a sign for every word in the English dictionary. However, there is usually a sign for most concepts expressed in English. Conceptually correctness is the key.

If you are trying to find a sign on Signing Savvy, first think about the meaning behind what you want to say. If you search for a word and either no sign comes up or the sign that comes up seems to have a different meaning than what you want to say, think of a different word that conveys the meaning of what you want to say and search for that word.

Lets look at an example from Signing Savvy:

I want to look up the word PROTECTION from the following sentence: I need to put on some more sun protection before going on the boat.

When I search for PROTECTION, I do not find a sign. Therefore, I simplify the word and search for PROTECT. Simplifying the word is a good searching strategy on Signing Savvy, such as removing the -ion, -ing, or s (plural form) of the word.

However, in this case the sign for PROTECT may not really convey the conceptual meaning of sun protection. That sign could be used but what I'm really trying to say in my sentence is more like the sign for FILTER or SCREEN.

Now while looking this up I also thought of the work block, as in sun block. When I looked up BLOCK, I found two signs, one for the meaning to block something or prevent it from entering, and one like a building block.

The sun protection I was thinking about was more of a filter than a block, since I still wanted to get a tan, so I would use the sign for FILTER.

As a signer and a sign language interpreter, you constantly have to decide which sign best fits the conceptual meaning of what you are saying. This is one thing that beginner signers really struggle with. It is not always a direct English to ASL sign translation.

 

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Misconception: There is only one sign language

Learning Tips   |  Monday, April 18, 2011

By John Miller

Question: Is sign language universal throughout the world? ...and if not, why don't we just make it that way since it would make the world have at least one language that everyone could understand and use?

Answer: Unfortunately sign language is NOT universal throughout the world. There is American Sign Language, British Sign Language, Spanish Sign Language, Japanese Sign Language, Ausian (Australian Sign Language) and many more. In fact, there are even multiple sign languages used in the United States (American Sign Language and Signed Exact English). Although one universal sign language would probably make things easier, just like with spoken language, I'm sure the world would have a very difficult time trying to come up with whose way of doing it was the best way so I don't see it happening anytime soon!

Signing Savvy focuses primarily on American Sign Language (ASL). ASL is a complete, unique language developed by deaf people, for deaf people and is used in its purest form by people who are Deaf. Being its own language, it not only has its own vocabulary, but also its own grammar that differs from English. American Sign Language is used through the United States, Canada, and a few other parts of the world.

Since Signing Savvy is first and foremost a reference for folks signing or learning to sign in North America, it is important for us to also include other signs that you may encounter beyond just ASL signs. For that reason, we also include some commonly used English signs. However, we try to always list the ASL sign as the first sign variation on any given word.

For more on the difference between ASL and English signs, see our previous blog post on the difference between ASL and English signs.

 

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