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Blog Articles in Category: Learning Tips

Directional Verbs

Learning Tips   |  Wednesday, July 28, 2010

By John Miller

There are a group of verbs that are often referred to as Directional Verbs. These are also known as Indexical verbs or Verb Agreement. These verbs do just what the term suggests; they show directionality. They do this by using an element of motion that indicates one or more referents (see post on Setting Up People, Places, and Things for more on referents). These verbs can be used pretty simply by setting people up, then using direction to show who is doing what to whom.

I will give you some examples to make it clear using the word/sign SHOW.

  1. First you set up someone on the right, lets say DAN, by fingerspelling his name on the right side of your signing space.
  2. Then you set up someone on the left, lets say JACK, by fingerspelling his name on the left side of your signing space.
  3. Then just by using the sign SHOW and moving from the area on the right, to the area on the left, you are signing DAN SHOWED JACK.
  4. If you went from the left to the right, you would be saying JACK SHOWED DAN.

Once again, the act of moving the sign gives the meaning of whom is doing what to whom. Other directional verbs include borrow, give, see, pay, invite, help, send, and bite.

Directional/Indexical signs can be very fun to use and make your message so much clearer when used properly.

Happy Signing!

 

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Setting Up People, Places and Things

Learning Tips   |  Wednesday, July 28, 2010

By John Miller

The use of space is a very important feature in American Sign Language. The way to be able to refer back to different people, places or things (referents) is to use the space around the signer. You do this by setting up the space. This is done in a three dimensional manner. It can be done in the space to the left or right of the signer, in front of the signer, in a semi-circle around the signer, or in rare cases behind the signer.

The signer establishes the person, place or thing by identifying them within the sign space, and then leaving them there (in space). The signer can then refer back to that specific space every time they are talking about that referent. Other signers in the same conversation can also refer to and use this sign space once it has been established (set up).

The setting up of the space can happen a few different ways:

  1. A person, place or thing can be fingerspelled in a certain location.
  2. You can make a sign in that location.
  3. A sign classifier can be signed in that location.
  4. The use of a directional verb can be signed toward a certain location.

One rule of thumb is to never set up more than six referents in any one conversation. Even that can be too many if there is going to be a lot of information associated with each. The proper use of space can make your signing much clearer and easily understood when done following these rules.

Happy Signing!

 

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Making signs plural or in the past tense

Learning Tips   |  Wednesday, July 14, 2010

By John Miller

We have received several emails asking how to make signed words plural or showing if something happened in the past, as well as having emphasis to show desire.

There are a few different ways to do this:

  1. One way to show an emphasis or plurals is to repeat the sign. For example, if you are wanting to say “He wants that really bad!” You would sign WANT+WANT+THAT+HE. That double use of the sign want shows that he really wants it. You would NOT sign the word bad because it has a different meaning in this sentence. The double signing of want also makes it a plural.
  2. Showing something happened in the past can be done by making a gesture of throwing it over your shoulder. This is using the sign space that refers to the past. (Use the 5-hand with the palm facing backward, moving in a backward direction).
  3. You can also sign FINISH after a sign to show that it happened in the past. For example, if you want to say "He wanted to go." You could sign GO+HE+WANT+FINISH.
  4. There is an English signing method that has you add the S or ED or ING ending to the words but this is not as widely used and is actually frowned upon by most people who use American Sign Language. The more appropriate method is to determine what is meant and translate it accordingly. For example, if you want to say "He is left wanting." You could sign HE+WANT+MORE+STILL.

Happy Signing!

 

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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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