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

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Blog Articles in Category: Learning Tips

Tips for Reading Fingerspelling

Learning Tips   |  Saturday, March 13, 2010

By John Miller

Many people talk to me about their frustrations with fingerspelling and want suggestions on how to improve their receptive skills when it comes to reading fingerspelling.

My suggestions tend to follow a lot of the same rules that apply to teaching a child to read:

  1. Practice, practice, pratice...the more you work on reading other people's fingerspelling, the better you will get. Everyone's fingers are different so it is important to practice with many different partners in order to experience all the styles of hands. (Unfortunately not everyone has long easily read fingers!)
  2. Don't get stuck on reading each letter as an individual letter. Instead think of it and the "shape" of the word. Watch for double letters and the beginning and ending letters. You should be able to fill in the rest with the contextual clues (much like you do with reading an unknown word in a sentence in a written passage).
  3. Instead of saying each letter as you are seeing it, say each SOUND. (You are basically sounding it out.) This will help as you are trying to figure out the word. That way when you miss a letter here and there, by sounding it out you will be able to fill in the blanks.

Fingerspelling, hands-down is one of the trickiest parts of the language. Don't get too frustrated. Take it slow at first. Don't be afraid to ask a deaf person to "spell it again please", they more than likely will be happy to repeat themselves.

Happy Signing!

 

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Using Figurative Language with Sign

Learning Tips   |  Thursday, February 25, 2010

By John Miller

Many people have asked how to sign things that say one thing but mean something else. This happens a lot in the English Language!

Some Examples: It's raining cats and dogs!, or You look really sharp today.

Now as native users of the English language, we know that neither cats or dogs are falling from the skies .nor is the person in the second sentence looking rather pointed. These are concepts that people who are learning English as a second language also struggle with, yet we find phrases like these used in everyday language all the time. The thing for you to focus on as a signer is the main idea of what is being said and then sign it conceptually correct.

It's raining cats and dogs = It's really raining hard

Even with this example you would NOT sign that it is raining HARD (as in the opposite of soft). You would sign RAIN + A LOT or RAIN+RAIN+RAIN (with a facial expression showing a lot).

You look really sharp today = You look really nice today.

You would sign it like this.

Now, with that said, as a former teacher, I would think that it is important for my students to know what someone was saying when they used figurative language (whether it was being said live or they are reading it in a book, and it is actually fun to see my students use it in their everyday use of language). So I would sign it conceptually correct first but then TEACH them the way it is used in figurative language and sign it back and forth interchangeably so that it becomes part of the student's vocabulary.

 

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Conceptually Correct Signs

Learning Tips   |  Friday, November 13, 2009

By John Miller

Consider the following sentences:

I won’t stand for this!

You need to stand up please.

This flag stands for freedom.

In each of these statements the word STAND is used. It is spelled the exact same way, pronounced the exact same way, yet it has VERY different meanings in each of it’s uses above.

Now one form of sign language, Signing Exact English, would tell you to sign the word STAND the same in all three sentences because of their 2 out of 3 rule. (If the word is spelled the same and pronounced the same, then you can sign it the same.) Our philosophy here at Signing Savvy, DOES NOT endorse that way of thinking. We feel that signing things conceptually correct is EXTREMELY important! This is one of the big differences between American Sign Language (ASL) and Signed Exact English.

With that said….let us look back at the three example sentences listed above.

I won’t stand (put up with, or accept) this!

You need to stand (to stand up) up please.

This flag stands (represents) for freedom.

You would want to sign the sentences using the meanings of the words. Those meanings are found in the parenthesis. The sentences that come off the lips would still be using the word STAND but the sign would correspond with the meaning.

Just a quick note about the Signing Savvy Phrase Builder - the phrase builder doesn’t have the intelligence to know what the true conceptual meaning of the words you typed in the search box are. It will simply give you the first variation of the sign for the word you entered. However, you can modify the resulting sign video using the tools in the phrase builder (see the video on the phrase builder for details).

Please consider this, and make sure your phrases are conceptually correct, when you are using the phrase builder OR translating from English to ASL on your own. Happy Signing! John.

 

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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.

 

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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

 

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