An ASL DictionarySigning 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 signs, build word lists and share them with others, create digital flash cards and quizzes, view asl sentences, get tutoring, ...and more
Sign of the Day - DICTIONARY
This article is part of our "Interpreter 4-1-1" series, which includes advice and tips for interpreters.
As a professional interpreter, it is wise to consider your reputation in the community in which you work. Your reputation is formed on a number of important factors.
Professional interpreters rely on their ability to move through their community with relative ease. The successful professional interpreter can be contrasted to another kind who insists on friendships with clients, who force their way into Deaf spaces, who inflict themselves on the community in pursuit of a higher level of "street cred." You should strive to maintain a professional, ethical, cooperative, "friendly but not familiar" image. The ethically engaged, cooperative interpreter will go through a checklist before every assignment, and some examples are below:
Am I prepared?
Ethical interpreters will ask questions when accepting an assignment about the location and topic, but also questions about the clients. The information gathered can help direct self-study at home prior to the assignment. Online research is very helpful to become more familiar with the organization of a business entity, the names of teachers and professionals at a school, or the name of the doctor and nurses in a medical office. An hour of study before an assignment can make the difference between an acceptable interpretation, and an exceptional one.
Am I dressed appropriately?
A general rule of thumb that many interpreters follow is to dress “one level up” from what the setting requires. Interpreting is a young profession, and as practitioners we strive to maintain a level of recognizability when we’re on-site. The interpreter should be identifiable with appropriate attire and hygiene. Skin-contrasting clothing, nails that are short and clean, hair pulled back from the face to allow for ease of communication. It’s easier to arrive at an assignment and remove a dress jacket than not have it and wish you’d brought one.
Am I ready to represent the client and profession to the best of my ability?
Because the field of interpreting is young, many of our clients are not familiar with interpreting. The process, the gravity, and the complexity of the job is still the subject of countless research studies and training programs. As members of this profession, it is the responsibility of each interpreter to pave the way for the next interpreter who will work in that space, and to leave the assignment having provided a high quality of work and a positive experience for the clients. The road to no longer needing to explain the job to every person with whom we come in contact is a long one, and each interpreter plays a part in that journey.
Am I engaged and give back to the community?
Lastly, volunteer opportunities are readily available for those wishing to make more connections. Network by donating some hours of work at a non-profit organization. Get to know more colleagues and clients, give back to the community, and practice interpersonal skills. Many newer interpreters and interpreting students report anxiety when meeting new people. Introducing yourself to a stranger, making conversation, and learning to work with a multitude of different personalities will create a foundation of soft skills which will benefit any interpreter’s career and personal life.
This article is part of our "Living Loud" series, which highlights famous people who are deaf or hard of hearing and their impact in the world.
Andrew Foster was the first African-American to earn a Bachelor of Arts from Gallaudet University. He ultimately set up 32 schools for the deaf in Africa. Because of this, he is known as the “Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet” of Africa and the “Father of Deaf Education in Africa.”
Portrait of Andrew Foster. (Photo Credit: Gallaudet University. Andrew Foster: Visionary Leader - May 2014.)
Foster was born on June 27, 1925 in Ensley, Alabama. His father Wiley was a coal miner and World War I veteran and his mother Veline was a homemaker. He was the oldest of their four children. When he was 11 years old, both he and his brother contracted spinal meningitis and became deaf. Growing up he didn’t have access to much education because he was deaf and black. He went to the Alabama School for the Colored Deaf, as schools were segregated in Alabama during this time and education for African Americans was only offered through sixth grade. The only way for Foster to continue his schooling past sixth grade was for him to move to Flint, Michigan with his aunt. He attended the Michigan School for the Deaf, which went to eighth grade. Then Foster took correspondence courses and finally received his high school diploma in 1951 at age 26. It was during his time in Michigan that he went to Bethany Pembroke Church every week and learned about missionary work.
He applied and had been rejected several times to Gallaudet College due to his race, but he finally became the first African American accepted to Gallaudet in 1951. He was given a full scholarship and in 1954 was the first African American to graduate from Gallaudet. The Gallaudet president at that time, Leonard Elstad, encouraged Foster to pursue his dream of becoming a missionary.
In addition to a Bachelor of Arts degree in Education from Gallaudet, he obtained two master’s degrees. In 1955 he was the first African American to earn a master’s degree from Michigan State Normal College, which is now called Eastern Michigan University. His master’s degree was in Education and he earned a second master’s degree in Christian Mission from Seattle Pacific College in 1956… that’s 3 degrees in six years!
He established the Christina Mission for Deaf Americans, now known as the Christian Mission for the Deaf, in 1956 in Michigan. Foster went on to do speaking tours in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Western Europe, and 25 African nations. His favorite Bible verse was Isiah 29:18 “In that day, the deaf will hear the words of the book.” He knew in order to understand the Bible and become saved, the deaf first needed to be able to read. His passion was to educate the deaf to be literate – to read, write, and sign. He used the Total Communication method of using sign language, fingerspelling, speech, speech reading, writing, and more. He was especially an advocate of using visual language and visual learning for teaching deaf children.
In 1957 Foster arrived in Africa. During that time, not only were there no churches for the deaf, there were only 12 schools for the Deaf on the entire continent. School administrators and hearing missionaries told Foster deaf children didn’t exist in Africa. Perhaps they even believed these false narratives because the culture was so oppressive of deaf people that parents would keep them hidden at home. In remote villages, some deaf children were thought to be cursed by demons and were abandoned to be eaten by wild animals. Throughout his life he would preach, “Tomorrow may be too late!” He worked steadfast to convince local education officials there were many deaf children and that they had a moral obligation to provide them with opportunities.
Foster teaching a geography class in Ibadan, Nigeria in 1960.
(Photo Credit: Gallaudet University. Andrew Foster: Visionary Leader - May 2014.)
The first Deaf school he set up was in Osu, which is a suburb of Accra, Ghana; it was held in a borrowed classroom of a Presbyterian church. He later received a donation of a building and land that he used to set up a permanent residential school in Mampong-Akwapim. Shortly after opening the school, it was filled to capacity. The school housed approximately 80 children, as well as some adults. He was the director of the school until 1965.
Andrew and Berta Foster dressed in traditional Nigerian wedding fashion. (Photo Credit: Gallaudet University. Andrew Foster: Visionary Leader - May 2014.)
Foster married a deaf German woman, Berta, in 1961 in Nigeria, they had met at the Third World Congress of the Deaf in 1959. They had four sons and a daughter together. With Berta’s help, Foster established another 29 schools.
Foster trained teachers, taught students, advised government officials about the need for more schools for the deaf, and educated the public about the needs of Deaf Africans. Due to Foster’s efforts Gallaudet welcomed their first generation of students from Foster schools in Africa.
In 1970 Foster earned an honorary doctorate from Gallaudet in Humane Letters. He received the Man of the Year award in 1962 from Alpha Sigma Pi and the Edward Miner Gallaudet Award from Gallaudet College Alumni Association in 1975. He also received alumni awards from his other alma maters: the Alumni Honor Award from Eastern Michigan University in 1980 and the Medallion Award from Seattle Pacific University in 1982.
Tragically, Foster passed away in a small plane crash traveling to Rwanda in December of 1987. The plane suffered from mechanical problems and none of the 13 passengers survived. They are all buried near the crash site near Gisny, Rwanda.
Foster with students and teachers at his mission school in Goma, Congo, in 1985. (Photo Credit: Gallaudet University. Andrew Foster: Visionary Leader - May 2014.)
The Christian Mission for the Deaf continues to carry on Foster’s dream of establishing more schools for deaf people in Africa. The National Black Deaf Advocates donated a bust of Foster, sculpted by Virginia Cox, to Gallaudet and established the Andrew Foster Endowment Fund. Gallaudet also established the Dr. Andrew Foster Merit Based Scholarship for students. Gallaudet University renamed and dedicated their auditorium the Andrew Foster Auditorium in October 2004 to recognize his role as “Father of Deaf Education in Africa.”
Dr. Foster started more deaf schools than anyone in the history of deaf education. The hundreds of deaf children who have learned to read, write and communicate carry on his legacy.
Camp, Ted (2011, September 22). A Tribute to Andrew Foster. Silent Word Ministries. Retrieved from: https://www.silentwordministries.org/2011/09/22/the-written-word-a-tribute-to-andrew-foster/
Eastern Michigan University: Alumni Achievement Past Recipients. Retrieved from: https://www.emich.edu/alumni/engage/events/achievement_past-recipients.php
Fikes, R. (2018, December 25). Andrew Jackson Foster, II (1925-1987). Retrieved from https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/foster-andrew-jackson-ii-1925-1987/
Foster, Dr. Andrew (n.d.). Roots Out of a Dry Ground. Christian Mission for the Deaf. Retrieved from: http://www.cmdeaf.org/resources/articles-by-dr-foster/roots-out-of-a-dry-ground
Gallaudet University. (2014, May). Visionary Leader: Andrew Foster. Retrieved from: https://www.gallaudet.edu/about/history-and-traditions/andrew-foster
Nicholas, Darrick F. Andrew Foster, “the deaf will hear the words of the book.” African
American Registry. Retrieved from: https://aaregistry.org/story/andrew-foster-the-deaf-will-hear-the-words-of-the-book
Seattle Pacific University: The Medallion Award. The Seattle Pacific University Magazine. Retrieved from: https://spu.edu/depts/uc/response/spring2k3/medallion.html
This article is part of our “Signs That Are Close... But Not the Same” series, which highlights signs that look similar, but have different meanings.
Hello! Brenda Cartwright (BC) here. Let's continue on the fun topic of: “Signs That Are Close... But Not the Same.”
The ASL signs shown below look similar, but are not the same. There are many ASL signs that when produced look similar, but in fact have a completely different meaning. Below you will find examples of such signs. Watch closely to see if you can see the difference. In addition, watch my eyebrows, look to see when I tilt my head or lean my body in a certain way, even what my mouth is doing. These nuances are called inflections and trust me, inflections matter. Enjoy!
1. Several vs. Few
SEVERAL and FEW both start with the S handshape on the non-dominant side of the body and then move across to the dominant side of the body ending in a W handshape when signing FEW and a 4 handshape when signing SEVERAL. You can remember FEW ends with the W handshape because the word FEW ends with a W. FEW ends in the W handshape, which has 3 fingers out, while SEVERAL ends in the 4 handshape, which has four fingers out because SEVERAL is more than a FEW.
These signs originated from the French sign for PLUSIEURS (several). The extension of the fingers in the sign originally followed the French counting system and symbolized counting several items.1
2. Use vs. Get Used To
There are many times when an English word may have multiple meanings and when there are multiple meanings, often there are multiple signs to represent each meaning. A common example of this is with the English word “fly” - fly can have multiple meanings and there are different ways to sign each meaning. Signing Savvy uses what we call our “as in” to differentiate between meanings. There are three versions of fly in the Signing Savvy dictionary and they all use different signs: FLY (as in "fly in an airplane”), FLY (as in "the insect”), and FLY (as in "a bird flying”). USE is an another example where it’s important to think about the meaning because to USE something is not the same as to GET USED TO something.
USE (as in "to use or utilize") is signed with the U handshape moving in a clockwise motion on the back of the non-dominant hand. You can remember a U handshape is used because USE starts with the letter U. This sign is also used to say WEAR in English. Some people find it confusing that the same sign is used for USE and WEAR, but the origin of this sign from the French sign for HABITUDE (habit) helps explain the dual usage. The French words habitude (habit), usage (use), utile (useful), and utilizer (use) have related meanings, which is why the sign was used to mean USE. "The alternative meaning of ‘wear’ likely stems from the false association of the English word habit with the French word habit (clothes)."1
USE (as in "to get used to") is signed the same as CUSTOM or TRADITION - the hands move down to the waist as the top, dominant hand closes from an open 5-handshape to a S-handshape. The downward movement while signing GET USED TO shows consistency.
USE (as in "to use up”), USED TO (as in "used to or in the past”), and USED (as in "second hand") also have different meanings, and use different signs, from the examples of USE (as in "to use or utilize") and USE (as in "to get used to") shared in this comparison. USED TO (as in "used to or in the past”) is also shown in the next comparison below.
3. Long Ago vs. Used To
The signs for LONG AGO and USED TO (as in "used to or in the past”) are an example that shows emphasis matters. LONG AGO has a bigger movement to show it was farther in the past than when you are talking about something you USED TO do.
4. Introduce vs. Invite
When signing INTRODUCE, think of the two hands as representing bringing two people together and they are introduced.
The sign for INVITE (as in "to invite someone") also can be used to mean EMPLOY, HIRE, INVITATION, GREET, and WELCOME. Think of the one-handed motion as a welcoming gesture when making an offer, rather it is of greeting or employment. This sign is also a directional sign. The hand would move away from the body if you were asking to be invited. See the sign INVITE (as in, "to invite me”).
5. Problem vs. Difficult
PROBLEM and DIFFICULT are similar because they both use two hands in bent V handshapes. This "double hooked handshape is used in a family of signs to convey notions of hardness, both physical and mental."1 In addition to PROBLEM and DIFFICULT, the signs for HARD (as in, "difficult”), and BONES (as in, "bones in the body”) use this handshape.
The sign for DIFFICULT, with the up and down hand movement, is almost identical to the French sign for PIERRE (stone), which originated from the old French sign for DUR (hard).1 When signing DIFFICULT, think of the symbolism of the handshape and how this sign evolved from the meaning of something being hard.
When signing PROBLEM, think of the two hands colliding as they are encountering a problem or difficulty. You can also think about trying to fit puzzle pieces together to solve a problem. This sign may have evolved from the French sign for PROBLÈME (problem, difficulty) and the related sign COMPLICATION (complication) where the hands fold and refold together. "The metaphor of ‘folding something to complicate it’ motivates the French word compliqué (complicated), which comes from the Latin complicare (fold)."1
How can I figure out the difference between signs on my own?
If you see two signs that look close, but not the same, but you’re not sure, you can use Signing Savvy features to help you figure out the difference. All of our signs have sign descriptions and memory aids that members can access. Reading the sign description and memory aids for the signs can help you figure out the small differences between them that your eyes don’t catch at first. We also recommend using the pause and slow motion feature to slow down the video, so you can take a closer look. These features are available to Signing Savvy members.
Take a look, it's in a book!
These examples are aligned with the Visual Discrimination section of Lesson 7 (page 85) from Lessons and Activities in American Sign Language by Brenda E. Cartwright and Suellen J. Bahleda. Check out the book for more ASL Activities and watch for more examples from this series: “Signs That Are Close... But Not the Same.”
- Shaw, E. & Delaporte, Y. (2014). A Historical and Etymological Dictionary of American Sign Language. Washington: Gallaudet University Press.
Signing Savvy is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking signingsavvy.com to Amazon properties. That means Signing Savvy may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking on an affiliate link, your cost will be exactly the same regardless, but Signing Savvy will automatically receive a small commission. Your support is greatly appreciated and helps us continue to improve Signing Savvy!