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Sign Me Up! Online Edition

William G. Vicars, Ph.D.

MCSE, MCT, MCP+I, A+, Network+, EdNet

Opening "Chat Log Session 7" 
(Chapter 7) 

DrVicars: Good evening how are you? 

Art: Hi Bill, Im fine.  I have a joke for you 

DrVicars: Love to hear it. 

Art: Olie & Lena went to the doctor.  [Olie is hard of hearing]  The doctor says, Lena you got
to do 3 things to keep Olie well. 

Art: 1st you got to keep everything real smooth.  You got to iron everything.  2nd you got to fix
him fresh meals every day from scratch.  No left overs, no fast or frozen foods.  3rd you got to
give Olie more lovin. They got home and Olie asks, " Well what did the doctor say?"  Lena
looked at Olie and said, "You're going to die." 

DrVicars: RTFL LOL, I love it! 

DrVicars: Here's one for you:  The wife and I are going for a drive. I get pulled over by a police

 Officer:  "Hey buddy! Your wife fell out three miles back!" 
Bill:  "Oh officer, I'm so relieved!" 
Officer:   "What!?" 
Bill:  "Yeah, I though I was going deaf." 

Lii: LOL 

Art: HA HA 

DrVicars: Okay welcome to class! 

Let's get with it, for the agenda tonight I have a whole bunch of thought questions for you.  Do
you have any questions before I start? 

If not I'll get to the questions... 

DrVicars:  Is ASL universal? 

Lii: I thought so, but aren't there different variations according to countries? 

DrVicars: Right!  There are, and that leads to my next question:  Does sign have dialects? 

Lii: Yes. 

DrVicars: Okay, so, sign is NOT universal and it does vary, (even from state to state).  And
sometimes even from city to city.  Why so much variance? 

Lii: Because of dialects? 

DrVicars: Why the dialects?  Why more so than hearing people? Why is there greater variation
of acceptable usage in signs than in spoken words? 

DrVicars: For example, if I go to CA they will sign some signs quite a bit differently than
Chicago.  I can still understand the meanings just fine due to the iconic or picture nature of the
language but there is quite a disparity between the two forms. 

DrVicars: Let me suggest that in the morning a hearing person turns on the television or the radio
and hears the spoken words of a person living across the U.S. Throughout the day he is
constantly exposed via the telephone to voices from far away,  (ordering a new lint filter for his
dryer he ends up talking to a lady in Chicago,)   Due to technology and the mass media spoken
dialects become less and less. 

DrVicars: Have much less exposure to signs from outside of their region.  Video phones
video-conferencing, optical disks etc. are helping to bridge the gap, but it will still be a while. 

DrVicars: Next question:  What should left handed signers do? 

Art: Reverse positioning of hands. 

DrVicars: Right. 

DrVicars: Mirror image.  Meaning, whatever a right handed signer does, the leftie can do the
opposite.  The only caution is using signs that involve real life indexing or those signs involving
directions, like the signs for RIGHT and LEFT, EAST and WEST, etc. 

DrVicars: Also, now that we are down to a manageable size class we can dispense with any
formal protocol [?, ga, !, etc.]  and just chat.  So if you have  question or comment--feel free to
"throw it out." 

Art: But I'm not sure what my answer means. 

DrVicars: Oh let me explain--If I'm a lefty, I fingerspell with the left.  I would do everything with
my left that a "righty" does with his or her right.  Try to be consistent, (and not say  "I'm

Switching back and forth can be confusing sometimes because we use comparative sentence
structures that put one topic to the right, and the other topic to the left.  Hearing people
sometimes use the statement "on the one hand"  as a way to compare two or more items.  In the
Deaf world we sometimes (literally) list off characteristics using two different hands for

DrVicars: Does that clear it up? 

Art: Yes 

DrVicars: Great 

Lii: Does it get harder to "read" another signer when they do that, though? 

DrVicars: Only a little.   It becomes pretty clear after you get used to it--kind of like an accent. 
Once you are familiar with the technique, it actually makes communication easier. 

Lii: I guess it comes with the ole' proverbial "practice" again. 

DrVicars: <Grin> 

[New topic] 

DrVicars: Is sign language used in monasteries? 

Has anyone visited a monastery before? 

If so, did you learn any of the signs they use? 

DrVicars: There is a monastery in Huntsville, Utah, near my home town.  I visited and talked to
the "Father" there.  I'm not Catholic, so if I mess this up--please forgive me.  Anyway...he
showed me many of the signs they use at that particular monastery, like:   forming a triangle for
the Trinity, and pointing to the nose for wine, etc.  It was interesting but funny/sad in a way
because some of the ASL translations of their signs were quite sexual in nature, (if taken out of
context).  But I didn't tell him that.  <grin> 

Art: How can that be? 

DrVicars: What do you mean Art? 

Art: How are their signs sexual? 

DrVicars: To him they weren't sexual, but they had other meanings in ASL. 
Well ...< blush > for example his sign for the Trinity was close to the ASL sign for a certain
female body part.  (I hope this is not offending any of you.) 

Lii: No, in fact, this is quite interesting! 

Art: Thanks 

DrVicars: The point is though that I really enjoyed learning about his signs.  It was a neat
experience.  I made a new friend.  I showed him my signs for wine and God, etc. He showed
me his method. I bought some honey and bread.  My friends and I had a great time. 

DrVicars: A new language opens new doors.  So if you have the chance, you should ask other
groups or cultures their signs. 

DrVicars: Okay next question:   How long does it take to learn to sign? 

Art: A lifetime? 

Lii: It would take seconds to learn a sign, but it takes years to perfect it. I would think. 

DrVicars: Of course the answer is:  "It depends." 

DrVicars: How smart are you?  How good at language acquisition in general? How often are
you exposed to signing?  How good is your instructor?  How many deaf friends?  How good
are they at signing? 

DrVicars: I remember having a roommate once.  He picked up enough sign in two weeks to
hold a decent conversation in pidgin.  But you need to realize--he ate, drank, and slept signing
with me for 12 hours a day.  Plus he had a great memory. 

Art: Even though we know English, we still learn new words years later.  Some people are still
learning the basics, (even though they are married to the deaf!)  The differences in skill level
between my college students are astounding. 

DrVicars: What are some applications for sign?  Jobs, etc. 

Lii: Interpreting is the main one. 

DrVicars: Good, what else? 

Art: Directions, communications. 

DrVicars: Fine, now let's get creative for a bit, how about underwater directions for scuba

Monica: You can use it to interpret body language. 
DrVicars: Good point. 

DrVicars: How about cheating in class? 

Monica: Baseball or football signals. 

DrVicars: Right, right!  You get the idea. 

DrVicars: Let's talk about non-verbal communication.  Non-verbal communication is more
powerful than verbal communication because it is difficult to "mask."  Many people can lie with
their voices but have a hard time lying with their bodies.  For example after a person lies, he or
she tends to scratch the nose or otherwise touch the face. 

But let's shout a warning here:  body-language is ambiguous much of the time.  If a woman (or a
man) is crossing her legs...what does that mean? 

DrVicars: Maybe nothing.  Maybe a lot.  It depends.  Did she get kicked during a recent soccer
game and it feels better to elevate her shin?  Is she attracted to the guy sitting next to her? 

DrVicars: There are too many variables to tell with any certainty what a person is thinking by
just looking at their body language.  But when you combine what a person says with their
non-verbal messages with that they say verbally, you get a pretty good picture of their sincerity
about a topic. 

DrVicars: Non-verbal communication is culturally based.  I have a kid in one of my college
classes.   I think he just got back from Bulgaria,  (I'm not sure if that was the place so don't
quote me on this). 

He shakes his head for yes and nods it up and down  to say no. (Exactly backwards of how we
do it here in America.)  Of course this drives me nuts! 

DrVicars: Now he is re-learning the American way but the other way became a habit for him
after a couple years in a foreign country. 

DrVicars: When verbal  and nonverbal conflict, people accept the nonverbal. 

DrVicars: Albert Mehrabian (spelling?) did a study.  (He is a psychologist at UCLA.) He found that in emotional communication situations, the communicative content of a message was as follows: 

7 percent verbal 
38 percent para-verbal 
and  55 percent non-verbal 

Art: What do you mean "para-verbal?" 

Monica: Little of both? 

Art: See I'm still learning English, LOL 

DrVicars: Para-verbal includes sounds like, "hmmm" or  "tsk tsk."  Utterances that are sort of
half-sounded-out words. 

DrVicars: The sounds your mother used to make when you were in trouble.  (Heh)  They were
not words--but she sure communicated! 

DrVicars: Suppose you are walking down street and look in restaurant window.  You notice
two "lovers" having an argument.  After the boy says something, the girl shoves back from the
table with an angry scowl on her face, throws her hands in the air and walks away muttering. 
You could assume they are not getting along. 

DrVicars: Now, truth be told, the words she said  were, "I really love you too." 

DrVicars: WHAT?  How could she ever be saying words that are meant to express tenderness and closeness while behaving that way? 

DrVicars: What happened is:  the fellow told her,  " I don't think I ever really loved you." 

DrVicars: Oh wow.  The words she said were meaningless--it was the way she acted and the
way she said them that told him how mad she was and what she felt. 

DrVicars: So--you see body language is more important that verbal words in most everyday

Let me mention though that this is not necessarily true in technical or logistical-type discussions. 
It doesn't do much for chat-room conversations either <grin> but I guess that's why we
developed emoticons  :-) 

For those of you who don't know what emoticons are, they are those punctuation marks and
other typographical symbols that you use to smile with :-) or frown with :-(   or otherwise show
emotion.  If you still don't get it, a colon, a dash, and a close parenthesis mark viewed from the
side look like two eyeballs a nose and a smile.    :-) 

[If you would like to read a little more about non-verbal communication there is a nice little
article in the August 1993 edition of Readers Digest.] 

Lii: It also helps to know something about other cultures.  I lived with Alaskan Athabascan
Indians.  When they looked away from you it was a sign of respect.  In white culture, it is a sign
of non-interest, etc. 

DrVicars: In Inuit language, Eskimos have one word that means "slice the blubber horizontally." 
Here in the lower forty-eight states we don't have such a word.  I heard that Eskimos have
about 40 words for different kinds of snow.  English has a dozen at best.  Does that mean
English is inferior to Inuit? 

DrVicars: Or by the same token, if ASL doesn't express things the same way as English it
doesn't mean ASL is better or worse.  ASL and English have different applications. 

DrVicars: How does phonetics apply to fingerspelling? 

DrVicars: Should you sound out the words phonetically, or say them letter by letter?  (Either
silently to yourself while amongst Deaf people, or out loud if you are in mixed company including
a hearing person who doesn't know sign language.) 

DrVicars: When I ask new signers their names,  they sometimes spell, "F-R-E-D,"  (or whatever
their name is) forming each letter very carefully while saying to themselves the individual sounds
of each letter. 

DrVicars: What you should do is pronounce it normally. For example, if your name is
Carol--you should say Carol normally on your lips and practice dragging the fingers along.  Say
your name slowly enough that your fingers can keep pace.  DON'T say each letter, instead
blend them together like the normal word would be pronounced.  At first this is hard because
you are so slow, but after a while you get faster. 

DrVicars: Getting your name (and other fingerspelled words) right on your lips  is important
because some Deaf are able to lipread the words you are spelling which makes it easier to

[Please understand that I'm not saying you should mouth everything you sign! Quite the opposite
in fact. I'm just saying that if you are a hearing person acquiring fingerspelling skills, one of the
talents you ought to develop is that of being able to say the word as you spell it on your fingers.] 

DrVicars: Should you watch a signers hands or face? 

Daniel: Both. 

DrVicars: Right.   Later, as you become more skilled, you just concentrate on the face and catch
the hands with your peripheral vision. 

DrVicars: How do deaf mothers hear their babies cry?  How do deaf people hear the doorbell? 

Monica: Vibrations? 

DrVicars: Well that is certainly one way, (if you have a very loud doorbell).  One of my friends
sleeps with her hand on her kid. 

Art: Lights for the doorbell. 

DrVicars: Right!  We have lights for everything!  Our houses are wired!  Deaf people used this
stuff [assistive technology] before it was popular.  Back in the mid eighties, my friend Tess had a
device on her wrist.  The device had four lights on it.  One for the door.  One for the baby.  One
for the phone.  And I don't know what the other was for <grin>. 

DrVicars: Any questions about assistive technology? 

Art: Can you give more examples? 

DrVicars: Sure.  A couple of years ago I took a group of students on a "no-voice immersion
excursion" to Disneyland.  We needed a hotel.  I called in advance and told them we had two
deaf coming with us.  They fussed over getting the devices required by the ADA.  (Americans
with Disabilities Act of 1990)  Anyway, long story short, after I contacted legal counsel, the
Hotel gave in.  When we arrived it was overkill!  The hotel had everything: door-knock alarms, 
close caption decoders for the tv's, TTYs for the phones, alarm clocks with vibrators for the
bed,  and everything was connected to high power strobe lights that were guaranteed to get your

DrVicars: The deaf youth took it in stride but the hearing kids had more fun calling from room to
room on the TTYs than they did at Disneyland. 

Art: LOL 

Lii: LOL!  Are these devices expensive?  What happens when some deaf can't afford them. 

DrVicars: Yes they are.  You have to be rich to be deaf. 

Lii: Are there programs for people to purchase these things? 

Daniel: Do organizations like NAD help assist with modifying homes or is that left up to the

DrVicars: There are programs, depending on your state.  Some states are better than others. 

DrVicars: California is the best, (my opinion).  Lately prices have been dropping on assistive
tech.  You can now buy a baby cry with a light at almost any large department store or Radio
Shack.  The more specialized gadgets, like an "ammonia fire alarm," will cost you an arm and a
leg, and have to be special ordered.  Some items, like an "ambulance alarm" (for your car)  that
lights up if it "hears" an ambulance, are not that expensive because the technology is now easy to
come by. 

DrVicars:  I can get a catalog number for you all if you will hold  sixty seconds, (I'm running for
it right now), 

DrVicars: 1-800-825-6758, Harris Communication 

DrVicars: 1-800-767-4461, Sign Enhancers 

DrVicars: 1-800-475-4756, Sign Media Inc. 

DrVicars: I haven't called them in a while so you take your chances with those numbers, (but
with toll free you are sure to get your money's worth).  If the number has changed, just look
them up using your internet search programs. 

DrVicars: Okay, that wraps it up for tonight's lesson. 

[Various discussion] 

DrVicars: You all have a good night now. 

Lii: You have a SUPER week.  Thanks for everything. 

Monica: What sets off the light when the baby cries?  Noise? 

DrVicars: Right Monica! 

Art: Good night 

Daniel: You too.  Good night all. 

DrVicars: The device has a sensor that detects sound.  When the noise level is loud enough the
device sends power to the light. 

Monica: Thanks! 

DrVicars: Okay have a nice night,  any other questions, feel free to email me. 

Monica: Good night 

DrVicars: bye. 

Closing "Chat Log #7"