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Frequently Asked Questions: 2:

The information below is a collection of miscellaneous questions people have asked me.  Sometimes I have time to answer this type of question, sometimes I don't.  I love you all, but there is only so much time in the day...

I was wondering what the sign for miss is. As in, "I miss you" it was not in the dictionary on your web page. Thanks so much if you have the time to tell me.

Tualatin, Oregon 14 years old

You get a sad look on your face and poke your straight index finger into the cleft of your chin.


In a message dated 6/19/2002 12:59:12 PM Pacific Daylight Time, _______ writes:

Subj:Re: Question 
Date:6/19/2002 12:59:12 PM Pacific Daylight Time

Thank you SO much for your reply. Your offer to "custom design" a program for him is quite generous and might work. What are we looking at cost-wise, time-wise,and is it feasible for him to complete an ASL II,III, and IV beginning in August 2002 and ending May 2003. He is set to graduate then. We can provide proctors for the
class and tests at our high school. How would we need to set it up? I am very interested in this option. Here are some details on his background with signing and his current academic abilities. I can tell you that he lost his hearing as a child due to meningitis (after the onset of language acquisition), was implanted w/ a cochlear implant at age 5, and is oral, in an all-hearing high school. He was taught ASL as a child and used it up until he became all oral. His current signing ability is that he has passed a junior college ASL I course with a 92. However, the courses for ASL II,III, and IV are only offered at a location too far for him to drive to by himself. He is college-bound and wants to keep up his signing skills for life. He uses "signed English" quite beautifully. So nicely that he tried to "clep out" of ASL II (via the junior college, like he did for ASL I), but he only received a score of 76. (To get the credit for high school "by exam only" , he had to receive a 90 or better). He has also received "passing scores" on all sub-tests for the SATHI exam.  I hope this information helps you determine if a "customized course" is feasible.

Again, I sincerely thank you for helping me in my quest. I am a speech therapist, not a 
guidance counselor, so this has been an incredible challenge to navigate!

Linda ______

Dear Linda,

I've thought about your student's situation. It sounds to me like he needs more than is able to offer at this point. So let me help you brainstorm. How far is he from the Junior College?

You say the level 2 through 4 classes are offered at a location too far away for him to drive. Are there classes located at a different "high school" (rather than a college) that he might be able to participate in? 
Could your student participate in an "early college enrollment" program and take ASL 2 - 4 at a local college?

All you would need is your principal's approval and the college's approval, (at least that is how I did it when I was a senior in high school). [Hmmm...I just reread that section of your email, it appears that he has already taken ASL 1 at the junior college.]

You mention that he signs English beautifully. 

Sometimes Deaf youth just need to be taught ASL linguistics and how to jockey back and forth between ASL and English at the right time. He may indeed know enough ASL to CLEP out of level 2 or 3, but he doesn't know how to "play the game" and fully codeswitch to ASL during the evaluations.
Another idea, whereas one "college evaluator" may flunk him on an ASL evaluation--a different evaluator may pass him. Suppose he were to go to another college and retake the ASL 2 evaluation? 

There are a few "intense summer workshops" that teach ASL. For example, Gallaudet University offers some. He might be able to fly to Gallaudet and participate in a couple weeks of workshops and develop his skills sufficiently to pass the local tests. Maybe a college in Dallas offers such workshops?

You could contact your local Division of Rehabilitation Services Counselor and ask him/her to foot the bill for him to fly to Gallaudet to attend these workshops. Such a course of action is not unheard of.

Finally, if the issue is there is some sort of law or policy that your school requires "all" students to pass a foreign language requirement in order to graduate, let me suggest that according to the American's with Disabilities Act, your school and or district may be legally required to show some flexibility here and make adjustments--and possibly even waive the requirement for him. For example, I was a communication major for my undergraduate work. My college was legally required to substitute or waive certain courses for me because of my being hard of hearing.

Please do let me know what is going on with him. If I come up with or across any other ideas I'll let you know.

Bill Vicars

<<How long have you been interactively teaching using this format? I guess I am asking, has your website
been 'field' tested' and with what ages?>>

I've been doing this since 1996. I'm doing some "organized" research on its effectiveness this December ('02) as part of a dissertation. I used to teach it with a chatroom as far back as '97. I did that for about 3 years via AOL's online campus--before they went mega-commercial.  Mostly adults, but I did have a few children take the course.   The reviews were overwhelmingly positive. (Which always amazed me.) --Bill

In a message dated 8/24/2002 9:43:33 AM Pacific Daylight Time, writes:

Hi Bill:
I met a gal and now I need to learn to sign because it is I that can not communicate with her. (You know the story) Thinking of getting your book but would like to know your thoughts, step process as I begin to learn this foreign language. 
"Talk" with you soon............Ed

Hello Ed,

Sure, my book would be a great way to about learning ASL.

1. Order my book. (  [Editor's note: That book sold out. Sorry]
2. Practice your fingerspelling like crazy.
3. Keep a note pad to write down signs that you need to review and that you want to know or to go over with your friend.
4. Check the local library for other books on ASL.
5. Look around for a local ASL class.
6. Each time you meet your gal friend make it a ritual to go over 10 new signs or some other number of signs.
7. Set up a reward system.
8. Set specific goals.
9. Find deaf events in your area and go as often as you can.
10. Have a good time.


Terri writes:

But if I'm ever to improve and have my signing become MORE ASL and LESS English, am I correct in assuming that it would help to STOP speaking English while I sign, and START concentrating more on signing correct ASL and making the appropriate facial expressions?

No doubt whatsoever. Stop mouthing English words.  Then, later, stop worrying about it altogether. I compare it to learning to swim.  Mouthing English words is like a flotation device that provides a somewhat false sense of security that your communication is understandable. When you cast away that inner-tube, you find your swimming ability increases dramatically.

Thank you, Bill!  That's what I needed to hear :)  I appreciate your help and feedback (she says, tossing the inflatable rubber ducky inner tube aside) and grinning with the appropriate facial expression!

Dr. Vicars,
I have been looking for 2 signs that I can't seem to find anywhere. I hope you may be able to help me. The 2 signs are throne (as in God's throne) and desperate. Any help you can give me will be appreciated. 
Thank you
Sandi Rmiller@________


Sign throne by doing the sign for CHAIR, then lift it up to about face level to show that it is elevated. Some people sign it by putting their arms out as if on the armrests of a LaZyboy chair.
To sign desperate, you can use an exaggerated version of the sign HUNGRY. Use two hands and make the motion a little larger, while using increased facial expression.


In a message dated 11/15/2002 10:56:11 PM Central Standard Time, veggionly4 writes:

I just had to thank you for having a great website. My 21 month old daughter was just diagnosed with Verbal Apraxia, and we are having a lot of success signing. Your site is so easy to use, and I especially like the detailed description of hand positions that accompany the illustrations. 

I was always under the impression that it is critical to have finger placement "just so," or the meaning of the sign can't be misinterpreted. Looking at what you say about the variety of signing styles, I am wondering if that is an accurate assumption?
For example: Shouldn't thumbs be tucked down when signing "more?" Would it make no difference if they pointed up or out?

Thanks again,
Diane Smith
The Woodlands, TX


Two issues here.
One is communication.
The other is linguistic accuracy.

Starting with linguistics. In spoken English if I want to indicate a "cat" I'd say "cat." What if I said "caF" using an "F" instead of the "T?" Well, then it would be wrong. The reason it would be wrong is that one of the phonemes is different that what is commonly accepted by users of the language.

But now, suppose we discuss such things as regional variance? Southerners pronounce things differently than Northerners. Are either "wrong?" Of course not. But if you ask a Northerner he might very well tell you the Southerner is wrong or vice versa.

What about historical variance? Young people often develop new ways of saying things. The old people think they are wrong. Later all the old folks die off and the young ones grow old and think that their grandkids are speaking incorrectly. 

There will always be ways of using language that haven't made it into the mainstream. Such ways are considered wrong by language purists and "cool" by certain subgroups in a society.

Then there are words that have been literally mispronounced and eventually have gained acceptance by the greater language community. The word "Cajun" is a good example. It is my understanding that came from the word Acadian as in "French Acadian" people. But others mispronounced it and called them Cajun and eventually it stuck.

To sign "more" with the thumbs up, in my opinion, would constitute a nonstandard variation of the sign. If one of my students did it to me I would suggest they do it like I do the sign. That is my job. If one of my friends signed "more" with the thumbs up, I'd ignore it and focus on his or her message. It is important to know your place in society. Someone who goes around correcting other people's signs is a poopoohead.  (As an ASL instructor I really have to slap my own hands around "non-students" because correcting the signs of others is literally a habit for which I'm paid.)

Now, the other issue:  Communication.

My younger daughter, Sarah, has Aperts syndrome.  As such, she has no joints in her fingers.  Many of her signs are really quite "inaccurate" from a linguistic point of view.  But I'm just thrilled that she is able to produce "inaccurate" signing. It helps make communication much smoother around the Vicars household.

You suggested that one of the reasons for accuracy in signs would be so that they won't be misinterpreted.  Understanding a signed message is only minimally dependent on any one particular sign and is to a much higher degree dependent on the message as a whole and the context in which the message takes place.  Instructors who spend a great deal of time correcting their students signs end up depressing their students to the extent that many of them give up. Instead, instructors should focus on providing meaningful opportunities for students to use and interact in the language.  The kinks will eventually be worked out after a student has fallen in love with the language and gets involved with the community.  Sure there is a need for correction of inaccurate signs, but the correction can occur naturally as part of the discourse process.  I'm using "discourse" here to mean the back and forth exchange of messages between two or more people who are having a conversation.  If my signs are "wrong," my partner will likely say, "huh?"  Getting a "huh?" instead some other answer will then cause me to engage in a corrective process whereby I either educate my partner, he or she educates me, or I blather on in my clueless state.

The longer I remain in the target language community the more corrective opportunities I will have and I will tend to get a clue.  Those who don't get a clue (adjust  their signing to reflect that which is commonly understood by others) after a while tend to leave the community out of frustration.  It is a self-regulating process.  Of course, some people are slower than others.  And some have more of a desire to progress and put in more effort.  Those that work hard and stick with it generally become skilled communicators within a couple of years.

Take care.


In a message dated 5/9/2003 6:02:48 PM Central Daylight Time, writes:

Dear Bill,

My name is Toni Leeks and I have a daughter that is 7 yrs. old and is partially deaf, in my city there's nothing really to offer her or my family. I would love for her to learn signing before she goes completely deaf. Is there anything that you can offer to help in this situation? We have the internet and I can help her to learn off the computer.

I would appreciate a response as soon as possible time is growing short.

Thank You,

Toni Leeks

That is why I designed "" so people like you can learn from the net.
You might also consider your public library. Check out videos.
Contact the division of rehabilitation services and ask them for ASL training.
Contact the "Client Assistance Program" (CAP) for your state and ask about your rights.
Contact your school district's audiologist and ask for information on programs for the deaf.
Contact your state services for the deaf and ask for a visit from a social worker who specializes in deaf services.
Good luck.

In a message dated 5/23/2003 3:07:54 PM Central Daylight Time, writes:

Dear Bill,

I enjoy very much using your website. The instructions, drawings, and hints with memory techniques are very helpful.

My personality is geared towards having an instructor present as I learn. The internet is helpful, but I do well with instructors present.

I have tried searching the internet for local sign language classes offered in my area near the monastery. I am not having much luck.

I wonder if you happen to know through the grapevine if there are any courses offered in my area. The monastery is located smack between Evansville, Indiana and Louisville, Kentucky. Other local large cities are Jasper, Indiana and Owensboro, Kentucky.

Any help you can offer is appreciated. I enjoy very much the help you have offered through your user friendly website. Thank you.

Br. Jesse

Br. Jesse,
You might consider taking out an ad in a local newspaper.
Seek a deaf person who knows ASL then have them teach you using the free curriculum at ASL University (the practice sentences, etc.)

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