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"Grab Bag" Various Questions 4:

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...

Question:  <<I am a hearing person, and we have a computer store here in _______ Michigan. We have a few deaf customers that come in. I have just begun to learn to sign.         My question is, will they get offended if I try to sign to them. I know I am very slow and I am sure my signs are probably not very accurate. I am afraid they may not understand why I am trying to learn, and think I am making fun of them or just belittling them. I would never do that intentionally. I would just love to be able to talk to them instead of writing notes all the time. >>

Answer:  Chances are they will be delighted--if they are members of the culturally Deaf community that uses sign language.  If they are "Oral" deaf they very well might be offended. I once, out of habit, signed while talking to a certain elderly woman I know. This woman, as she was getting older, was losing her hearing.  She was "offended" by my signing.  She obviously hated becoming deaf and any insinuation that she was unable to communicate via voicing agitated her. So, one of the first things you should say and sign to someone whom you think is deaf and that you think signs, is "YOU SIGN?"  If they respond "no" then stop signing and just speak clearly and a bit louder than normal (not much louder, mind you, you don't want to distort your voice or make a scene).  If they respond "YES"--then by all means sign with them.

Now, here is a caution, they are in your store to satisfy their needs, not yours.  If the fact that you can sign helps expedite (make smoother) their purchase or their understanding of the new product, then keep on signing.  But if you suspect that your signing might be dragging things out longer than your client would prefer--then simply ask if he would prefer you to write, type, or sign. 

In a message dated 1/26/2003 12:09:25 PM Central Standard Time, Dare2Believe writes:

Hello again Mr. Vicars:

First of all I apologize for bothering you with all these questions concerning sign language. But, so far, you're about the only one that has been able to answer them. I do appreciate your help that you've offered already in my previous e-mail to you.

Again, my wife is studying this beautiful language and is really applying herself. However, she is looking for the sign for "Desperate", can you help in this one or is there a sign for that word?

I thank you for your help and I do apologize for so many questions. Have a great day.

In Christ,
Mark Stephens


You are not bothering me.  I think it is neat that you are trying to help out your wife.

There is no particular sign for "desperate."
It is conveyed by quick motions and a panicked facial expression while signing the other signs in your sentence.
You can convey it by exaggerating the sign "must" to mean "I HAVE TO."
I have also used an exaggerated version of "hungry" to mean desperate.
People make statements to show desperation. For example, "I WILL DIE IF..."



In a message dated 1/18/2003 1:15:03 PM Central Standard Time, writes:

Hi Bill;
I found your website, and was hoping you could be of some help. I don't know if you are still doing any ASL help on the web? I am severely to profoundly deaf, but have always been oral. I married a hearing man and have 5 hearing children, and haven't had much opportunities to really immerse myself totally into learning ASL. I realize now that in order to ever get a college
education or a decent job, I need to be fluent in ASL. I've tried various
ASL classes at the community college, but this doesn't seem to help me
much...I wish I could have a one on one or small class experience. The last
class I took the Deaf teacher had a hearing interpreter for himself...the
teacher would go over the vocabulary words for the week, and then sign a
mile a minute for the rest of the class time talking about culture or
whatever, while his interpreter voiced everything to the class. You can
probably visualize me turning my head constantly from teacher to voice
interpreter, trying to understand what either was saying...I didn't get much
out of this 2-semester class.
Thanks for any suggestions you may have,
Linda _________
in California


Sounds to me like you need to get into a completely "no voice" classroom!
You might consider contacting your state's "Division of Rehabilitation Services." They might just be able to provide you with a one-on-one ASL tutor to come to your house.  They can also pay for whatever schooling you'd like.
As a Deaf person you could request a real-time caption service while taking a class that is voiced. (Americans with Disabilities Act requires schools to make accommodations). They would set up a computer (laptop) for you and a stenographer or trained typist who would do the listening and type the information onto the computer screen for you.
Go to the teacher (or if he is unwilling, go over the teacher's head and speak with the department chair) and challenge him to set up a completely no-voice class (as an accommodation) one semester. It isn't that hard to do.
Fly out here to Texas and my wife will teach you. Or fly me to California and I'll teach you. I'd bring one of my kids or my wife (or send my wife and one of the kids) and go to Disneyland. I used to bring students to Disneyland for no-voice trips all the time. They learned as much in a weekend as they did in a semester of class...sometimes more--because they were constantly using it while standing in line waiting for the next ride.

Other ideas:
Check out videotapes from your library on "signing."
Hire a deaf baby-sitter.
Volunteer at a Deaf School.
Also, you are going to want to get your husband and kids in on learning ASL. They are the ones you live with. The kids, of course, will learn faster than you if they take an interest in it.  Try buying earplugs and challenging them to be deaf for a week.


In a message dated 1/23/2003 10:42:29 PM Central Standard Time, Dare2Believe writes:

My wife is studying sign language and has learned so much the past few weeks. We've purchased The Comprehensive Signing Dictionary, Signing Illustrated, and another one that I can't recall the title.

She has looked and looked for the sign for the word lift, lifted, and for weapon, but it is no where to be found. Can you help with that? If so, please E-mail me at this address and let me know.

I certainly appreciate it.

Mark Stephens

There is no sign for weapon. I made one up once, but that isn't the way to go, trust me.  The way "weapon" is expressed in ASL is to sign, "GUN, KNIFE, CLUB, VARIOUS." That means "weapon." Or you spell it if the word itself is important.

For lift, you put both hands in front of you, palms up, may be slightly bent at the large knuckles (don't have to bend though,) thumbs just hang normal, fingers flat and together. Then lift both hands about 8 inches. (Hmm sounds a lot like you are miming the lifting of a box or a car trunk.)

Lift is one of those "what are you talking about" then mime it, type of signs.


In a message dated 1/28/2003 8:06:49 AM Central Standard Time, LiveXFaith writes:

Hi Mr. Vicars:

I am so sorry to bother you with my constant questions concerning this wonderful language. I have a strong desire to learn it and to communicate through signing. Though, I'm not hearing impaired, I do think the language is beautiful and since about the third grade I've been interested in learning. At one time in my life I did suffer from deafness for about a year, but didn't learn the language.

I have searched my area where I live. The community college, the library, the deaf center. I've even called the numbers that you've given me and I do have material on the way. I am searching for a teacher that can take time whether in the classroom or in private tutoring that can assist me in learning this language.

I've made call after call and all I come to is road blocks. Whenever the local community college has offered the course, they have had to cancel due to lack of response or interest. In fact, one lady I spoke with said they would be glad to offer the course if only there was some interest!

I am asking if you can offer any other suggestions besides the ones you have previously. So far the help you've given me has helped more than anthing else I've found. I do hope that you can suggest something that will aid me in getting the instruction for this wonderful language called signing.

In closing, I apologize for all my continuous questions. However, as I mentioned, no one else has been as big a help as you have been. I do hope to hear from you soon. Until then, you have a great day and God bless.



You mention that the college said they'd be glad to offer the course if there was interest.

That is the key.

If they can offer the course, they must know of an instructor willing to teach it.
You could contact the college and find out who it is that teaches the course when there is sufficient interest.

Once you have an name, you can then work on contacting that person and ask him or her about teaching a community ed based class. Offer to pay him $25 an hour.

Now you might think that is a lot of money. But it won't cost you a cent because all you have to do is find 10 people who are willing to pay $25 each for a 5 week, two-hour a week course.

Or, you might go about finding out how much he normally earns for teaching the college class. It might be more or less than that, (probably more but you never know). If it is less, then simply offer to match it.
Or, another strategy is to start off by asking what he charges for private tutoring.
He is likely to say $15 to $20 an hour. But he might quote more.
You can then say something like, "If I add $5 an hour to that could you do the tutoring at my home and I'd invite a few friends?

Another approach is to start off by asking him if he knows any Deaf people who might be interested in doing some private tutoring.

Then hire that Deaf person at $10 an hour to tutor you and a friend or two using my site as the curriculum for your tutoring sessions.

By the way, the term "hearing impaired" is currently considered culturally unacceptable. I suggest you use the phrase, "Deaf or hard of hearing" instead.



In a message dated 2/10/2003 8:58:49 PM Central Standard Time, writes:


If you are signing "he hires me", why would you start the sign near yourself? When you sign "he gives me" you start the sign near him and move it toward yourself. What's the difference?


[Note: Lynn is asking about an example on page 97 of the text "Linguistics of American Sign Language."]


GREAT question.
The short answer? That's the way we do it.

Now for the long answer:

The signs "GIVE" and "HIRE" are both verbs.
The grammar rule is simply different for these two verbs.

For the sign GIVE, the grammar rule is that the first location of the sign indicates the subject.

For the sign "HIRE" the grammar rule is that the first location of the sign indicates the object.

Why is the grammar rule different for these two verbs?
To answer that, let me ask you why it is in English that one of these two sentences is correct?
"Me am happy to meet you."
"I am happy to meet you."
The second one is correct for two reasons:
1. When you were growing up that is how you heard it. You became used to it. Now when you see it any other way it looks funny. It is what we call a social convention or a norm.
2. Society has codified it in grammar texts as a rule.

So then, why do we sign HIRE in an "object location first" manner?
Same reasons: It is a convention and it is in a grammar text (or at least it is in your ASL Linguistics text).

Now, that doesn't necessarily make it any easier to accept does it? So, fine, I'll give you a perspective on the sign that is totally made up and bogus but "sounds good."
Here we go:

When I hire you it means I bring you into my organization. At first you are over there, then I hire you and bring you closer to me in my organization. Therefore the concept "I hire you" starts away from my body (near you) and moves closer to my body representing the movement of you toward my organization (me).

Now then, if you hire me, that means I get to come onboard your organization. The concept "you hire me" is then shown by the movement of a sign that brings me closer to you, which is to say it starts near me and moves toward you because you are pulling me into your company.

Now, the fact is, not everybody follows that convention. Many, many signers don't follow it. An important point though is that advanced signers are aware of the convention and make use of it.

Now, I thought and thought until I could come up with another sign that follows the same convention as HIRE.

An example would be the sign PULL.
If my concept is "I pulled him" (as in the car was burning and I pulled him out).
Where would I start the sign? I am the subject because I'm doing the action. Should I start the sign near me? No. I'd reach out and "grab him" (mime) and then pull him toward me.

If I wanted to indicate "he pulled me" I'd grab my shirt or grab near my body and then lurch forward/off-to-the-side as I pulled my hands forward/off-to-the-side. He is the subject, but the sign starts near me and moves toward him. As in the sign for HIRE the object-location is shown first.

Twenty years from now will the Deaf Community still be signing HIRE by indicating the object-location first? Who knows? Language changes. I guess we will find out in 20 years.

If you have other questions about the sign HIRE, please do let me know.


In a message dated 2/24/2003 2:31:32 PM Central Standard Time, a student writes:

Question:   <<I would like to know the details on how to obtain a
certification as an ASL Instructor such as ASLTA. I have the paperwork
and the videotape that explain how to become certified, but I would like
to know from your side.>>

Answer:  For me it was just a matter of digging in and doing it. Setting up the video camera, doing the video, documenting my teaching, documenting my eduction, and sending it in. There was nothing tricky about it.
To motivate yourself you might try filling out and pre-stamping the envelopes. Buy a blank videotape, put it in, and set up the camera. Do all of the brainless work first. That gets the ball rolling and the momentum carries you though.

In a message dated 3/4/2003 10:46:41 AM Central Standard Time, etrites@ _____ writes:


I am a speech language pathologist, and I have a non-verbal (hearing)
child, who uses ASL signs to assist communication. He is learning to
speak, and understands everything. Your site has been useful to me when I
don't know a sign, and my books don't have it. Right now, our class is
learning about dinosaurs. I can't find the sign for "dinosaur" anywhere.
Any ideas?

Erin _____
Winchester Public Schools (MA)

P.S. If this request is not appropriate for e-mail, let me know. Thanks!


The sign for dinosaur is to hold a "D" hand up, palm left. The "D" represents the head of the dinosaur and the wrist and forearm represent the long neck. The movement is from right to left. Pretend the dinosaur is "walking" and the head is moving along atop the long neck.


Thanks very much! We taught him the sign today, and he is using it, as
well as several others he has learned. It is also helping him to try to
say the words.

Thanks again!

In a message dated 3/23/2003 3:51:22 PM Central Standard Time, writes:

Dear Bill-

My name is Josette Todaro. I am a hearing woman from Philadelphia. I work for a theatre company in Philadelphia that consider universal accessibility a mission. We will have our second ASL Shakespeare Festival this summer. I have been taking ASL from a teacher who is Deaf- and I love it. Here is my problem, I will be living in Cedar City, Utah for a few months, would you happen to know how I can continue my ASL studies? Are you aware of any ASL tutors in the area or how I would go about finding one? I would like to learn from a person who is Deaf because I think that Deaf culture is such an important part of the language, but if you had any ideas, I would happily consider them.


I suggest you contact Southern Utah University. Call (435) 586-7741. (I haven't tried that number, but if it doesn't work, look up a newer number on the net). Then ask to transfer to speak with their office for Disabled students. Tell them what you are looking for (a Deaf tutor).

In a message dated 3/24/2003 3:02:43 PM Central Standard Time, writes:

<<I really want to become an interpreter but have some very basic problems that I hoped you could give me insite on.

I took 3 years of sign language in high school. At the time SEE signs were all the rage(I know, I'm showing my age hahaha).My problem is, I think and sign with SEE signs....something frowned upon in the deaf world. The flow of SEE signs are natural to me and I sign as I talk, using the same syntax and expressions I would if I were just speaking. While my signs are rusty(I'm 44 and high school was a LONG time ago) my main concern is how do I retrain my thought process? I have found ASL is alot like Spanish, the words are in different places and I was lousey in Spanish for that exact reason.

I am not associated with the deaf culture. And hesitate to delve into it with my present skills.But I have a need....kind of a drive to become an interpreter....something I've wanted since high school. But marriage and my son put everything on hold. I am now single again and my son is grown and I find myself drawn to my original become an interpreter in the court system or for students in the confusing mainstream of college.

I have checked into the local junior colleges(which offer sign classes) and our local University (Fresno State) has a fantastic interpreters certificate program. Right now money constraints stop me from joining in to the classes. Our local adult ed. has classes also, but are also out of my reach right now. That is why your ASL "classes" are so wonderful for me. But while I can brush up on my skills there(thank youfor that) I am still at a loss as to how to teach this old brain to think and express myself properly.

I would appreciate ANY information you may have on hand to help me in my quest. Thank you so much for your time.

Tammy (dolphinstar@_____________) is my personal e-mail. thanx again


As I'm sure you know, if you want to learn the language you are going to have to interact with ASL signers and use the language often.

You've got to approach this in terms of personal relationships with ASL teachers and native Deaf signers.

You state that you don't have enough money to take classes from this interpreter training program.

What if you were to find out who the teachers are and become valuable to them?
For example, do they ever need papers graded, errands run, whiteboards cleaned, someone to call absent students, a substitute instructor, a ride to class, a babysitter?

You might think that is silly and that you couldn't be a substitute, but all you would have to do is show up and put in an ASL video and/or collect whatever papers are due that day. If you become a "teacher's aide" you can sit in class free.

Is there a Deaf School or Deaf program in your area? You could volunteer to work with Deaf youth.

Are you single? You could check into one of the "deaf dating services" on the web and start developing relationships with Deaf men.

Have you checked your local library for ASL materials?

Is there a Deaf club in your area? Go! Take your ASL dictionary and go. Be polite, friendly, and patient. Eventually they will get the message that you are not just another hearing person who has come to stare.

Buy or borrow Lou Fants "ASL Phrase book." Then carry it around with you and study it every spare moment.

Turn off your voice when you sign. Stop mouthing your words. You will learn to think in ASL after you have been exposed to it enough.

Take care,

Bill Vicars

In a message dated 3/24/2003 10:23:04 PM Central Standard Time, writes:

Hello I have just found your wonderful site and am interested in trying
asl for stroke victims as both PT and a way for many who cant speak and
would like some more infomation from you if you have ever heard of this
being done or if you have any pointers I am a begginer myself in asl and
want to further my own education in asl along with studying for my RN
this fall .Your site is so very wonderful at helping one learn even more
.I would appreciate any info you could give . I firmly beleive anyone in
the medical feild should at least be familur with basic sign for some it
is there only hope of communicating from various reasons as i said iam
interested for victims of strokes as i was doing my clinicals i met a
wounderful lady of about 75 yrs of age and she couldnt speak at all from
a recent stroke as you can imagine she had a very hard time letting
nurses and aids alike know when she needed even the simpilest things such
as the restroom and she is the reason i have the idea to at least try to
famlurize as many people in her position and the ones around those some
basic if not more asl .I also think it can help with the artritic hands
that do tend to develope with age as the positioning and movement .
I do so very much hope you have the time to read and reply to this short
note as I said i just want to be able to help others who need it and will
apperciate any response.

Most sincerly ,
Deborah F_______


Hi. That is neat that you are using ASL to help people who have had a stroke. About 15 years ago a rest home invited me in to teach some of their staff how to use sign language to improve communication with their patients.

I spent a couple hours showing them various signs related to everyday life.
They seemed really excited to try it out. One of the patients did manage to learn a few signs during the time I was there.

You asked for tips, so here are a few off the top of my head:
Use simplified versions of signs when possible because their range of motion is probably limited.
Pay attention to the small movements that may be initial attempts at signing.
Speak and sign at the same time, (this isn't is sign supported speech).
Pick out ten or so of the most important communication tasks and focus on those first.
Consider using pictures that a stroke patient can point to instead of having to voice.
Consider using a simple signed song as a vocabulary builder. Signing to music will help them remember some of the signs.
Remember...they might react badly if you don't do sufficient public relations. I'd avoid just showing up one day and springing sign language on them. Work into it and get them interested in a non-threatening way.

I wish you all the best in your endeavor.

Take care,


In a message dated 3/27/2003 10:17:15 AM Central Standard Time, Carol (a former student) writes:

<<It would be great to have you back here... >>
[She is referring to a college where I used to teach and where she still works.]


The Weber years were some of the happiest of my life.
It was an honor and constant thrill to meet and interact with the thousands of students I taught over the course of those 10 years.
I've got it all right here in my heart.
The classroom magic.
The signed songs.
The breakfasts.
The trips.

Now I have the honor of teaching thousands of students each month via my website. (My site gets 24,000 hits from different IP addresses throughout the world each month.)

I look to the future with great expectations.

Take care my friend,


In a message dated 3/29/2003 9:58:21 PM Central Standard Time, writes:

<I'm in the process of making a career change and working with my local Voc. Rehab dept. in doing so. I've done a number of things in the past, including teaching ( 12th grade and down ) and greatly enjoy working with people. Health problems now bar me from much direct contact with others, especially in group settings. ( A pesticide over-exposure left me highly sensitive to a number of modern chemicals and pollutants, I can't even go into town without a health risk from vehicle exhaust. So, I now live in the Alaskan woods and keep in touch with the world via the Internet. ) Your work with ASL University, and online teaching in general, has me wondering just how I might be able to again work with, teach, and help others in a similar online way. At the moment I have Voc. Rehab for help in training for something new. With your background, do you have any thoughts or suggestions you could share for someone considering teaching/tutoring via the Internet? >


Seems to me like you might want to look into a career in teaching computer topics online. You might consider contacting for one of the new "electronic high schools" out there. Perhaps Alaska has an electronic high school? Or maybe you could be instrumental in helping them set one up? Also the new rage is electronic charter schools that cater to the home school market. So you might want to do some searches for info on that. Check out

 to get a feel for where the "online" training market is going. You might also want to see

 for a glimpse of how strong the online education market is now.


In a message dated 5/29/2003 4:12:45 PM Central Daylight Time, writes:

I am looking for the signs for Dragon, Guinea Pig, and Hamster. Any assistance you could give would be most appreciated.

Thank you.
J. Brotnov


J. Brotnov,

The sign for hamster is to sign "mouse" and then puff out your cheeks and put your right and left "claw" handshapes on your cheeks to show cheeks full of nuts.

The sign dragon is to place the back of the right "and" handshape up against your snarled mouth. Then "shoot" the handshape forward while wiggling the fingers as if to represent a dragon blowing fire.  Some people add an "arm flapping" motion to represent the concept that dragons fly.

To sign Guinea Pig, you can combine the signs: TEST and PIG.

I hope that helps. Good luck in your signing endeavors.


In a message dated 6/7/2003 10:04:45 PM Central Daylight Time, writes:

Hello Bill,

For someone on a tight budget, me, could you recommend PC software that when
the user types in a word, sentence, there is a person performing the sign(s)
for the typewritten words?

I would like the person to occupy, maybe, half of the monitor screen while
the typed in word(s), sentence(s) had the other half.

Is there any such PC software that could do that?

I have PC software by Topics Entertainment, 'Instant Immersion: American
Sign Language', the 2 CD ROM kind, but the person doing the signing is
small and I can't always see clearly his hand/finger movements.

Thanks for any ideas


Have you visited your local library lately? See what they might have.
You are right, most software out there provides very small signers due to the massive amounts of bandwidth taken up by video files.
I'm putting together a DVD that has the characteristics you are talking about. The DVD will have sufficient space to handle the large video files.
When the DVD is ready I'll announce it on the aslpah newsletter.
If you find a software program you like, write a review and I'll post it for other students to benefit from your efforts.


In a message dated 6/12/2003 3:14:31 PM Central Daylight Time, jlamb18@_______ writes:

hi, my name is Julia Lamb and I am taking class from the SLCC in ASL
trying to learn the language. I want to study where I can to get to
know the language. I was wondering if I work on you lessons would help
me with learning the language from the college or will it confuse me? I
know quite a bit of ASL but still feel like I am a beginniner when sign
with other people. Will this help. What do you think? Thanks for you

Hello Julia,
Studying from a number of different sources can expand your perspective and give you background knowledge with which to make wise decisions regarding how to categorize new information.
There is not "one" right way to sign. However, you should keep in mind that your various teachers may feel that their way is right. Such being the case, you should do it their way until you get your report card.


In a message dated 7/27/2003 7:25:39 AM Central Daylight Time, deafspirit @ writes:

I will have to hook up the phone line again. Right now we do not have a phone, just cell phone. I really missed having a phone because of TTY. I have not used a TTY in some quite time now.

You can make TTY calls using your internet connection for FREE! Check out:


In a message dated 7/28/2003 7:37:59 AM Central Daylight Time, deafspirit @ writes:

COOL!!!!!!! I rather do this on the internet than the tdd machine. I will call someone in a little while

Question:  What are classifiers?  I'm taking a class and the teacher is using "Signing Naturally." My workbook doesn't cover them like I'd like. 

Answer:  Classifiers are signs that are used to represent general categories or "classes" of things. They can be used to describe the size and shape of an object (or person). They can be used to represent the object itself, or the way the object moves or relates to other objects (or people). Another definition is: "A set of handshapes that represent classes of things that share similar characteristics."

Below are some examples of "types" of classifiers.

I don't expect you to get a handle on these just because I list them. This list is from culled from a two-hour seminar I give when teaching classifiers from the Vista Signing Naturally Curriculum

Descriptive Classifiers (DCL), are also known as size and shape specifiers, (SASSes). They describe a person or object.

DCL:B (or bent B) "extremely tall"  [Explanation: to represent the descriptive classifier "extremely tall" you hold the "bent 'B' hand" high in the air while using an appropriate facial expression."]
DCL:B (or bent B) "short"
DCL:4 "long hair"
DCL:1 "bulletin board"
DCL:1 "black board"
DCL:4 (claw) "freckles"
DCL:4 "striped"
DCL:G "thin"
DCL:4 (claw) "curley hair"

Semantic Classifiers, represent categories of nouns. For example, people or vehicles.

SCL:1 (person) "walking fast"
SCL:1 (person) "person walks to...____"
SCL:3 (car) "drives to____"
SCL:Y (fat person) "waddling"
SCL:flattened-O (fast-car) "cruising"
SCL:bent-V (row of chairs)

Locative Classifiers, show placement or spatial information about an object. Sometimes indicate movement.

LCL:C/LCL:B "place cup on napkin"
LCL:5 "leaf floating to the ground"
LCL:1 (sticks) "one here-one here"
LCL:B "shelf" (over to the right)
LCL:1 "goal-posts"
(2h)LCL:L "adjust a picture"

Plural classifiers
Indicating a specific number or a non-specific number.
PCL:2 "two people walking"
PCL:4 "long line of people"
PCL:4 "people moving in line"
PCL: 5 "hordes of _____." Often called "scads of."
PCL:V "people seated in a circle"

Instrument Classifiers, you use your hands (or an other part of your body) to manipulate an "object."

ICL "driving"
ICL "hammer in a nail"
ICL "play checkers"
ICL "play chess"
ICL "light match"
ICL (broom) ICL "sweep"
ICL (water) ICL"pour in"
ICL (garbage) ICL "dump out"
ICL (wash-clothes) ICL "hang up"

Body Classifiers/Mime
You use your body to "act out" or "role play." Sometimes this is like "mime." Other times you just show the action (or interaction) that is going on. Often this involves "role shifting."

"acting tough"
"give hug to child"
"running hard/pumping arms"
"wave to crowd"
"listen for strange noise"

Bodypart classifiers
A specific part of your body is doing an action.

(2h)BPCL:F "look at"
BPCL "kick back" (relax)
BPCL "cross legs"
BPCL ""tap foot"
BPCL "use gesture looking up"
BPCL:flat-C "big grin"
BPCL:L "red face" shy
BPCL:B "mouth frowning"
Student: I don't get the outline presented. SCL:1 (person) "walking fast"

WVicars1: Oh okay then... let me clarify that
WVicars1: The SCL simply identifies the general category
WVicars1: the ":" means what a normal colon means
WVicars1: the "1" represents making a "one" handshape
WVicars1: with your index finger
WVicars1: The ( ) tells you what it is representing--you have to pre-identify this.
WVicars1: and the manner is in the "quotes"
WVicars1: So if I wanted to show "Bob" walking fast
WVicars1: I would fingerspell his name
WVicars1: then hold up that finger and move it quickly across my signing space
WVicars1: That would be a classifier indicating how he is moving.

(Old entry) Hearing Impaired:  (See discussion below.)  This term used to be popular in the last part of the twentieth century.  The term includes both "deaf" and "hard-of-hearing" individuals. It was considered "politically correct."  If I had been talking to a legislative group (composed of hearing people who are unfamiliar with Deaf Culture) --I would have used the term "hearing impaired." If I had been talking (signing) to a group of Culturally Deaf individuals I would have used the terms "deaf" and "hard-of-hearing." You had to know how to play both the political correctness game and the culture correctness game if you wanted to win. These days it seems  most people accept the phrase, "Deaf and hard of hearing" as the culturally and politically correct terminology.

In a message dated 5/25/02 10:54:28 AM Central Daylight Time, writes:
<<I'm confused about your reference to "knowing how to play the political correctness game" by using the term "hearing impaired" when talking to hearing people who are unfamiliar with Deaf Culture.

I've been told by my ASL teacher (who is Deaf), as well as several Deaf friends and an Interpreter, that the term Hearing Impaired is an insult. I also read in the book For Hearing People Only that we should try to educate hearing people and the media whenever possible by telling them that this term is an insult, and that the correct terms to use are Deaf or Hard of Hearing.

If this is true, then wouldn't you be perpetuating the insult by using "hearing impaired" just to play the political correctness game with hearing people?>>

Hello Terri,

Regarding the term "hearing impaired," --it appears you have been checking out my glossary at I'm glad to see people are using it. 

Please note that my phrase, "You had to know how to play both the political correctness game..." refers to the past, whereas you are quoting me as saying "knowing how to play the political..." which implies the present. I do not use the term "hearing impaired" in my current writings or dealings with politicians or others. 
It is a fact though, that for several years in legislative and political circles the term "Deaf" was considered inappropriate. 

Believe it or not, quite a few of the average Deaf (the ones who don't write books nor teach ASL classes) even bought into the "hearing impaired" term as well. For example, I recall having typed a letter to the Weber County Commissioner back in the 90's. I showed the letter to some friends and asked for feedback and similar letters of support for the establishment of a local Deaf center. One of the letters I received was from Brett Atkinson, a Deaf man with a Deaf wife, who has been in the Deaf Community all his life. He asked me to look his writing over prior to his submitting it to the commissioner. In his letter Brett went about explaining how the proper term was "hearing impaired" rather than Deaf.

Hmmm?  I guess the irrigation water takes a while to get to the end of the row. (I suggested to him that "actually" the proper term was Deaf and hard of hearing.  He changed his letter to reflect that.) Seems to me that many, many deaf people didn't consider "hearing impaired" to be an insult until the "activists" started telling them that they should be insulted.

Back then, (90's) things were politically charged with the recent passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Hearing legislators and administrators were bending over backwards to be politically correct. Or what they thought was politically correct.  I remember sitting at a meeting at Weber State University. The meeting involved making decisions that potentially affected deaf students. At one point I started to share a few thoughts with the sentence, "My Deaf friends tell me..." 
I was interrupted by the hearing director of the college's "Physically Challenged Student Center." He interrupted me to state that it isn't "My Deaf friends--it is 'my friends who are deaf.'"  
Can you imagine? The guy goes to a "People First" language workshop given by someone who obviously knows diddly about the Deaf and suddenly he is an expert? 

Whether he was an expert or not had little bearing on the fact that he was perceived as being an expert. That was a tough time to be an activist.

In any case, you are absolutely right. We should educate people to not use the term "hearing impaired" any more.

Thanks to your email I will update that section of my website so the definition simply states the current status of the word and not my reflections on its evolution:

New entry for Hearing Impaired:    An obsolete term.  Instead use "Deaf and hard of hearing."   

<<Hello Bill:  Thank you for taking the time to explain how use of the term "Hearing Impaired" has changed over time. 
As I learn more about Deaf Culture and meet more Deaf people, I am finding a lot of conflicting information--both in reading material and from asking Deaf people. It's not uncommon to ask three Deaf people "which is the preferred word or sign to use" and get three different answers! Guess I just have to accept that I can't please everyone and if I do accidentally insult someone, I'll just apologize and learn from it. 
At my job, we are putting on classes for supervisors with Deaf employees. The classes consist of a Deaf Culture Workshop (run by people from Ohlone College in Fremont, CA), and a series of 8 basic ASL courses. I gave the supervisors your website information, so they can use it to practice their signing and learn more about Deaf Culture. I know some have been asking about a good book to buy; hopefully, some will buy yours. I know I plan to buy it. 
It's wonderful to know I have another resource to use in my quest for knowledge about ASL, Deaf Culture, and questions in general. Have a wonderful day, Bill, and thank you again. 
Terri >>

Your comment: "Guess I just have to accept that I can't please everyone and if I do accidentally insult someone, I'll just apologize and learn from it"--should be tattooed on the underside of every ASL student and interpreter's arm.  --Bill



Programs: Interpreter Training: Questions to ask before joining an interpreter training program:

1. Have you had the opportunity to interview a number of working interpreters?

2. Have you managed to talk to at least one "ticked off" ex-interpreter about why she no longer interprets?

3. Have you checked into ACTUAL job opportunities in the field?

4. Did these jobs pay benefits and a salary that is something you can feel good about?

5. Have you ascertained the attrition and graduation rates for whatever program you are entering?

6. Have you ascertained the certification rate for graduates of whatever program you are entering?

7. Have you ascertained the placement statistics for graduates of whatever program you are entering?

8. Have you interviewed a couple of dropouts from the program you are entering? (Not the star students, but the ones who quit for whatever reason).


School for the deaf:

WVicars1: There was a time when the local Deaf school was the pride and joy of the Deaf Community here in Utah. The old campus had stood for many many years. The school on Monroe and 20th was "home" to hundreds and hundreds of deaf individuals who spent more time there than they did at the "house" their biological parents lived in.

Some of the more tenderhearted of these Deaf kids used to 'cry' when they had to go home on weekends and holidays because no one there knew how to sign and it was very boring. Home was nothing at all like the deaf school where everyone knew how to sign. There were girls (or guys) who could sign and quite often they were even cute!

Even the dorm counselor was DEAF! Some called the counselor their Dorm "Father" or Dorm "Mother." This person was held in High esteem by the deaf children. He or she taught the kids ASL and modeled the fact that you can be a deaf adult and have a family and a job and pay taxes and have a social life go to church, (or a bar), or go to the social club and hang out with others who communicate in your language! In other words have a REAL life--other than sitting in front of the tube or doing drugs.


The state legislature decides that those POOR (pitiful) deaf kids should be home with their families and so they start mainstreaming them into the neighborhood school with an interpreter. I don't know about you but I'm not sure I'd want to stare at the same mug (face) all day long. What are you going to do? Ask your interpreter to come down the hall with you and interpret for you while you ask the cute girl in the third row for a date?

Then what? Are you going to ask the terp to GO ON THE DATE with you and interpret what your date says?
How about student government?
How about a diversification of language models?

Now for the other side of the story...

Mainstreaming is good for the hearing kids to develop "compassion," that is, those hearing children who manage to develop it. Some people say mainstreaming costs less, than residential programs. I'd like to see some hard statistics on that before I believe it. Deaf kids who are mainstreamed might have a better chance of improving their speech. Deaf kids who are mainstreamed might become more adept at interacting with hearing people.


Question: How can I find someone to sign with?  .

An idea is to send a letter to the editor of your local newspaper proposing a sign language club and your name and contact information.

For example: In my city there is a group of us that meets at a restaurant every Saturday morning to "hang out and sign." I go there to eat breakfast before I teach a Saturday morning ASL course at the local college. It is lot's of fun. After about 6 months I noticed more and more Deaf showing up and mingling with my students. Once the word gets out you will have a really nice study group.

The "restaurant idea" might not be feasible for everyone but it is worth looking into.

Another suggestion is to "hire" a deaf person to come tutor you personally. Depending on where you live, you can hire a Deaf tutor for as little as $5 an hour.

<< Ques: When you enter a room and there are people there, how do you know if there is someone who needs to be addressed in the sign language?>>

Answer: You don't.
But if you suspect, and it is within your jurisdiction, in an appropriate manner and at an appropriate time get the attention of the group and sign and ask if anyone needs a sign language interpreter. It is best to deal with such matters well in advance by including a discreet announcement regarding the availability of sign language (either an interpreter or a staff member fluent in ASL) in your flyer or invitation.

Student1: Doesn't "Sign Language" have the two "L" signs as part of it?

DrVicars: Great the last few years the "L" or "language" appendage has been going away. Used to be we would say (sign) "Sign Language." Now we just say (sign) "Sign" (without adding the sign for "language.") Kind of like you don't often say... "I speak English Language." Instead you just say, "I speak English."

Tips on keeping up:

1. Practice, practice, practice
2. Read, read, read
3. Review
4. If available, "attend" the chat sessions
5. Write down questions throughout the week and bring them up in the chat room session, or email them to me.
6. Get involved with the "Deaf Community in your area."

Question:  Can I start interpreting after a 16 hour class?

Answer:  Sixteen hours of class is only enough to get a "taste" of ASL.

In my opinion, a person wanting to interpret needs to have a minimum of 480 contact hours in the classroom plus 960 to 1200 hours of one-on-one interaction with Deaf people.

Maybe that sounds outrageously high, try comparing it with the number of hours it takes to become a spoken language interpreter.

You asked if you have the aptitude? That is hard to tell without an extensive interview.

You can try a few mental tests to get a feel for it. Have a friend place 20 objects on a table. You look at the objects for 60 seconds (ONLY) then try to write down on paper the names of all 20 objects. If you get 16 or better, I think you have a pretty good aptitude for the "memory" aspect of interpreting.


<<In a message dated 5/25/02 10:54:28 AM Central Daylight Time, writes:

Question: How do you sign the word "Addict?" I attend 12-Step Meetings and was involved in hiring an ASL Interpreter for one meeting, so that Deaf Addicts seeking recovery can attend and get the message. 

I know that the word Addict looks like you're "hooking a fish" by using your right X hand shape, touching the corner of your mouth, and then pulling out while twisting your head to that side. Is it necessary to actually put your finger in your mouth, or can you just run the tip of your index finger across your cheek? Also, do you add the "agent" sign after?>>

Terri, can just put run the tip of your right x finger across your cheek when doing addict. I notice that while I don't "stick the finger in my mouth" in everyday signing, I do use a bit of a head movement even when I'm just "running the tip of my right x finger across my cheek." I tried doing it without any head movement and it felt really funny.
I might add the agent sign the first time I used the sign "addict" in a conversation or interpreting situation, but after that I would drop it. If the conversation started using the concepts "addicted" and "addict" and "addiction" in the same sentence or near each other I'd certainly add the agent sign to prevent confusion. I might even use the "habit" sign for addiction after fingerspelling the word.

In a message dated 8/11/2003 3:08:35 PM Pacific Daylight Time, writes:

Hello Bill: I'm an Educational Assistant in the public school system. I work with a 6yr boy who is mute. I knew some basic signs from being around my two deaf cousin and plus I have always been interested in learning sign language. When I started to use one sign at a time ex: sit, book just the classroom signs he started to say these words to me. I do not have the confident to speak a long full sentence to this child yet. I also do not think that he would understand a full sentence. I have look over your lesson plan and this has really help me, it's a great site. I am purchasing you cd, do you have any suggestion that would be useful to me, if so please let me know. should I start to use sentence with this child? I am hoping by me learning more sign language that other EA'S and recourse teachers will take the interest in learning signs too. I am going to be working with thus student in SEPT again so i am hoping to make more improvements with him so the staff will realize how much signing can help high needs children. I'm hoping to start a book with this child and for an Autism child with the pictures of sign and words so they will be able to show people what they would like. Thanks for your site. Jackie

Sorry for the delay in returning your email.  I was moving from Texas to California.  As it is I'm typing this from a hotel room.
You asked regarding the instruction of a 6yr old child whether you should use full sentences, etc.

My response is that you should indeed use full sentences. But, understand, an ASL sentence is full without needing all of the English fillers. ASL doesn't use signs like "is, am, are, was, were, be, being, been" etc. So just sign the main words that get your point across, use plenty of facial expressions, "body language," and a bit of mime here and there. The communication will happen as long as you make the effort. Later perhaps you can take an ASL course and you will see what I mean.

Challenge him at every opportunity.

Perhaps you local library has more sign language books and videos that could be borrowed for free.
Best wishes in your signing endeavors.


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