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You should caption or subtitle your YouTube videos:

Requests for captioning or subtitling of instructional ASL videos.

Occasionally someone comments on the instructional ASL videos at my YouTube channel ( to tell me I should caption my videos. For example:

:"It would be better if you have subtitles so that people who are not deaf and want to learn deaf language. They can learn from subtitle and sign."

That's like telling a weightlifter that it would be "better" to not use any weight on their barbell. Sure, it would be "easier" -- but the goal is to build muscle.

Please understand that I'm "not" against captioning of my videos. Someday I'll probably caption all of them. For now though the "text scaffolding" I've provided via the slides and occasional "typed notes" serves as a "lite" form of "subtitles" -- just enough to support the learning process but not so much as to reduce the effectiveness of the use of "immersion" as a learning tool.

I'd like to point out that my student assistant is "not Deaf."

The student is learning from me without subtitles. 

Instead of subtitles (as part of the teaching process) I prefer to use an approach I call "first language scaffolding" (or "L1 scaffolding").  If you watch my videos you will note that I tend to combine signing, PowerPoint slides, and occasional typing.

It is important to consider the goal of this instructional program:

The goal is for you to learn how to communicate with Deaf people by signing.

Some things that are NOT goals:
1.  Making sure that you "understand every little thing" is NOT a goal.
2.  Making sure that you feel "comfortable" is NOT a goal.
3.  Giving you practice at READING captions is NOT a goal.

When you meet a Deaf person in real life that person won't have subtitles under their signing.  Maybe someday technology will reach the point that you can put on special glasses and watch a signer and magically have subtitles show up under the signer's hands but as of "today" that sort of technology doesn't exist. 

So I want you to get used to learning sign language without having to read subtitles. 

Remember, my student assistants are able to do it.  I'm not voicing to them. They are using the information I'm providing them to figure out what I'm signing.

I want your eyes on me and my assistant.

In developing my lessons I constantly consider the question:
"What amount of scaffolding (first language text, clues, or "context") will best help my students build their target language knowledge and skills?"

Too little scaffolding and the student gets "frustrated."

Too much scaffolding and the student gets "bored" or doesn't progress in their L2 (second language) processing skills because they are too busy using their L1 (first language) as a "crutch" (similar to trying to build muscles without lifting weights).

It then becomes an impossible but worthy task to attempt to find the "perfect" amount (of scaffolding).

It is impossible because with over a hundred-thousand subscribers -- each at individually varying levels of skill and comprehension -- there will always be those who would prefer less "captioning" (scaffolding) and those who would prefer more.

The (partial) solution (or approach) is to offer a range of instructional videos at varying levels of complexity and a companion website (Lifeprint) wherein those who prefer more "text" (or context) can first go pre-study the individual vocabulary items and sentences for a particular lesson and then come back to the channel and watch the instructional video.

Another interesting (to me at least) aspect of (Web 2.0 or the "interactive web") posting an instructional video to YouTube (or Facebook or various other interactive / comment-capable platforms) has been the tendency for students to post time-specific links in their comments below the video to ask, "What is Dr. Bill signing at 3:15?" At which point a group-effort is set in motion wherein those who "do" understand what is signed get a feeling of challenge, accomplishment, and camaraderie by posting the answer.

If you feel the videos on the ASLU ( channel are too fast or too challenging, here are some tips:

1. Study each lesson ahead of time at:

2. Watch the videos at half speed or slower. (See:
or google: "Play a YouTube video at different speeds.")

3. Use the official ASLU YouTube master playlist to progress systematically starting from easier to harder: That playlist provides occasional repeats of various lessons but with different assistants. This may help some people to better retain (remember) the information. (Watching the same lesson with a different assistant functions as a type of review or "spaced repetition").

- Dr. Bill :) 

p.s. In case you missed it or it didn't sink in -- remember that I'm "not" against captioning of my videos. Someday I'll caption all of them. For now though the "text scaffolding" I've provided via the slides and occasional "typed notes" serves as a "lite" form of "subtitles" -- just enough to support the learning process but not so much as to reduce the effectiveness of the use of "immersion" as a learning tool.




Comment: This Ability Clinic 2/15/2022
This looks like a great video! I have been learning sign language and some of your videos are extremely helpful, but I am far from fluent at the moment. It would be great to have closed captions available to help this material be more accessible to those who aren't fluent in sign language? Thanks so much for all the great work you are doing!
(Source: "Superpowers in ASL (part 3)" YouTube video ID = YSuG0xl-Zog, comment section.)

I agree that the option to turn on captions is a great resource or benefit to the learning process.
Captioning companies charge $7 to $10 per minute of ASL to English captioning.

Thus a 50 minute video will cost $350 to $500 to caption (fast turn-around times cost more than slow turnaround times).

Considering the total number of videos, the captioning of this entire channel can be done for the amazingly low price (ha) of just $105,000.

If someone in your circle of influence happens to have that kind of expendable cash -- for donation options, see:

Someday I truly do hope / plan on captioning these videos. For now though I've made the decision to focus on creating more lessons rather than captioning existing lessons.

For those who can't understand the more advanced discussions, I encourage them to start at the beginning of the ASLU playlist and work their way up to the more advanced content. 

The official ASLU YouTube master playlist:



Wrong:  "I can't understand your advanced ASL video because it isn't captioned in English."

Right:  "I can't understand your advanced ASL video because I haven't taken the time and made the effort to watch the earlier videos in the series and learn enough ASL to empower me to understand your advanced video."



Also see: Captioning: (To caption or not to caption...)


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