ASL University | Bookstore | Catalog | Dictionary | Lessons | Resources | Syllabi | Library | Volume 1, Issue 8, March 2004 | William G. Vicars Ed.D., Editor


●  ASL in Mexico
●  Inflected sign vs. Initialized sign
●  Teaching ASL Cognates
●  Understanding absent referents
●  Accelerated ASL Acquisition
●  Regional version of the sign "GO"
●  Dealing with "RACE"
●  Typing in ASL font
●  Learning ASL at Any Age
●  Interpreting Advanced Concepts
●  Host your Own ASL No-Voice Trip
●  Legal Interpreting
●  Is it better to have several different ASL instructors?
●  Wants an online ASL Tutor
●  Signing with a bent pinkie
●  My husband won't sign. What can I do?
●  ASL puzzlers
●  Dealing with "RACE" (further discussion)
●  Signing: Arbitrary vs. Iconic

ASL in Mexico

In a message dated 3/23/2004 7:35:18 PM Pacific Standard Time, writes:

Senor Vicars, recibe saludos y bendiciones de Cabo San Lucas, Mexico!

My husband and I are American missionaries serving the Lord here in Cabo San Lucas, BCS, Mexico.  We are planting a church, Capilla Calvario CSL (Calvary Chapel CSL) and have a deaf couple that comes to our Sunday service.  Jose Juan, the young man (23 years old), uses ASL and reads and writes in Spanish while she, Anna (18 years old) uses limited MSL (Mexican Sign Language) and does not read or write.  We have recently started an ASL class for the young man's family, friends and girlfriend.  The class has consisted of much work as we must change all materials into Spanish and of course he has so many of his own signs derived from the Spanish language that we draw by hand (example: ASL monday is with m but in Spanish it is lunes with an L.  (Same idea for colors). 

Today I stumbled across your "Fingerseek" which I will be changing into Spanish and adding the appropriate copyright information.  As time
permits, I want to review your other materials and translate as needed.
Unless you already have these translated?  I suspect not.  If you happen to receive any request for such we will happily share everything we have.

Thank you for your generous supply of information and materials!

In His service,

Robin DeLaRosa
Apartado 640
Cabo San Lucas, BCS
CP 23450          Mexico

Hello Robin, Try this link: And let me know how it works in your browser.  The "bablefish" service is capable of translating websites for you.  Dr. Vicars


Inflected sign vs. Initialized sign


In a message dated 2/12/2004 8:22:34 AM Pacific Standard Time, writes:

hi bill. my name is stephani, and i was just looking through your website at Though i have never taken a course anywhere for ASL, i learned sign language from my ex-boyfriend who was deaf. I now have many friends from my old highschool that are deaf. I would really like to continue learning sign language, but am doing so on my own and with the help of my friends. Being that i am graduated already, and do not see many of my deaf friends anymore, this is becoming more and more
difficult for me to do. Your web site helped me alot, however. By using this website, i am continuing to learn more signs that i do not currently know.
One sign i was hoping to learn, of which you do not current have on there, is 'disease'. I was hoping that soon you would be able to post this sign on there. If you know of any other web sites that could help me, it would be greatly appreciated. I, also, hope to learn the grammar side of ASL soon also. If you could either email me back with the description of how to sign 'disease', or post it on your web site; i would be much obliged. Thank you for your time, and for posting that website. It is very helpful. I hope to hear back from you sometime. Thank you again.





Hi Stephani,

There are two ways to sign "disease."  You can modify (inflect)  the sign "SICK" by moving the hands in small circles. The movement is in, down, forward, up, repeat.  This modification can mean "ongoing sickness" and in the right context could be interpreted as "disease."

The second way to sign disease is to do the sign SICK with "D" handshapes.  This is called "initialization."
Some people might tell you that the initialized version of the sign (doing it with "D" handshapes) is "English" signing, but as time goes on this version seems to be catching on. Personally, if I were attending a lecture on which I would be tested via a written test, I'd want my interpreter to use the "initialized" version.


In a message dated 2/17/2004 8:53:38 AM Pacific Standard Time, writes:
Dr. Vicars,  Nao entendo Ingles mas vc pode mandar o portugues?

----------------------------------------- Sorry, I don't offer any materials in Portuguese.  But, you can use to translate my website.  Try clicking on this link:

Teaching ASL Cognates

In a message dated 2/22/2004 8:44:10 PM Pacific Standard Time, writes:

Dear Mr. Vicars:

I am writing to thank you for your most wonderful website.  I am hearing and have an interest in languages and writing.  Last Novemeber I became aware of ASL when a deaf guest and his interpreter joined a weekend party I was at, and I decided to look into this unusual language.  I came across your website and the site put out by MSU along with a few less helpful sites and plowed in. 

I am writing for two reasons.  First, it seemed odd to me that you do not start out with cognates since it seems clear that ASL is related to English, and other related languages I have studied always seem to start with cognates.  So I decided to see if there was cognates just by casual observation.  There seems to be many.  If you look at the the Director's commentary in Sordid Lives, the two directors use 4 cognates including the signs for drink and back (anatomical back).  (The one director, however, kept using the sign for crash when punctuating the word movie.)  In a recent performance of Riverdance, I noted that the main male dancer clearly uses the sign for fair referring to rival dancers.  I have seen hearing people properly use the signs for think, me, come on, scold and several others.

Second, I don't know if this is impolite or not, but I think I now know about 1000 signs and such grammar as I could pick up.  I would like to try and see if I can carry on a basic conversation, but don't know any deaf people.  Do you have any suggestion as to where I might find one willing to go to lunch or meet for a trial.  I am in Los Angeles.

One final note, I was at dinner last night with friends I have known well for years.  One of them told me he wished I would stop making those faces when I talk, and why had I starting making so many faces the last few months anyway.  Oops, too much practice!

Best wishes,


Hello David, Okay, let's explore this a bit. You asked why I didn't start out with cognates? Just for the sake of clarity, (because I'm going to print this one in my newsletter), lets consider the definition of a "cognate" from

Pronunciation Key  (kgnt)
Related by blood; having a common ancestor.
  1. Related in origin, as certain words in genetically related languages descended from the same ancestral root; for example, English name and Latin nmen from Indo-European *n-men-.
  2. Related or analogous in nature, character, or function.

  3. One related by blood or origin with another, especially a person sharing an ancestor with another.
  4. A word related to one in another language.
So, what you are suggesting is that an ASL course should start out by teaching cognates. Which is to say, an instructor or curriculum designer would go through the target language and find all the concepts that are related to the student's native language and then teach those concepts first.   The pros of such an approach would certainly include initial rapid acquisition of new vocabulary.  Another would be an early sense of accomplishment. Students would feel good about their rapid learning.  A third positive thing would be a high level of retention. Students would remember the concepts longer because they could relate them to something they already understand.   It seems to me though that a "cognate based" approach would, unfortunately, give students the wrong impression that ASL is simply "English on the hands."  An instructor would be doing students a disservice in that many of them would start stringing ASL signs together in English word order, experience an early (limited) success at "communication" and end up "fossilizing" a communication pattern that will lead to frustration later.   The ASL University curriculum at was scientifically developed using a combination of word frequency research and classroom experience.  Researchers have employed "concordance software" to discover which words are most frequently used in communication.    I'll write more about this in my newsletter later.  (   But I'm happy to hear more of your thoughts on this subject. Regarding linking up with Deaf people for might consider trying   Take care, Bill Vicars


In a message dated 2/23/2004 11:25:06 PM Pacific Standard Time, writes:

Hi Bill:

Thank you for your reply.  First, I was not really suggesting a method of teaching so much as making an observation.  Cognates seem to be taught first day, first lesson merely as a way of making a person comfortable with a new language, and then the teaching moves on.  The curiosity here is that, clearly, English uses some non-verbal signs which have an identical meaning in ASL, and to me, are clearly cognates, though I never thought of English as a partly non-verbal language until recently.  The easiest way to test this proposition would be to see if  the congate signs are the same in, say for example Korean Sign Language, or some other Sign Language that developed unexposed to English.  Having said this, I was at an all you can eat Chinese restaurant a couple of days ago.  At the end of the meal, the waitress came up to the table and said in very accented English, "You no want more?"  We told her we couldn't eat anything more and she said "You full?  Way up to here?" and then made the ASL sign for fed-up.  I laughed but no one else got the joke!

With respect to this "English on the Hands" issue, frankly I don't know why anyone learning ASL would consider trying to translate English word for word anymore than learning any other language with varying grammatical rules.  Aren't we being just a bit touchy?

As for teaching suggestions, I find the MSU site somewhat frustrating because it does not cross reference signs as you sometimes do--that is point out multiple meanings for signs at each presentation (make-believe/imagine; occasionally/once-in-a-while).  Further, you do offer signs in clusters with related meanings but what would really help is to teach signs together that are made similarly even when they are not related in meaning nor are initialized variants.  For example, beer/bachelor/breakfast/brown or computer/church/chocolate/cake/cookie or become/hamburger/pancake/cook or strong/brave/stretch/strength or badge/police/lazy or crash/ban/beat-up/flunk or audience/freeze/want.

One final thought, written English seems to serve the function in the US as does written Chinese in China; both ASL and English speakers can use it to communicate through writing when their other languages are essentially mutually unintelligible.  I have been going into one deaf chat room and mainly observing--I do identify myself as hearing when contacted--and it is interesting to note the varied use of written English.  Clearly some chatters seem to be native non-speakers as the lack of the to be verbs and definite articles in their messages seem to indicate, while others write in full grammatical English.  What's odd about this in a sense is that the communication seems to get through in either case.  Do you think that a written verbatim transcription of ASL using English words is really the true form of written ASL and the attempt at pictographic representation of  signs is, well, too little, too late?



In a message dated 2/23/2004 11:25:06 PM Pacific Standard Time, writes:

With respect to this "English on the Hands" issue, frankly I don't know why anyone learning ASL would consider trying to translate English word for word anymore than learning any other language with varying grammatical rules.  Aren't we being just a bit touchy?


[grin]  You'd be surprised.  It seems to me that students gravitate toward signing in English word order (more than other students of other languages impose their native grammar on the target language) because it is physically possible to speak while signing. This is called simultaneous communication.  Many students end up thinking English words while trying to get their hands to do ASL signs.  Since English words come with rules (grammar), students who think in English while signing end up with many "intrusions" from their native language into their target language.  For example, they use a separate sign "TO" when trying to express the English concept, "want to" instead of simply signing "WANT." Now, don't get me wrong...I'm not opposed to a bilingual approach to second language acquisition.  That certainly isn't the case.  I strongly believe that a person's native language can be instrumental in acquiring a second language. Thank you for your other comments as well.


Understanding absent referents

In a message dated 2/23/2004 8:44:30 AM Pacific Standard Time, writes:

Hi, Its Ruth, I bought some VHS tapes from you, and I have a quick question for you that I am confused about.   First, your VHS's are great.   Second, I understand about placing people that I am having a discussion over. So, lets say I place my Father on my Left, and my Mother on my Right side.   Now, when the person I am talking with refers to my mother and my father, does that other person point on my right and left when referring to my placed people, or do they point to their own right and left.  And if they point to their own right and left, where would they place their own parents if they want to talk about them.. sounds confusing, hope you understand, thank you!!!!! Ruth  

Hi Ruth,
If you set up your mother on your right and your father on your left, the person you are signing with would then point to his left (your right) to refer to your mother and his right (your left) to refer to your father. 
In other words, both signers point to the same "absent referent."
Think of an "absent referent" as a pronoun.  You are both using the same pronoun by pointing to the same reference spot in space.
Another way to think of this is to suppose your mother was actually standing off to your right for real.  If she was actually standing there, it would be ridiculous for your conversation partner to point to his right (your left) to refer to your mother who is standing on his left (your right).
Dr. Vicars

ok, Dr. Vicars, I understand that, thank you,  what I don't understand is if he points to his right and left about my parents, if he were to talk about his parents, where would they go?


As in any language, you can only use a limited number of pronouns before it becomes hard to keep track of the referents. In English for example, you can generally only talk about a couple of people using pronouns and that is only if one of them is a female and one is a male.  The moment you have two male referents you get confusion.  Consider these few English sentences:

"John has a new hat."
"Bob has a new shirt."
"Fred has a new watch."
"He gave it to him."

Notice that you have no clue who gave what to whom.  Confusion is to be expected because you are trying to make the pronoun do more than it is capable of.

On the other hand, pronouns work very well when there are only a limited number things or people being referred to.
If there are too many referents, you have to start identifying them by name.

Now, ASL is much more capable of handling pronouns than English, and can handle four absent referents with relative ease.  In the case of wanting to talk about 4 people, (your parents, and your friend's parents), again imagine what it would be like in real life if they were actually standing in the room next to you and your friend.  Your mom would be close to your right, and your dad close to your left.  In real life your mom would likely be chatting with his mom, and his dad would be chatting with his dad.  So that would put his mom on his left, and his dad on his right.  It would look like this:


Then, during the conversation, (you have established your "pronouns" already), each time you needed to refer to your mom you would simply point to your "immediate right." To refer to his mom you would point at an angle to your right (off to the side of your friend's left elbow).  To refer to your dad, you would refer to your immediate left. To refer to his dad you would point to your left at an angle (off to the side of your friend's right elbow).

Obviously there is a limit to the number of pronouns you can include in any one conversation.  English can only handle a couple.  ASL can handle a few more.  The more you have, the more difficult it will become for your conversation partners to understand your message.  Anything beyond two or three and you will need to use namesigns or spell the person's name each time to refer to him or her.

Dr. Vicars

Ahhh, thank you so much, now I got It!!! :)

Accelerated ASL Acquisition

In a message dated 2/24/2004 10:01:26 AM Pacific Standard Time, writes:
Dr. Bill, I recently overheard an ASL teacher mention that he had learned ASL in six weeks.  Is this possible?  If so, what kind of course could he have taken? Since I have studied for years and have a lot to learn, I am feeling very inadequate. Your email letters lend a personal touch to your website.  Thank you for both. SMC      
Dear SMC, Well, let's think.  There are about 5,000 common signs in a large ASL dictionary.  And another 5,000 or so "not so common" signs.  Most of the main 5,000 can be inflected (modified) several ways.  Some can be inflected literally dozens of ways.  If we were to say that the average sign could be typically inflected to have five different meanings (and that's a conservative number) that would put us up to 25,000 sign variations.  That isn't including general grammar mind you...just common vocabulary and inflections. Let's assume a five day class, eight hours a day, no breaks, that would total up to 2,400 minutes per week.  If he learned one sign or variation per minute with no need for review, he would learn 25,000 vocabulary concepts and their variations in about 10 and-a-half weeks.  Oh, and then there's grammar to think about.  Hmmmm.   The real question you have to ask is, at what point does a person "know a language?"  A serious answer to this could be found via perusing the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages website:  There you can find what is known as the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines. The guidelines have multiple levels ranging from "novice" to "superior" (Foreign Language Annals • Vol. 33, No. 1).
  I'm sure you'll agree, having "learned" a language at the "novice" level, is different from having learned the language at the "superior" level.   I've got students who, after a six-week course, board a van and head out for 3-days on a no-voice immersion excursion to Disneyland or some other amusement park.  By the time we get back, those students are communicating fairly well.  They are using a combination of ASL signs, English word order, fingerspelling, and mime.  But they certainly don't "know" ASL yet.   Now, I kid you not---there is at least one program out there that routinely produces "intermediate-mid" level ASL signers in just 9-weeks.  I know quite a bit about this program because I was a participant.  I'm referring to the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah (  So, technically, it is possible to "learn ASL" in 9-weeks to a degree sufficient "to handle successfully many uncomplicated tasks and social situations requiring an exchange of basic information related to work, school, recreation, particular interests and areas of competence, though hesitation and errors may be evident (ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines).  I fully believe this because I've personally witnessed it.   The typical person might scoff at that assertion.  But, before you dismiss it, you would do well to consider the level of commitment required of MTC participants.    They literally put everything else in their lives on temporary hold, including jobs, family, hobbies, friends, and recreation. They move to the school dorm and do not leave the campus area.  They spend the 9 weeks knowing that at the end of their schooling they will board a plane and fly to some distant place where they will spend the next two years interacting with native users of the language. While at the training center, they do not receive outside visitors.  Participants devote 16-hours-a-day 5-and-a-half days a week to learning the target language and how to teach in the target language.  They spend half-a-day once-a-week washing their clothes, exercising, and writing to loved ones.  The remaining day, Sunday, is spent worshiping in the target language. They are surrounded by others who are just as committed as they are to learning the language.  They are taught by native or native-like speakers of the language.  They use the target language from the time they wake up to the time they go to bed and in the middle of the night if they communicate with someone on the way to or from the bathroom.  They pray about 10 times a day for divine help in learning the language, knowing that all their family and friends are also praying back home for them to succeed.    And they do suceed.   But, for most students with lives to live and cats to feed, the process of reaching intermediate-mid takes two to three years.   Cordially, Dr. Vicars
Regional version of the sign "GO"

In a message dated 3/1/2004 11:36:04 AM Pacific Standard Time, writes:

Hello Dr Bill,
I am hearing but learning ASL by curiosity and hope of meeting with non-hearing persons. I wanted to ask you about the sign for "go". I've seen people doing it with an open hand near the head that gradually closes as it recedes from the body. Is it also a common way of signing "go"?
Thank you

Riad, I saw that version of "go" quite a bit when I was living in the Washington D.C. Area.  But no so much in Texas, Utah, or Northern California.  It is definitely a "real" sign and used commonly in certain areas of the country.
Dealing with "RACE"

In a message dated 3/1/2004 12:27:37 PM Pacific Standard Time, writes:

Hi, I have some students asking me for the signs for journalist, sports, and races.    A librarian asks for the sign relating to journal, journalism, journalist, etc.  I told her that there are several ways to use depending on what kind she is talking about like she can use "writing" "publication" or the like with "person" sign or "magazine writing".  Can you help me out with this one?  For some reason, it just doesn't strike me right?  What about reporting journal?    About skin races, there is a worship song at church that say both tribe and race - someone used tribe sign w/ a "t" and "r" as well in same signs which seems sign-twister.  I  suggest for her to use tribe and pinch-like sign on face for short skin color race instead?  Please correct me  - thanks.    Have a great week, Vicki
Hi Vicki,
  Journalist is signed as NEWSPAPER WRITE-AGENT.  ("agent" is simply the person-affix). Journalism would be NEWSPAPER, MAGAZINE WRITE MAJOR. (Major being the same sign used for "main, field, line of work, discipline, etc.")   Journal:  There is no commonly established sign for this, but I would spell it out at least once and sign "MAGAZINE" from then on in the same conversation.
  My daughter has a "journal."  When referring to it I would just sign "WRITE, WRITE."  For example: "YOU FINISH WRITE+ TODAY?" Which would be interpreted (in context) as "Did you write in your journal today?"  Note that out of context it would have a very different meaning.  But we must recognize the fact that ASL happens in context.

Regarding the sign for SPORTS.  There are three main ways to indicate this concept.  The first is to spell it.  The second is to use the sign "game."  See The third way to indicate "sports" is to use the sign COMPETE / RACE.  See  

Speaking of "race," if you are talking about a person's heritage you could sign something like, "YOUR LAST NAME WHERE FROM?" "WHAT NATION YOU?" or "WHAT COUNTRY YOU ANCESTOR?"  If you are interpreting a lecture you could just spell R-A-C-E.  If you are interpreting for someone who doesn't understand what it means then it is appropriate to use an expanded form of the sign:  "R-A-C-E YOU? BLACK, WHITE-(throw in face), NATIVE-AMERICAN, DIFFERENT, DIFFERENT, WHAT YOU?"

Bill (Dr. Vicars of

Typing in ASL font:


A type font that looks like fingerspelling is available for download various places on the net.  The following student was asking how to do download and install this from where a link is posted from the main page.


<<Hello Bill, I have tried the different ways you have suggested and still can't get the font to load. I have Windows, ME, can you give me some clues as to what I'm doing wrong.

Nina Skaggs >>


After you've tried all that stuff.
1. Right click (NOT left click) on the download button.

2. Click "Save Target As" and save the font to your desktop or where ever you can find it.

3. When the font download is complete...

Go to your Control Panel > Fonts

4. When the Fonts Folder is open, Drag your new downloaded font from the desktop into the folder... it will claim that it is installing a font. Restart your computer and look for the font "Gallaudet" in the list of fonts in your word processor.

Learning ASL at Any Age

In a message dated 3/6/2004 8:15:55 AM Pacific Standard Time, writes:


My name is Donna and I am an ASL student at Cochise college in Az. Actually I am interstice in becoming an interpreter but I am not young I am 47. I am on my second semester of ASL. I don't seem to be able to remember the signs. I have a dictionary i have the unabridged one I am also waiting the Sign Language dictionary on CD. I have bought the You can sign tapes. I just started with a private tutor on Saturdays am I to old to learn this and be able to work in this I don't seem to be picking it us as fast as the kids. Do  you have any suggestion 



It is an absolute fact that as we age it is harder to acquire a new language.  Children have many, many more neural pathways in their brains.  What it comes down to is that you will need to have more exposures to the material for you to retain it.  Which is to say, a younger person can see a sign once or twice and retain it.  You will need to see the same sign six or more times to remember it for a day or two.  Then if you want to transfer it from your short term memory to your long term memory you will need to practice the sign in context 20 or 30 times. Then, if you want to retain it for the rest of your life you will need to practice it 80 or so times (in real discourse) initially and review from time to time to fire up the neurons to keep the memory from deteriorating.

So, if you plan on learning the language you've got to ask yourself how it is that you are going to get your 80 reps for each new concept.  I suggest you use a photocopier or just cut up an ASL Dictionary and make flashcards and carry them with you EVERYWHERE and use them constantly.  Any time you are standing or sitting around, pull the cards out and review signs.  Then engage in ASL conversations every chance you get so you can use the vocabulary in context.


Interpreting Advanced Concepts

In a message dated 3/7/2004 6:00:33 PM Pacific Standard Time, Jack85 writes:

Hi Bill,        I have a question for you.  I am currently tutoring a Deaf student who was asking me about the Martha Stewart debacle of the moment. After I explained the insider trading issue, I went on to mention that many people feel she got what she deserved. Of course, I got stuck on the sign DESERVE which he didn't readily know and which I translated as RESULT CRIME HER OPINION PEOPLE OTHER. He kind of got it, but not exactly. I later checked my 5 different ASL dictionaries and not one included the sign DESERVE.       Any suggestions how this concept could be better served signwise?      Thanks, JC


Hi JC, Regarding the concept of "getting what one deserves," I'd use the "THINK SELF" sign as a warning prior to the bad event to indicate that if you do "such and such" you will get you you deserve. The sign is inflected by a little bit longer hold during the "think" portion of the sign and then a more forceful jab toward the person to whom you are referring. For "she got what he deserved" I'd sign "BLAME-pro.3"  Which would be the "blame" sign done toward the right (Pro.3 meaning "a third person pronoun".  This sign would also be inflected with a slight hold at the beginning of the sign and a longer thrust toward the person to whom you are referring.
A third way would be to sign "SELF-pro.3 FAULT."  (or "herself fault") A fourth way would be to sign EQUAL using a movement that comes together quickly then separates a couple inches.

(Notes:  The plus signs indicate to repeat the sign "take advantage" twice in addition to the original sign.  "Stick in" would be signed with an "S" hand, palm left, moves forward using a slight up then down arc.
  Bill   In a message dated 3/7/2004 9:28:54 PM Pacific Standard Time, Jack85 writes:
Hi Bill,         I found DESERVE which is translated as EARN.  Ok. Now, again, how would you (the native signer) have translated the idea that someone got what they deserved?     Thanks for your help, JC    


In a message dated 3/8/2004 3:17:07 AM Pacific Standard Time, Jack85 writes:
Hi Bill,        Thanks so much for your suggestions. I particularly like the BAD EVENT, THINK SELF and BLAME-pro.3 options.  I think they are all clear and I will explore using them the next time I meet my student. I've been signing now for about 7 years, but still have moments like these where I am hard-pressed to get my point across clearly. I think a good ASL class should spend a good semester on approaching just this problem: effective use of ASL syntax and communicating from the Deaf perspective.  Although I am an experienced signer with a Master's in Deaf Education and have many friends in the community, I feel I still need to improve in the above area.        Too bad you don't live here in Brooklyn/NYC (I can see you wincing as you read this), I'd love to take one of your classes.   Anyway, Bill, thanks again for your help, Jeff Clark       


Host your Own ASL No-Voice Trip

srjtrekkie105 [6:17 AM]:  can you gave me more detail of how ti go no voice trip to California like hotel etc with money etc as im asl club president for Salt Lake communtiy colleg we maybe plan that same idea as we did long ago? send email to me thank you my email is BillVicars [6:20 AM]:  hi
srjtrekkie105 [6:20 AM]:  hello
BillVicars [6:21 AM]:  you can visit my website for details
BillVicars [6:21 AM]:  address is 
BillVicars [6:21 AM]:
srjtrekkie105 [6:22 AM]:  ok thank i going look now
BillVicars [6:22 AM]:  As far as the money and hotel that is up to you to contact which hotel you want and how much to charge.
BillVicars [6:22 AM]:  might be a good idea to contact a travel agent and get a package deal.
srjtrekkie105 [6:23 AM]:  ok i see can you just guess how much? just wonder as our asl club want doing big activity time
BillVicars [6:24 AM]: don't must figure it out.
BillVicars [6:24 AM]:  you find out how much your van will cost
BillVicars [6:24 AM]:  then you base the amount on 10 students
srjtrekkie105 [6:24 AM]:  ok i see ok i will make a note of that
BillVicars [6:24 AM]:  then you figure your hotel cost at 4 students per room
BillVicars [6:25 AM]:  then you look at the price of gas and times it by the miles to the amusement park
srjtrekkie105 [6:25 AM]:  huh ok i see
BillVicars [6:25 AM]:  then you go to the grocery store and look at food options
BillVicars [6:25 AM]:  and total up the price for enough food to pay for the participants for how many meals they will eat.
BillVicars [6:25 AM]:  Then you find out the cost of tickets and times that by the participants
BillVicars [6:26 AM]:  Then when you have it all added up you add a little bit more for safety and then divide by the number of people you are taking and that is their individual fee.
srjtrekkie105 [6:26 AM]:  ok that will a lot of work for me but i will ask some of officer help me to find out all information and thank you and what other more i need to know?
BillVicars [6:27 AM]:  It always takes two or three times longer to "load" the van than you think it have people arrive early and pack light.

Legal Interpreting

In a message dated 3/8/2004 5:23:21 PM Pacific Standard Time, writes:

When there are official translations of english to "signing", what code would be used. Lets say that someone is in court, or for instance, like the deaf lady on West Wing :)... The interpretation is so fast, you wouldnt really get a chance to translate into asl would you. Also, when I see the West Wing person interpret, he seems to make most of his signs very subdued and conservative, rather than using a lot of the manual markers... Thanks, By the way, I watch your videos a little each day, Ruth

When interpreting in court, a skilled interpreter should interpret spoken English into a visually accessible mode that best fits the need and preference of the deaf client.  If the client prefers ASL, then the interpretation should be into ASL.  If the client prefers Signed English then the interpretation should be into Signed English.   The speed of the interpretation is not a factor in the choice of ASL or Signed English.  A skilled interpreter is able to quickly translate into either ASL or English.  If the rate of speech is indeed too "fast" for even a skilled interpreter, then an accommodation should be made to reduce the rate of speech.   You mentioned "manual markers."  Perhaps you are referring to "nonmanual Markers?"  Facial expressions, head movements, torso shifts are all nonmanual markers.  If the "TV" show interpreter seems subdued and conservative it may have to do with what we call "register."  We change our signing style to conform to the social situations in which we find ourselves.  In a courtroom I dare say I'd be rather subdued and conservative as well.  An interpreter though should strive to be "true" to the intent of the message.  If a hearing person "raises his/her voice" then the interpreter needs to reflect this via her signing.  If any of the communicators are visibly or audibly agitated, this needs to be portrayed accurately in the interpretation via nonmanual markers and inflected signing.   Bill
Is it better to have several different ASL instructors?

In a message dated 2/13/2004 4:08:01 PM Pacific Standard Time, writes:

Another question I have is --is it going to be a help or a hinderance to be learning from several different (and sometimes conflicting) materials.

     For example, we have some videos from "Family Life Works" (which are basically Signed English) and we have the CD-ROMs (personal Communicator) that you suggested on your site -- we are using whichever that we can find the answers to our questions in.
      We introduce new material from the Videos because it gives the kids a break from 'Mom/Teacher' Monotony (lol).

My thought was that we could stay flexible that way--learning that different people sign differently.  But some signs we have already learned are not used on the CDs --the program just has them spelled out.

I'd appreciate your ideas and
I am looking forward to hearing from you.
and kids

Hi Sara, I think it is good to learn from many different materials.  That provides a safety net so that you don't get stuck learning ASL from someone who "took two classes" and decided to make some money by teaching "ASL." You might consider a trip to the library and borrow ALL of their books and then have a family activity wherein you look up the same sign or concept in six different books.  You will notice that a general pattern emerges.  If you find one or two of the books is consistently "different" from the other books that is an indicator that you need to be wary. After a few comparisons you will get a feel for which books to avoid and which books or materials to focus on. Dr. Vicars

Wants an online ASL Tutor:

In a message dated 3/10/2004 2:28:58 PM Pacific Standard Time, > writes: >Hello again Dr. Vicars, >Would you happen to know anyone who could help me like over a webcam? College >classes arent available right now so i was hoping i could get practice this >way.. thanks so much, >-Aaron

>From: >To: >Subject: Re: Hi there! >Date: Wed, 10 Mar 2004 18:44:25 EST > >How much are you willing to spend? >I don't know of any free webcam services...but maybe a tutoring service could be set up. Bill

In a message dated 3/10/2004 8:14:23 PM Pacific Standard Time, writes:
i don't want to underestimate.. or overestimate as a matter of fact but i think i could afford around 50-60 $$ a week? just let me know the price range.. I really need someone fun to work with. I look forward to hearing from you!!

This concept is really fascinating to me. The idea of hooking up private ASL tutors and students via webcam. I looked into the idea of teaching point to multipoint via the web previously and it wasn't feasible. But point to point certainly is. The trick would be to set up a system whereby a profit could be made. The hard part is finding qualified tutors and arranging the time. I will ask my newsletter audience to see who might be available for such an endeavor.

~^*> AaRoN C. BeNiNaTi U>*^~

(Readers:  If you have a webcam, feel free to pursue this with Aaron.)

Signing with a bent pinkie:

In a message dated 3/11/2004 7:34:01 AM Pacific Standard Time, writes:

Hi, I am a high school student learning sign language. I have a couple of books, videos, and I volunteer at a place where handicapped children go for therapeutic riding, including deaf or hearing impaired children.

I found your website and I think it's great! My problem is shaping my hands or fingers in the position they are supposed to be in. For example, my pinky finger won't go straight up for the y hand, and the 'I love you' hand, so it's difficult to do some signs that require these separations of fingers. I haven't been able to find any information on this, so I was hoping you could help me. Is this normal? Does it take practice and finger shaping to be able to do it eventually? Or is this just something weird with my hands, and am I forever destined to never be a fluent signer because my hands won't work the right way? The only way I can stick my pinky straight up is if I hold down my two middle fingers, either with my thumb, or my other hand. If I keep my putting my hands in this position via aid of my other hand, will it 'teach' my fingers to be able to do it?

Any help you can offer would be great, I've never seen anyone else with this problem and I'm worried I will never be able to sign correctly. I think signing is beautiful.

Thank you,


PS - there are no abnormalities or joint problems or anything whatsoever wrong with my hands. I am not double jointed or anything, but I have always been flexible. This problem is more like when one finger does what the one beside it does - they both go up or they both go down, it's hard to move them independently.  

  Rachel, Since you have no abnormalities, seems to me you can eventually, via exercise, develop the ability to produce the signs in the various standard shapes.  Having a slightly bent pinkie is no big deal.  If someone is telling you it is they are telling you feeding you misinformation. Consider, for example, older deaf people.  Older deaf people suffer from arthritis just like the rest of the population.  Does that mean they can't communicate any more?  No, it just means they use more conservative movements and positions. I'm not saying it doesn't influence their signing.  I'm just saying that having perfect hands and handshapes is not a requirement to get along in the Deaf community. Interesting enough, I am now able to do certain "tricks" with my fingers that I couldn't do as a teenager.  I literally exercised the muscles in my fingers until I could do such things as straighten three of my fingers while leaving the fourth finger bent.  The same idea goes for "separating" your fingers--just practice until you can do it. Dr. Vicars

Late Deafened Adult:  My husband won't sign. What can I do?

In a message dated 2/13/2004 7:17:41 PM Pacific Standard Time, ___________ writes:
Dear Bill,
I have a question maybe you can answer for me. I became totally deaf about 3 years or so ago. I am a 36 yr. old female. I lost my hearing from being abused physically from a previous marriage from my ex-husband.
I now wonder why it is that when I try to sign to my family or others who are in my life all the time act as if it is such a chore. I have tried just about everything to get them to try to communicate with me. Now this has created so many arguments from not only misunderstanding but also it really hurts me because if the shoe was on the other foot. I would do anything to help out. What can I do? What can help to at least get my husband and kids to sign. I almost feel they are ashamed of me. I once was told from my husband that I am the one that needs to constantly sign because that is how he will learn. I don't understand that because I am just learning too. Am I sounding unfair??
I hope you can help or offer me somewhere to go to get some help in this matter


You asked why your family thinks signing is such a chore.
The answer is that signing IS a chore for hearing people. It is hard work to learn how to sign when you are not raised with it and are not deaf yourself.
One of the things I do to get my kids to sign with me is I take them on no-voice dates. This is normally a visit to a restaurant where I bring some sort of conversational activity or game so that we have a reason to converse and a supply of topics. I also take my kids on no-voice immersion excursions. For example, I go to an amusement park with my college students and invite my kids to go but they have to follow the same rules as the colleges students and turn off their voices.
Here are some other ideas:
Introduce 10 new signs at each meal.
Take a class together as a family.
Hire a tutor to come to your house once a week and teach everyone.
Give your kids a dollar for each set of 20 new signs that they learn.
Give your husband sex for each set of 20 new signs that he learns.
Set up a "certification" program for your house wherein each of you "certifies" at 100 signs, 500 signs, 1000, signs and so forth.
Adjust your communication style. Instead of trying to have conversations with your husband via talking you could instant message him via the net.
Set up a sign language club and have it meet at your house. That way once a week you will be surrounded in your home by others who are interested in communicating visually.
Have a "deaf day" or "deaf evening" once a week wherein EVERYONE in the house communicates visually.
Develop some deaf girlfriends to hang out with and do things with.

The fact is, you are now a different person than you were growing up. Your options have changed. Think of it this way: suppose one day you woke up and your husband were suddenly "Chinese." Imagine also that he doesn't speak Chinese fluently, but rather he only speaks it at a pre-kindergarten level. You need to change your expectations. It is sort of like traveling to another country and finding out that your blow dryer (or razor, or whatever) doesn't match the electric system any more.

Realize though that if you don't put together a plan for your current relationships they will eventually weaken and dissolve completely. 

To keep your sanity, develop some goals that depend on you. Don't develop goals for your husband and kids. You can try everything, but you still can't force them to change. Instead, focus on things that you can do that will bring you joy and happiness as an individual.  Maybe an exercise program?  Maybe to go back to college, set up an ASL bookstore, join your state's Association of the Deaf, or volunteer at the local Deaf School or program. And don't forget your spiritual resources as well.


In a message dated 2/14/2004 9:59:31 AM Pacific Standard Time, writes:
Bill, Because I did not have your email address in my address book and I have a filter on my email, your messages did not come through.  I am not able to retrieve them so can you please send them again?  I now have you in my address book.  I only know that I received messages from you, but not the messages themselves. Thank you, Irene
Irene, The archives are at on the left hand side. Bill
ASL puzzlers

In a message dated 2/17/2004 6:07:19 AM Pacific Standard Time, writes:

Hello Bill,

  Sorry to bother you, I have a couple questions about some signs that i  just can't seem to figure out. I hope you can help me. I'm not very good
with words, but here goes:

Okay, this one is done with the 1 handshape parallel to each other, facing  upwards (think of the sign for "same", but instead of your fingers facing  the person whom [is it who or whom?? i was never any good in my English  classes] you're signing to, they're facing toward the sky), then alternating  back and forth - your fingers bend at the major joint (think of holding 2  B.B. guns facing upwards and then pulling the trigger back-and-forth a few  times). I "think" (being the operative word here) it has something to do  with "questions" or "asking a question" but I could be wrong (and probobly  am!).

This one, I haven't the slightest idea what it means as I see it being used  in different ways. It uses an open 5 handshape (all fingers are slightly
bent) up by the mouth. Sometimes I see it right in front of the mouth and  sometimes I see it done down and away from the mouth (like by the chin).
Then, the hand twists clockwise with a quick double motion (think of opening  the lid to a pickle jar).

I thank you for time, take care!  :o)

Heh, now, that is a fun little challenge. 
Okay...I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest the first sign might be a variation of "TEST" or "QUIZ."  Or, if the palms are facing backward, and the hands are moving up and down alternately as the "trigger is pulled" perhaps it is a variation of the sign "popcorn."
  The second one...hmmm...that's a toughie.  Here I sit in front of my keyboard moving my open-5 handshape (fingers slightly bent) near my mouth.  Let's see, "hot" no, "oh wow," no, "open pickle jar," no, "regional variation of the sign 'watch/look-at' --yeah but how to explain the twisting movement." Got me there.  Maybe someone on my list can figure that one out.  Better yet, the next time you see it, ask the person who signed it what it means and then email me and tell me so we can all be smart.   Bill
Dealing with "RACE" (again)

In a message dated 3/1/2004 12:27:37 PM Pacific Standard Time, writes:

About skin races, there is a worship song at church that say both tribe and race - someone used tribe sign w/ a "t" and "r" as well in same signs which seems sign-twister.  I  suggest for her to use tribe and punch-like sign on face for short skin color race instead?  Please correct me  - thanks. 

You could indeed do the "tribe" sign as an initialized version of the "family" sign (using a "T" handshape). Some people would rather do "tribe" with "loose five-handshapes" or "claw" handshapes using the movement of family.   The concept of "RACE" as in "nationality" is generally spelled out or dealt with in a round about way in ASL.  For example, a person might sign, "YOUR LAST NAME, GALLAGHER, WHERE FROM?" or "NATION THAT?"   Alternatively we ask, "YOU NATIVE-AMERICAN, MEXICAN, WHAT?" The suggested nationalities being suggested on the person's apparent skin color.  If the person appeared Asian, you would sign "YOU CHINESE, JAPANESE, WHAT?"   So, in everyday life the term "RACE" simply isn't used in ASL.   As far as your song, I suggest using something better than "skin color."  Perhaps the non-initialized version of the sign "generation." This sign is similar to the sign "ancestors" except it moves forward instead of back.  The sign "generations" is often initialized with a "g" handshape, but it can be done with "bent hands."  The sign starts near your right shoulder (if you are right handed) with both hands in "bent handshapes" then they progress forward and down rotating hand over hand like a slinky going down a stairway.   Or better yet, you might want to use the non-initialized form of the sign "ancestors."   So much depends on the context of the song.  The "right" interpretation depends on the intent of the author.  If he or she was trying to get us to ignore "race" as a factor in forming relationships, then indeed "skin color" or "FACE" might be the best interpretation.

Signing: Arbitrary vs. Iconic?

In a message dated 3/23/2004 6:59:38 AM Pacific Standard Time, writes:

Regarding the sign for "Texas" posted at "," the page explains that the sign for Texas is done by moving an "x" handshape as if you were drawing a "7" in the air.

 David writes:

<<Complete confusion here on my part. The signer isn't you, she isn't using an "x" hand but a "d" hand, and she isn't moving in a "7" but in a banana arc. And no explanation of what "7 & x" should convey. My teacher taught the class "Paris, France" as an Eiffel Towel and that makes sense, but how does "7 & x" convey Texas? I get the "x" part...David>>

Hi David, are right. She isn't me, heh. No plastic surgeon in the world could pull that off. "Crystil" was a language model I hired many years ago as part of an interpreter training workshop I was conducting for a school district. Having lived in Texas for three years I consider myself somewhat well versed in the sign "TEXAS" but I thought it would be interesting to use a clip of Crystil signing Texas.

Now...the handshape she is using is indeed an "X." She's just doing a very "loose" X. Her index finger is slightly bent, plus her other fingers are curled in more than would be done for a "D." The movement is right then down. Admittedly she is starting farther to the left and doing the sign much higher than I do.

When a sign looks like what it represents we call that "iconicity."  Symbols (words, pictures, signs) that look like what they represent are called "icons." For example, the signs "tree" and "house" are somewhat iconic. 

Symbols (words, pictures, signs) that don't look like what they represent are "arbitrary."

Signs don't have to "look-like" anything. Indeed, most signs are arbitrary. Does the English word "bus" look like a bus? No, the word bus is very small, not yellow, and has no wheels, yet English users continue to use it to refer to something that looks completely different. It makes no more sense to use the English word "bus" to refer to a "bus" than it makes to move an "x" in a "7" shape to mean "Texas." And that is my point. Language doesn't have to be "iconic." ASL signs don't have to "look like" the concept they are representing any more than English words have to "sound-like" the concepts being "talked about."]

- Dr. Bill


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