ASL University | Bookstore | Catalog | Dictionary | Lessons | Resources | Syllabi | Library | Volume 1, Issue 9, April 2004 | William G. Vicars Ed.D., Editor

●  An Invitation for ASL Instructors (free workshop)
●  An invitation for ASL Students and Interpreters
●  ASL or Signed English, which should I interpret?
●  Is Deaf and Dumb Appropriate Terminology?
●  Deaf Literacy
●  What is the sign for "Slovakia"
●  Visiting Shut-ins and hospitalized Deaf
●  ASL Linguistics Topic: "process morphemes"
●  Is ASL a Liability for a Medical Doctor?
●  Dealing with Signing Naturally
●  Signing and Arthritis

An invitation for ASL Instructors:

Hello ASL heroes!!!
I hope you are doing great! I've got an awesome announcement for you:


All ASL instructors are invited to attend a free “Train the ASL Trainer” workshop on Saturday, May 1st, 2004 at California State University, Sacramento in the University Union Building.

This workshop for ASL instructors will be presented by Dr. Carol Padden, Professor of Communication, University of California, San Diego.

Allyn & Bacon Longman Publishing and the CSUS College of Continuing Education have generously agreed to host this conference so we are able to make it available to you at no charge.

Come enjoy breakfast and lunch with us and have a great time exploring the “Future of ASL Training.”

Registration deadline: April 27. Seats are limited so register early!



An invitation for ASL Students and Interpreters:

And lest you students and interpreters start feeling left out, I've got great news for you too!  The afternoon session is open to ALL interested persons (including interpreters and sign language students).


[Note: The workshops will be presented in ASL without interpretation.]

I’ve included the program information below or you can download the flyer from

For a map and driving directions, visit

Please feel free to forward this information to others.



William Vicars, Ed.D.
Asst. Professor, American Sign Language
Eureka Hall, Room 308
California State University, Sacramento
6000 J Street
Sacramento CA 95819-6079

Program Schedule
Saturday, May 1, 2004

California State University, Sacramento
University Union Building

Morning session: Summit Room
(Available to instructors only. Pre-registration required.)
8:30 Check-in
9:00 Breakfast
10:00 – 11:45 Train the Trainer: Teaching and Learning American Sign Language
12:00 – 1:00 Lunch

Afternoon session: Ballroom 2
(Available to all. Everyone welcome. Pre-registration not required.)
1:00 – 2:45 The Future of ASL Teaching and Interpreter Training

(Required for morning session only)

Deadline: April 27. Limited availability so register early!
Or call Nicole Baptista (916) 278-6007 (v),

For more information, contact:
Bill Vicars, Ed.D., CSUS ASL Department,

Jill Matsueda, CSUS, College of Continuing Education,, or phone: (916) 278-4930 (v)
Doug Hinchey, Allyn & Bacon Longman, (916) 652-5454 (v)

This event is free!
CEUs available


ASL or Signed English, which should I interpret?


In a message dated 3/30/2004 11:48:14 AM Pacific Standard Time, writes:

Dear Bill,     I have been asked to interpret for a Christian seminar on video that will be made and distributed. I  am able to do this in signed English, but not well yet with ASL.  I do not know what I should do for not knowing if any of the audience or anyone that will see this is familiar with English syntax or is able to understand this. There will be a block in the lower corner for those who need the interpretation. Reason I am asking is there is a deaf church near where my friend lives and was going to suggest to him to contact someone there who can interpret for him if the asl is more appropriate. Thanks for the help.  Julie _____r


The best solution in my mind would be to go with ASL and then close caption the video (English subtitles). That way all your bases would be covered. Captioning services can be located via a web search.

Is Deaf and Dumb Appropriate Terminology?

In a message dated 3/16/2004 1:56:23 PM Pacific Standard Time, writes: Can you tell me if the statement 'deaf and dumb' is appropriate for someone who can not speak or hear? I know the deaf culture is proud of being called "deaf", but I wasn't sure about the not being able to speak part?   Thank you. I love your web site!
Pam (a non-deaf person learning ASL)

Hello Pam,
In the Deaf community, we don't use the term "dumb" to refer to someone who doesn't speak. 

It is rare that someone lacks the physical apparatus to speak. Not speaking and not being able to speak are two different things.

Many Deaf people do have the ability to "talk."  You'd be surprised at how many can talk but almost never do because their voices are "different" and they do not wish to open themselves to ridicule.  I notice that quite a few talk to their hearing family members, or even pets, but refrain from speaking in public.

There is an interesting phenomenon I've seen in mixed hearing/deaf church settings. Often a deaf person will need to present to a combined deaf/hearing audience.  Usually there is someone around who is acting as an interpreter.  Some deaf stick with straight signing.  Others sign and voice at the same time.  Still others go ahead and voice and rely on the interpreter to sign for them to the deaf people in the audience.

Usually it is the hard of hearing people that choose to voice for themselves while those who are "more deaf" choose to sign and use an interpreter to voice for them.

But here's my point, as people walk up to the podium you will see them look at the interpreter and sign phrases like:


Also, in other situations, for example, when setting up a presentation to a hearing group or a mixed group sometimes you'll see phrases like, "YOU TALK TIME-SAME?" --which means "Are you going to sign and talk at the same time?"  (This is called "simcom.")  Note: doing "simcom" means you end up using "contact signing" (formerly called "pidgin signed English").   Contact signing tends to follow English syntax and is not the same as American Sign Language.

Another thing we do in the Deaf community is we sometimes ask "PHONE YOU?"  This is a way of finding out how much the person can hear and if they are able to talk or not.

Obviously if a person can use the phone that means he can hear somewhat and use his voice. 

So, you see, in our world, instead of asking, "Are you dumb?" -- we ask, "PHONE YOU?" (With our eyebrows raised and head slightly tilted).

Deaf Literacy

I received an email from a couple up in Richland Washington who are befriending a young deaf man.  Their email was long.  I've extracted the important points here:

QUESTION:  When someone graduates from a deaf school at a HS level, are they not taught to read and write English?

RESPONSE:  On average, Deaf high school graduates read at the 4th grade level.  Here in America, about one in five people (general population:  hearing/deaf/whatever) are functionally (English) illiterate. That is an amazing statistic I know.  If you find something authoritative that supersedes my info please do let me know. 

Hearing administrators and "professionals" tend to place Deaf children in mainstream environments (public schools). Those with more residual hearing typically succeed, those with less residual hearing tend to fail.  Those that “fail” in the public (hearing) school are then shunted to a state residential program for the deaf or a day program of some kind (with no apology mind you for having wasted precious years that could have been spent in a more appropriate setting). 

The State (residential) School for the Deaf used to be a prestigious place for a Deaf kid to grow up interacting in a language rich environment with his peers and Deaf adult role models.  But by the turn of the century many such schools had closed or had been turned into second choice “alternate” schools for those that couldn’t make it in the hearing world. 

     Many Deaf parents of Deaf children opt to send their kids far away to one of the remaining few states that have high quality residential programs.  Another phenomenon is the establishment of charter schools for the deaf.  These schools are a natural response from the Deaf community to this untenable situation.  If the state won’t provide a language- rich, mentally-challenging environment for their children then the Deaf community will do it themselves. 

     For more information regarding Deaf literacy, I suggest you do an internet search for the writings of Dr. Jean Andrews and also Dr. Jim Cummins.  Both of these people are experts in the field and have written widely on this topic.

 QUESTION:  Do you have any specific suggestions, tips, pointers on how we can communicate better other than just learning ASL as quickly as possible?

 RESPONSE:  In language teaching we use the concept of “advance organizers.”  Advance organizers are visual aids, sound bites, objects, key phrases, and so forth that we provide to our students in advance of (at the beginning) a lesson to help organize their minds to be ready to process and understand the upcoming lesson.  If you want to improve you communication with this person you need to ask yourself, what sort of “advance organizers” are you using? Prior to discussing an upcoming event with him you could have the following items:  A calendar, a brochure, several pictures of last year’s event, a map, an ASL dictionary bookmarked to the pages that have the signs that name and describe the event,  and a written description of the event that includes information regarding: who, what, when, where, how much it costs, and how to get there.  The more context you can provide for your communication exchanges, the more successful your communication will be.

STATEMENT:  Wednesday nights … he comes over to our house for an informal "class" in sign language.

 RESPONSE:  Seems to me your church should sponsor a sign language class and invite everyone in the congregation to go.  You might even consider making it a potluck eating event.  Learn ASL for a half hour,  then take a quiz on last weeks material, then everyone sit around and eat and sign for an hour. Feel free to use ASL University’s curriculum for the class.

STATEMENT:  We would really like to see BT go to college.

RESPONSE:  Many deaf are not motivated to go to college or go get a job.  Many receive Social Security payments over $500 a month and live in adjusted-rent housing.  The idea of getting a job and giving up their idle lifestyle is anathema to them.  On the other hand, many, many deaf are hard-working individuals who take care of themselves and contribute greatly to society.  If a person lacks motivation and “know how” he isn’t going to change his life.  For such a person to make substantial changes will require a massive amount of intervention.  There are programs out there though that take a proactive approach.  Each state in the union has a “division of rehabilitation services.”  Often this is called “Vocational Rehabilitation.”  In the Deaf community we call it “VR” or “Voc Rehab.”  Voc Rehab can pay for your friend’s schooling.  When I was younger it was VR that got me started in college.  They paid my tuition and books at the local college.  I only needed assistance for a short while.  After a few semesters my grades earned me academic scholarships that paid my tuition and I taught ASL to cover my living expenses. Eventually I went on to receive a doctorate and teach at a University as well as set up my own business.  But it all started with a trip to the VR office.

QUESTION:  My other big question (the reason why I started writing this e-mail) is about Biblical resources. [Is there an ASL version of the Bible available on DVD?]

RESPONSE:  What a neat idea!  An ASL translation of the BIBLE on DVD!  I’ve seen “Bible stories in ASL” but never an actual translation of the whole thing.  I sell a “Gospel Pack” for a hundred bucks that consists of a set of four VHS Videotapes and two DVDs.  The videotapes contain 99 Bible stories told in sign language and includes stories from both the Old Testament and the New Testament.  The two-DVD set contains ASL translations for over a hundred popular hymns. Each DVD includes signing, vocal & musical accompaniment, and English subtitles. You can order it from:

Late Deafened Adult

In a message dated 3/31/2004 6:49:06 PM Pacific Standard Time, Jeff writes:

Hello Bill,

My name is Jeff. I am wanting to know if you would mind emailing my wife and try to comfort her. She has had bad hearing for some time and she told me yesterday on 31 March 2004 that she had lost all her hearing in her right ear She has already been to see the Doctors about her hearing and she is suppose to be wearing hearing aids...She has them but does not really wear them. She is really feeling down, she thinks that I won't love her no more. Even when I have told her that it doesn't make a difference to me if she is blind or deaf. I will always Love her.

I am half way around the world. I am in Korea when she told me this. I won't be able to comfort her until I am able to return which won't be until Jan. 2005. I don't if there is anything you could tell her to let her know that it would just take time for her body to adjust to the way things are now.

The only thing I really know about the American Sign Language is the Alphabet. Not much of anything else. I can spell with it, but I am really slow at doing it. Is there anything that would help us get through this time and trying to understand what to expect next. I have trouble hearing my self in my right ear. But it is only half gone...Her level is well below the normal level. I would appreciate it if you could help me out with situation. Thanks for your time..


Hi Marsha,  [name changed for privacy]

This is Dr. Bill Vicars of Your husband Jeff asked me to write to you.

I want you to know that you can get through this and deal with the loss of your hearing.
I won't sugar coat it by telling you it won't be a challenge.

But what it comes down to is you have to choose your focus.
If you focus on your loss, then you will feel miserable.

Instead, focus on what you still have.

You have a husband who loves you very much.
Can you imagine how many women in the world right now would trade their hearing in an instant to have a loving, devoted man to care about them?

I'm sure you have many, many other blessings in your life as well.
It is important that you take out some paper and list them off. List off all of the things that you have or enjoy that many others in the world may not have.

Then, make a plan and educate yourself on deafness. Contact the division of rehabilitation services in your state and meet with one of their counselors regarding opportunities available to you. They may be able to provide financial assistance and training.

Best wishes,

Dr. Vicars (Bill)
William Vicars, Ed.D.
Asst. Professor, American Sign Language
Eureka Hall, Room 308
California State University, Sacramento
6000 J Street
Sacramento CA 95819-6079

The sign for Slovakia

In a message dated 3/31/2004 8:09:49 PM Pacific Standard Time, writes:
Dr. Vicars,

It seems that each time I learn a sign for a country, it changes on me. I can cope with that. The problem I am facing right now is with a country that no one seems to know the sign for- Slovakia. My boyfriend's family originates from there, so it comes up often in my signed conversations, and I have been coming up relatively empty-handed (ha- literally!). I found a site that had an OLD sign for Czechoslovakia, but since they are two separate countries (even two separate languages), I know there must be a way to differentiate a country sign as well. I'm getting very frustrated at having to fingerspell the country every time it comes up in conversation. Any help you can provide would be MOST appreciated.

Thank you

Lacee Burch
ITP Student in Aurora, IL


Hmmmm.  Slovakia huh? 
I'll ask around.


Bobbie: "Slovakia, being a part of the of Czek_________, probably recently the Deaf changed their name for their new country. I doubt we'll get a version of it until one of us meets a Deaf person from there, recently emigrated. Sorry. The best place to ask would be to find an on-line chat room for Gallaudet students, since so many foreign students go there."

Don: "Nope. Waaaaaay too obscure!"

Byron: Yes “C” like LORD, opposite of Christian… OR “CZ”

Sandra: I have a deaf friend who came from Slovakia. I will ask her how to sign that name. I will get back to you soon.

Shut-ins and hospitalized Deaf

In a message dated 4/1/2004 7:46:56 AM Pacific Standard Time, Pam writes:

...I'd like to become fluent so I can be a resource for anyone who needs someone to talk to. --not so much as an interpreter, but as a friend to shut-ins or hospitalized people who need company. What do you think, do you think I will find there is a need for such a thing? I would hate to lose this desire to continue in signing.


Yes I think there is a need out there for someone like you to visit and help shut-ins and others in special circumstances. Realize though that a sick and hurting Deaf person is likely in no mood to play ASL tutor. So I'm glad that you mention becoming fluent prior to becoming a hospital visitor. You can contact the hospitals and ask to be put on their volunteer list with a note that you are interested in visiting with Deaf.  Then the hospital personnel can ask Deaf person if they'd like a visitor. I think the "shut-in" idea is much better.  Such people would likely be thrilled to have a visitor who could do a little shopping for them and chat from time to time.
You might want to contact any churches in your area that serve the Deaf. Then offer your services as a visitor.
You may be interested in getting involved with deaf youth as a "big sister." See if you can find a "parent/infant program" associated with your state's Deaf school. You could volunteer to work with a PIP advisor under an internship or volunteer arrangement. This would provide you an opportunity to visit various households and get to know deaf kids and their parents.

ASL Linguistics Topic:  "process morphemes"

Hi again Bill,

This is Shelanne L_______ writing again, but this time from a different e-mail address. I wrote a few days ago asking questions about my deaf friend BT. Anyway, I have a couple more questions. My husband and I ordered a sign language DVD and one of the deaf people on the DVD was explaining some signs. She said that there are many "noun/verb pairs" in which the signs are very similar, different in that the verb signs usually uses a single movement and the noun sign uses a small/short double movement. The examples she used were: sit/chair and eat/food. She was saying that "sit" uses a single movement; "chair" uses double movement and the same for eat/food. Anyway, when we mentioned this to our deaf friend he basically signed, "Do whatever you like; either way; you understand the meaning from the context." I'm thinking that he is probably right--that this is just one of those things that differs depending on whom you talk to, but I was wondering what your thoughts were on the subject. Have you seen many people use single movement for verb and double movement for noun? Is that a widely used practice? Thanks!

Hi Shelanne,

Yes, noun/verb pairs are widely used.

This discussion is to clarify your understanding of "form morphemes" and "process morphemes."

Consider this question:

(Choose the best answer, a, b, c, or d.)
 The use of affixation in ASL would result in the creation of a: 
a. form morpheme 
b. process morpheme
c. lexicalized sign
d. reduplicated sign

The correct answer is "a. form morpheme."

If you already understand form morphemes and process morphemes, you don't need to read any further.

If not, allow me to explain.

First of all, are we clear about what a morpheme is?

It is a unit of language.
It is meaningful.
It can't be broken down into smaller meaningful units.
It can be broken down into smaller units that do not have independent meaning (phonemes).

Next, do we know what a bound morpheme is?

It is a morpheme that must be attached to another morpheme. If it becomes unattached, it becomes meaningless.
For example the letter "s." The letter "s" doesn't mean anything by itself. But add it to the word cat and the letter "s" means "more than one."

The word "cat" is a free morpheme. It has meaning all by itself and doesn't need to be attached to some other word to have meaning.

The word "elephant" is also a free morpheme. You can't break it down into smaller meaningful parts.

If you are a class clown like me, you might ask, "What about 'ant?'" Ant is a word and it is contained within the word elephant. So that means I've broken "elephant" apart and found a smaller meaningful unit, right? 
Ahem ... no. Just because two words (lexemes) share some of the same phonemes doesn't mean they share meaning.
For example, "eleph" doesn't mean "half of an elephant." Nor is an elephant a "big ant." 

Another example. The letter "i." This is a phoneme. If I capitalize it and stick it in a sentence like, "I am hungry" it becomes a morpheme. All morphemes are also phonemes or combinations of phonemes. The word "I" is a morpheme made up of the phoneme "i." 

Next item to get clear on: Segmental Structures and Articulatory Bundles.

A sign is a combination of a segmental structure and an articulatory bundle.

Ask yourself, what is a sign a combination of?

Then answer: a segmental structure and an articulatory bundle.

Next ask yourself, what is a a segmental structure?

That is a combination of "moves and holds."
We commonly call this "movement."

Remember what the parameters of a sign are?
There are five of them.
1. Movement
2. Handshape
3. Location or position
4. Palm Orientation
5. Nonmanual markers (facial expressions and various body language--like head tilts and cheek to shoulder movements).

So, let's think. If "Segmental Structure" is another name for "movement." That means "Articulatory Bundle" must be another name for the other four items on the list. 

Segmental Structure = Movement
Articulatory Bundle = Handshape, Location, Palm Orientation, and NMMs. 

Segmental Structure = the holds and movements in a sign
Articulatory Bundle = everything else that makes up a sign

Segmental Structure = the way a sign proceeds through space
Articulatory Bundle = what a sign looks like and where it is done

Segmental Structure = the process
Articulatory Bundle = the form

The form of a sign is the handshape, the orientation of that handshape, the location of that handshape, and the NMMs (nonmanual markers) that accompany it.

The process of a sign is how you move it.

Okay, now getting down to form morphemes and process morphemes:

If I change the sign for "teach" to mean "teaching" I do so by reduplicating the sign. I do the movement twice. Which is to say I have changed the process of the sign. I am still using the same form (handshape) for the sign, but the process uses two movements instead of one.

If I change the sign TEACH to mean TEACHER, I do so by adding the "AGENT" affix.
I still do the exact same type and amount of movement for the sign TEACH, but then I add an additional form (handshape) to the end of the sign.

In each case, I have changed the meaning of the sign TEACH.
If I have a different meaning, I must have a different morpheme or an additional morpheme creating that difference in meaning.

In the case of "teaching" I added a movement.
In the case of "teacher" I added a handshape.

The word "teaching" consists of the morphemes "teach" and "ing."
The word "teacher" consists of the morphemes "teach" and "er."

The morpheme "ing" was created by a movement. (A process)
The morpheme "er" was created by a handshape. (A form)

When you change the meaning of a sign by modifying its movement, that modification of movement is in and of itself a morpheme. That "movement" is a process morpheme. The sign CHAIR is a combination of SIT + "double movement." The sign CHAIR has two morphemes. One of them is the free morpheme SIT. The other is the process morpheme "double movement."

CHAIR and SIT are an example of a noun-verb pair.

The nouns of noun-verb pairs are created by using process morphemes.

Signs like ACT, LAW, LIBRARY, PAINT, TAKE-A-PICTURE, and TEACH become the signs ACTOR, LAWYER, LIBRARIAN, PAINTER, PHOTOGRAPHER, and TEACHER by using the form morpheme "AGENT."

For your information: The "double movement" process morpheme and the "AGENT" form morpheme are both "bound morphemes." They have to be "bound" to their base sign in order to make sense. Waving "nonsense" handshapes in the air "twice" means nothing. Walking up to someone and signing "AGENT" will only serve to confuse or amuse that person.

So now, getting back to our discussion of the question:

64. The use of affixation in ASL would result in the creation of a: 
a. form morpheme 
b. process morpheme
c. lexicalized sign
d. reduplicated sign

TEACH becomes TEACHER via the process of affixation. (Affixing the AGENT sign to the TEACH sign.) In doing so we are employing a form morpheme rather than a process morpheme. 

According to the text, "Linguistics of American Sign Language," the term affixation means, "the process of adding bound morphemes to other forms to create new units." 

I would clarify that to state: "Affixation is the process of adding bound form morphemes to other forms to create new units." The authors do go on to give examples that make it clear that what they are talking about in regard to affixation is indeed the adding of another form to an existing form. The example they give for ASL is that of adding the AGENT suffix to various verbs like TEACH and LAW. They also point out that form morphemes "s" and "er" are typical English affixes.

Another important point from this discussion is that ASL very seldom creates nouns from verbs by using form morphemes. ASL mostly uses processes morphemes to make nouns from verbs.


Is ASL a liability for a Medical Doctor?

In a message dated 4/4/2004 6:19:03 AM Pacific Daylight Time, writes:
Dear Bill:

I'm a student at Wayne State University here in Detroit,
at the School of Medicine. Since we recently had an
ASL lecture at the school, I have considered learning ASL.
The general consensus, however, was to not learn ASL,
because there are interpreters available, who would be better than a doctor
at communicating correctly with the patient. (I suppose
the underlying issue was that communication errors then
do not fall on the doctor's insurance.)

What are your comments? If I decide to pursue this anyway, do I need any kind of documentation to show the deaf community (not an employer) that
I am ASL communicator? Do you have any knowledge of ASL being a liability for a doctor, in so far as increasing the doctor's insurance rate? (I know that's an ugly question, but insurance companies are sometimes ugly.)

Thanks for any thoughts,
John Stasko, Year I, WSU SOM

Hi John,
In general, no, ASL is not a liability.
If you mess up in your communication and someone dies or gets hurt, then yes it could be an issue. (Litigious society eh?)
Knowing "a little ASL" will not exempt you from the legal requirement to provide your deaf clients a certified interpreter upon request.
But you could become good enough that many of your deaf clients would dispense with the interpreter and simply prefer to communicate directly with you for either convenience or privacy reasons. You will, of course want to take extra precautions to check for understanding with communicating about dosages and such. You should do this with or without an intepreter.

Dealing with Signing Naturally

In a message dated 4/7/2004 7:56:26 AM Pacific Daylight Time, Rg1thatsme writes:
Dear Bill,

I have been teaching ASL level three at a college for continue education once a week using Sign Naturally and I find it somewhat difficult to follow the teacher's curriculum guide because there is not much time for the students to learn. They come in once a week for 9 weeks and state that the video tape from that book is too fast for them to understand. I have been teaching them facial expressions and body movements which are pretty good but am not satisfied what else I should teach them in a short period of time. I want them to learn enough to move up to level four. Do you have any suggestions what I can teach them in such a short time.

Thanks a lot if you have information for me

Robin Giuliani
Dear Robin,
Hello. You mention that your students come once a week for 9 weeks but you don't state how many hours they are in class each time they meet. A college-level, 3-semester unit course should have a total of approximately 45 classroom contact hours. It seems to me that your class is held on a quarter system rather than a semester system. A 3-quarter unit course should have approximately 30 classroom contact hours. If your students are only meeting for an hour and a half for nine-weeks they are only getting 13.5 contact hours of instruction. Even at 3 hours a week they are only getting 27 hours of instruction. Typically it takes 45 contact hours to teach Vista Signing Naturally Level 1 curriculum chapters 1 through 6. It takes another 45 hours to teach chapters 7 through 12. Most teachers that I've met that teach from Vista use the first half of Vista's level 1 book (chapters 1-6) for their "ASL 1" course. Then they use the second half of Vista's level 1 book (chapters 7-12) for their "ASL 2 course." Then they use the Vista Level-2 book chapters 13-17 for "ASL 3."
Note the each of these courses are 3-semester credit hour courses. Each course meets for 45 or more contact instructional hours, plus another five or so hours for administrative reasons such as testing and teacher evaluations for a total of 50 hours per course or 150 hours for the three courses.
Now, regarding the Vista "videotape" or DVD, your students are right. Many segments of each of the Vista videos are indeed too fast for the students to "catch" and understand on their own. I was told this same thing by Ken Mikos, (one of the authors of the book).
When teaching from Vista you really should show the videos in class so you can explain the content to your students. Either that, or you should require the students to register for and attend a “lab” course (which is a type of “forced” tutoring) wherein they watch the video with a “lab tutor” available who can answer questions.
We use Vista at the college where I teach. Several of the more experienced instructors who have taught for many years and have invested a huge amount of time and/or money to prepare their lessons seem to do quite well with Vista. Many more instructors however express to me in “off the record” conversations that they are extremely frustrated with the curriculum. They tell me that their students are frustrated as well.
The fact is--most instructors and departments are not prepared for nor “cut out” to teach Vista the way it was designed. Vista is a no-voice, “deaf-centric” curriculum. It is not “hearing friendly” and makes no attempt to be. To effectively teach Vista you need access to relatively expensive equipment—either a large screen TV with a VCR, or an LCD projector (LCD stands for “liquid crystal display” which is the name of the technology used in the projector) with a computer or stand-alone DVD player. You will also need an overhead projector. To teach Vista the way the authors intended you will have to spend dozens if not hundreds of hours preparing overhead transparencies, handouts, and activities. Many of these activities rely on paper handouts that must be copied from the Vista teacher’s curriculum appendixes. You will need to make these copies each semester you teach Vista because they are not in the student workbook. Your students will need access to a video-player—either DVD (which stands for “Digital Video Disk”) or VHS (which stands for Video Home System—an older video cassette format). Not just one or two of your more wealthy students mind you, but every one of your students must have access to a video player.
You'll find that most students are quite simply unprepared or unwilling to invest the amount of time required to learn from the videos. Most students expect to sit down and watch the Vista video and learn from it like they would any other “instructional” video. They expect to watch it once and understand it the first or second time. Some of the more dedicated students will go so far as to watch it a third, fourth, or fifth time. By which time frustration has already sunk in. The fact is—it may require dozens of viewings before a student is able to follow the content of a video clip. And just being able to “follow” the clip doesn't mean that the student “understands the content.” It simply means that his or her eyes are able to perceive the various nuances, the facial expressions, the handshapes, the movements, the tilt of the head, and so forth.
Students often don’t realize the point of particular video segments isn't to teach them vocabulary but rather to teach them to recognize certain facial expressions or other non-manual behaviors. When confronted with unfamiliar vocabulary out of context the students spend their time obsessing over the vocabulary instead of focusing on the intent of the lesson. And often have no real clue what the intent of the lesson is--since they've assumed it was to learn vocabulary.

To prepare to teach from Vista, (level 1) I scanned many hundreds of graphics into “PowerPoint” presentation slides. I use a laptop computer and an LCD projector to display these slides throughout my lessons. The slides quickly and conveniently provide appropriate supporting context for whatever concept I’m teaching. This allows the students to understand what is going on and learn quickly in a no-voice environment.
Now, if you find yourself teaching Vista at a college or in a situation in which you lack either time or resources--something is going to have to give. Either you give up time and money to prepare lesson materials and an environment capable of supporting the delivery of the Vista curriculum, or give up the idea of having happy, contented students who sign well.

An alternative would be to find a different curriculum that better meets your needs.

Bill Vicars

Signing and Arthritis:

In a message dated 4/1/2004 6:48:25 PM Pacific Daylight Time, writes:
Bill Vicars,

You mention many times on your website to pick a dominant hand and go
with it for signing one handed things. I have arthritis in my dominant
hand and some days have to fingerspell with the other- is it better to
retrain that hand to spell more efficiently or switch to it only on bad


Dear Laurie,

1. Do both. Retrain your hand, and only switch to it on bad days. (Heh). It is up to you. Not a big deal either way.
2. The real issue here is your arthritis. Are you aggressively fighting your arthritis? Ask yourself:
- Have you read at least 10 books on the topic?
- Have you invested in a paraffin wax bath for your hands?
- Do you stretch your hands in careful but deliberate ways that extend the muscles and ligaments?
- Do you take a multi-vitamin/multi-mineral?
- Are you taking glucosamine.
- Are you taking fish oil capsules and/or flax seed oil? ( Provides eicosapentaenoic acid)
- Are you working up a sweat at least three times a week? I mean breathing hard and actually breaking into a mild sweat?

If you aren't doing the above then you should seriously consider doing so.
You don't need to spend an arm and a leg on this stuff either. Go to a dollar store and look for glucosamine in the "health section." Also look for huge paraffin candles that you can melt down for a wax bath for your hands (study up on this so you don't burn your hands). Buy fish oil capsules at your grocery store or Sam's Club (ask for a one day "pass") in the biggest bottle you can and store it in the fridge so you get the lowest cost per pill.

I know you didn't write me for health advice, but the REAL answer to your problem is to solve your arthritis issue. Note: I hold a doctorate in Education, NOT in medicine, so you'd best check with your medical doctor before starting any exercise program or taking any supplement that might conflict with current medications.

(p.s. My lawyer made me say that part about checking with your doctor.)

American Sign Language University ™ © William Vicars