ASL University | Bookstore | Catalog | Dictionary | Lessons | Resources | Syllabi | Library | Volume 1, Issue 12, July 2004 | William G. Vicars Ed.D., Editor


●  Sign Variations
●  Don't confuse Deaf bluntness with Hearing rudeness
●  Is there a market for a Deaf Club?
●  Does fingerspelling help dyslexia?
●  When your group wants to learn ASL
Should "Hearing" people teach ASL classes?
●  Throwing things at students
●  What does "PAH" mean?
●  Event announcement
●  Flyers that get results
●  The hard-of-hearing experience


On a personal note:

Hello ASL Heroes!

Here's hoping your summer is scintillatingly sensational!
Things are amazing around the Vicars household.  Belinda is in Vermont finishing up her bachelors degree in Liberal Studies with an emphasis in Creative Writing. Hands up with applause!
I've been delightedly doing double daddy duty. No, really!  I like it! We've got great kids! It's sort of like playing chess and/or juggling--trying to think a couple moves ahead and/or keep all the balls in the air.
It helps that I have a little extra-time this summer.  The college (CSUS) changed its Foreign Language Policy from requiring three semesters of ASL (and all other languages) to only requiring two semesters.  I was scheduled to teach two sessions of ASL-3 this summer but when the college announced that level three was not required for graduation, enrollments fell way off and the advanced classes were cancelled!  So I am not teaching this summer.  With one exception.  I'm teaching a special web-enhanced ASL 1 course through the college of continuing education.  The course is "two-thirds" online and one-third in-class.  This course is a transition course.  The next version will be 100% online (starting Fall 2004).  I'll let you know how it goes.

Have a powerful day!


Dr. Bill Vicars


*  Variations in signs


In a message dated 6/12/2004 5:54:41 AM Pacific Daylight Time, Selindonat writes:

Hi Bill - -

I've been working on words for some of the themes for next year.  When I make my drawings, I always refer to your website, and the ASL Browser.  I wanted to use "trash (garbage)" for the Recycling Theme, and "basket" for the Easter Theme.

It looks like the ASL Browser sign for basket - - is the sign you use for garbage! - - not sure the Easter Bunny would like that  :o)

I'd appreciate your thoughts on this.

Thank you so much.

Mother Goose Time

Hello Selinda,
The MSU ASL Browser's sign for "basket" uses a "B" handshape that moves from the wrist to the elbow.  I agree with that sign. It is an excellent choice for an "Easter basket" because it has the meaning of a basket that you would carry on your arm.  The sign at my website for "basket" has the meaning of a "large basket" that would be more suited to "laundry." 
The sign for "garbage" listed on the ASL Browser site is the sign I use for metal.  So I looked up their sign for "metal," and heh, it is the same sign I use for "cement, ceramic, or glass."  I looked up their sign for "glass" and it is no different from their sign for metal.
I recommend you  use the "B" moving from the wrist to the elbow as your sign for "basket" - since you are talking about a smaller "Easter"-type basket. 
Use an index finger moving (in an arc) from the wrist to the elbow as your sign for "garbage."  A homework assignment for you is to go to your local library's ASL section and pull out 5 or more ASL dictionaries and open them all to the sign for "GARBAGE" and tell me what you find.  Then open them up to "METAL" and "GLASS" (if they have such entries) and compare those as well.

* Don't confuse Deaf bluntness with Hearing rudeness

In a message dated 6/13/2004 10:38:13 AM Pacific Daylight Time, writes:


I found your email on the web and hope you could address an issue for me. I would like to learn ASL but
have been shy to take a class due to a birth defect. My right is missing  the last finger (entire finger,
the palm is only as wide as the 3 fingers that I have).

Not only am I shy about this and hide it, some signs need the right hand's little finger (J, and Y for

Can I substitute left and right hands to sign, doing a mirror image?


(Lauren Likkel)

Yes, use your left hand as your dominant hand for all of your signing including fingerspelling.
Also keep in mind that the Deaf community is more understanding regarding "defects" than the mainstream hearing community.  We may ask you questions about it or bring it up in a blunt manner, but this behavior is due to Deaf people sharing a "high-context" culture where we want to know a lot about our associates.  Don't confuse Deaf bluntness with "Hearing rudeness" they are worlds apart.
Dive in, learn ASL, respect Deaf culture, and enjoy yourself.

* Is there a market for a Deaf Club?

In a message dated 6/26/2004 1:52:57 AM Pacific Daylight Time, writes:
Is there a need  that the hearing community has not tapped into? The  reason I ask this is because I would like to open a deaf lounge or club. Please e-mail me Thank You

Dear Latisha,
Deaf clubs used to be extremely popular in the deaf community. These days they are less so.
Much depends on your location. Since you are in New York and there is a large deaf community in your area, there is a strong likelihood that a "deaf club/lounge" of some sort might indeed be successful. I've often wondered about using the National Captioned Films Program to order free captioned films and show them to a deaf club. You might want to visit and check out their program. Then consider the viability of setting up a movie program wherein deaf people come to your lounge, eat, drink, socialize, and if they would like, they could watch whatever movie you are playing in the background with captioning.
Keep me apprised of your doings.
Dr. Vicars

* Does fingerspelling help dyslexia?

In a message dated 6/28/2004 10:04:48 AM Pacific Daylight Time, writes:

Hi Bill,

I have been enjoying your online course very much. My cousin (Denice) is deaf and I have always had an interest in learning the language but never realy had the appropreate pressure because Denice reads lips and can comunicate verbaly. Fortunatly I have recently befreinded a Deaf man and his hearing wife during a play group for new parents. With his wife present I learned very quickly and reached the point at which contact signing has become combersom and proper use of ASL gramer has become important. Your course is fabulous because you take the time to explain conversational ASL insted of "perfect translational" ASL. I am slow to pick up languages from books due to the fact that I have some language based learning dissabilities. This brings me to my question. Has there ever been research done into the benifit of finger spelling with heraring childeren coping with some forms of dislexia. I know I have trouble with concepts that are not textile and feel that fingerspelling, i
f taught to during my formative years, would have given me a better "feel" for the languge. Parden the pun:-).

Thank you for your time and effort produing this excelent course. I know it seems mushy but my freindship with Forest would not have happened without it. and by the way, my wife and I have tought my two-year old some signs. when she was 6 months she could inform us if she wanted more food or milk and because of this we never had a melt down in a resteraunt!

Garrett Kennedy

Could you post some of the students reports? they would help with the learning and be quite interesting I am sure.

I know of no dyslexia/fingerspelling research. [I haven't looked though.]
I personally believe fingerspelling could be an EXCELLENT tool for coping with dyslexia as well as stuttering.
I do post student reports (at the library) as they come in (if they are decent).  Feel free to write me a report on the use of fingerspelling to cope with dyslexia.
This would be an excellent thesis or dissertation topic for students who are in graduate programs.
I'll post this to my newsletter list and see if any of my audience knows of or has written any papers on this topic.

*  When your group wants to learn ASL

In a message dated 6/29/2004 2:24:23 PM Pacific Daylight Time, writes:

I am a 48yr. old who is going deaf due to meineres syndrome.  i have already lost the hearing in my left ear and i recentely found out that the disease has gone to my right side. My family and i have decided to learn sign.  but there is a problem, i cant find any resourses here in oklahoma city where i live. what would you suggest.  we are a large mixed group of 6to12 people some of them kids under the age of 12.  we would like to do this as a group.  please help us.  thank you karen
Here are some ideas.
Go through the lessons at my website:
Get materials from your library.
Contact your state's division of rehabilitation services and ask them for guidance.
Contact your state's division of services to the deaf and hard of hearing.
Advertise in the newspaper for an ASL tutor to come to your house and teach you ASL.  You can use as the curriculum for your tutor to follow.
Call the local "community education" or "night school" departments of your school district and ask about ASL classes.

[Editors note:  The typical spelling is: "Meniere's Disease"]


*  Should "Hearing" people teach ASL classes?

Dear Dr. Vicars,

I am a Deaf professional. I have been reading your newsletter and posts for a while now and seem to enjoy them a lot. I wanted to comment on this last issue, where the question of Hearing -vs- Deaf ASL Teachers are concerned and bi-culture a lism.

First off I grew up Deaf in a Hearing family and was manstreamed in the public school system back in the 1060s and 1970s. My freinds were both Deaf and Hearing. My language skills are rather good, as I lost my hearing as a child due to the Measles and the decline took some time. I'm currently married to a Hearing woman and have Hearing Children. I am sort of the product of an oralist education, a total communication education and an ASL sign education. Weird as it is, I have stood on the Hearing side, the Borderline and the Deaf Culture somewhat successfully over the years.

Sign Education Hearing Teachers or Deaf Teachers

To some degree, I agree with your assessment that it should make no difference in the class room environment, as long as the instructor understands both cultures. Many hearing CODAs are ASL Teachers with great success. What makes them successful? They understand the situation well enough, to impart that knowledge to another person, trying to learn how the nuances of ASL and living are viewed by a cultural population. A population that does not think to themselves in the form of word or word form definition. We think in the form of idea, concept and experiences. ASL is designed to provide in a visual form those thoughts, ideas and concepts.

My wife attended a sign class at our local community college, taught by a Deaf instructor. My sister in law attended another class at a different community college, taught by another Deaf instructor. Both had the same negative experience. The instructor did not understand how Hearing adults think, nor did he understand the majority population's culture very well. He made the error of trying to fit the Deaf round peg into the square Hearing person's culture and failed miserably. The attrition rate of the classes were horendous. The general vocabulary of the class participants was no better than Dick and Jane by the end of the third term. Most of each classes 45 people, by the third term became 4 to 5 people. This is a methods and curriculum problem.

On the other hand, a Hearing Teacher I know had wonderful success teaching, as she adequately bridged the gap through interacting with the Hearing class with ease and asked several Deaf to join the class and help bridge the cultural barriers. Many of those people went on to become Interpreters and entered Deaf Education. Not to say that I do not know many successful Deaf ASL Instructors as well. I do. Their success is built on having fun and creating a fun environment of success in the class room. No one likes to fail and everyone enjoys succeeding. From my perspective, living in both cultures and understanding the thinking and processing differences between the two groups of folks - Cultural understanding and keeping the class a fun learning environment is the key to successful teaching. Tough and grueling classes or drills and pressure rarely helps anyone enjoy a class and retards learning, replacing it with frustration, anger and eventual rejection. Being Deaf or Hearing is not a factor.

I would also like to make a comment about Cultural interaction of the Hearing Community in to the Deaf community. Most hearing people are not familiar with the difficulties that Deaf folks face from the moment we wake in the morning to the time we turn in at night. A person can vicariously learn about the difficulties and understand some of the frustrations, but to experience them first hand, does place a bit of intensity to them.

We have a very interesting situation. We have two very distinct cultures living and interacting in the same environment and yet without access and understanding, on the parts of both cultures, there will always be an element of strangeness. It has been my experience that when the Deaf culture welcomes interaction and offer to help people understand and interact with patience, the community in the geographic region seems the complain less about hearing people's insentivity and lack of understanding. However, when the community become impatient and tires of bring new hearing friends into the social arena, the separation gap seems to grow larger and adds to the frustration of the both communities. Many Deaf will never be able to fully understand what it is like to hear. The concept will never be there. But, about every hearing person can learn to understand living in a silent world and can experience it for themselves for short periods. This is not to say that there isn't a difference between living day in and day out and just having a short experience. But, over time an understanding of many of the difficulties we face can be taught and observed. If the Deaf do not welcome people who are interested in knowing and are willing to involve themselves, the gap will grow wider, instead of narrower. The concept that the only difference between hearing and Deaf is that the Deaf just can't hear, is false. There is a vast difference in experience, education, how information is gathered and processed, how we live and cope day to day with a world that is verbally oriented both in social interaction, pop culture and in information dissemination. The effect on how we think and view the world around us, how language and culture seems to go hand in hand is very different. Language is a basis that forms of both judgment of intelligence and of character. We, as a Deaf Community are after all, the cultural minority in the world.

Rob Abbott

You make some really great points.  Thanks for sharing your experience.
- Bill

* Throwing things at students

Editors note:  In the June 2004 edition of this journal I discussed "how to get students to stop voicing and participate more."  In that article one of the ideas I mentioned was that of dusting up a chalkboard eraser and threatening to throw it at students who voice. (That was just one of a list of ideas).  Gerry Batke from Toronto writes:

Clearly teaching practices are different in America. In Toronto, throwing objects at students would constitute a firing offence and could well result in an assault charge.
- Gerry
In my career I've done lots of crazy things in the classroom and have had an outrageous amount of fun with my students.  I've been lucky so far and haven't been fired or sued. (Always a first time though, eh?)  I think the trick though is when students know you are really and truly on their side and care about them--they are not likely to "report you" or "sue you."  I've also tried to use common sense and have never done anything that might actually injure a student.
I think it is important too that you know your audience.  The very, very, rare occasions I've used that technique (throwing a chalk eraser) in class always involved a rowdy adult (18 or over) male student who took it as the good-natured, friendly reminder to turn off his voice.  I don't think I've ever actually "beaned" a student with an object. 
This conversation brings up an important point. Suppose I missed and hit a different student in the eye?  A chalk eraser isn't likely to put out an eye, but it would certainly hurt and be upsetting. I would indeed feel mortified.
 If I did hit a student, get chalk on his/her clothes (something that needed to be dry cleaned--not just brushed off), or otherwise cause harm, I'd immediately and sincerely apologize and announce that I owe that person a free pizza lunch.  Then the next day I'd bring in a hot personal-size pizza, and flowers or balloons (depending on the person), and a box of cookies for the rest of the class to share.
You make an extremely good point though. Throwing a "dusty chalkboard eraser" or any other object at a student is risky business. 

* What does "PAH!" mean?

I've been receiving your newsletter for several months now and enjoy it thoroughly. I figured it's my turn to ask you a question.
I am currently finishing up ASL classes at Del. Tech. Community College and plan on continuing onto the Interpreters Program @ Phila. or Camden, since unfortunately Del. Tech. discontinued theirs due to budget cuts.......Go figure they cut the ASL program........more oppression on their part I guess.

I had a teacher who used PAH in her screen name, I asked her what it meant but we never got around to discussing it. Now i see it again in your newsletter........maybe you can enlighten me on the meaning.
Thanks in advance, and look forward to your next edition.........

Hi Charlene,
In the Hearing World "pah" means "an expression of disgust."
It means something totally different in the Deaf World. Here is a "Deaf" definition:
pah: (pä) interj.  [ASL]  1. Used to indicate the attainment of a desired result or outcome. 2. Success or achievement. 3. Finally!

The word "pah" originated from the mouth morpheme used by many Deaf when signing the concept "Finally!"  It can mean such concepts as, "At last!" or "Did it!"

* Event announcement

[Editors note:  Normally I wouldn't include a simple "event" announcement for a local event in a newsletter like this.  I'm including this one because it is part of a discussion having to do with the development of an effective handout or flyer.  - Bill]

In a message dated 7/3/2004 10:42:46 PM Pacific Daylight Time, writes:

Hi Everyone!!!
Happy Safe 4th to each one of you guys, Enjoy!
There is signing night this coming Friday the 9th at the Round Table
Pizza off of Elm Ave. in Auburn at 6:30, Hope to see most of you guys
there! :) Gotta Be Lot'a Fun! If I don't see you, have a Happy Trails,
Thank You,
Cynthia / Sue / Marta

Hi Cynthia,
In looking over your announcement I have a few suggestions for information that needs to be added so that it will be more effective.  As an instructor of ASL students I need announcements that have sufficient details to answer all of my student's various questions.
In an effort to be helpful, I've typed up a sample format that answers most of the questions students might have about such an event:
What: "Signing Night"  ASL Social
When: 6:30 p.m. to ???  (How long is at least one of the people sponsoring this going to be there for sure?)
Where:  Exact street address, and the name of the city
How to get there:  insert a "map" from yahoo maps (
Why:  (Is this social intended for ASL newbies?  Is it a practice environment where students can feel safe?  Is it attended by patient Deaf people who are willing to sign slow, repeat themselves, and answer a zillion questions from students?  Or is it a Deaf social where many of the Deaf are there for deaf on deaf communication and don't want to be bothered by hearing people?  If this is a religious meeting it needs to be stated up front so that students know ahead of time.)
Who is invited?  Everyone welcome!
Hosted by:   (Who is sponsoring this?  Who are Cynthia / Sue / Marta?  Do they have last names?  What is their contact information? Are they teachers? Is this an "organization?") 
Thank you for your efforts and for inviting people to your social.

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

Department of Special Education, Rehabilitation, and School Psychology
Office: Eureka 308

[Editor's note: The finished flyer contained the following information.  I include it here as an example of the minimum amount of information you should include in your own flyers.]

Event: "Signing Night"  ASL Social
Date:  Friday, July 9, 2004
When: 6:30 p.m. to 8 or 10, (whenever people decide to leave)
Why:  It's fun!  Come get involved and enjoy yourself.  No voice signing for an hour from 7 to 8, it's fun!  Whoever uses their voice pays 10 cents! (hahaha). We are here to help eachother how to communicate with others.
Who?  Everyone welcome!
Hosted by:  Cynthia Miller  (And Sue and Marta)
Contact Information WstrnCynthiaL@WebTv.Net
Where:  Round Table Pizza, 370 Elm Ave.  Auburn, Ca.

*  Flyers that get results

Note: As a service to my readers, I've revised and expanded my checklist of information to include in a flyer.  Here it is:

What: "The Official Title of the Event"
Who: (Who is invited? Who is this for?  ASL students? Everybody?)
Why:  Is this a social event? Leadership training? ASL practice?
Date:  The day and date of the event:  For example: "Saturday, July 24"
Hours: The starting time and the ending time of the event
Cost: Is there some sort of contribution?
Where:  Exact street address, and the name of the city
How to get there:  insert a "map" from yahoo maps (
Hosted by: (What organization?)
Contact person: First and last name, phone, and email
Interpreter: Is this event interpreted?  Is it conducted in ASL?
Close captioning:  Will it be captioned?
Dress: Should I wear a tie? Work clothes? Casual? Bring my swimsuit?
Transportation:  Is it provided? Carpool available?
Babysitting:  Is it provided?
Website:  Is there a web page with more information?

* The hard-of-hearing experience

In a message dated 7/6/2004 10:37:50 PM Pacific Daylight Time, MoMMiExMeL writes:

it was nice seeing you today.  i was standing there for a while and didn't even notice it was you.  i had wondered if you used your voice.  The last time we talked you mentioned you shopped at the $.99 store frequently and i wondered how you went about that.  also, in class i wondered if you voiced because you mouthed frequently.  Were you born hard of hearing?...
So, your children do sign right?.... hehe. sorry for the bombardment.
take care and see you soon!

Hi Melanie,

It was fun seeing you too.  I would have enjoyed chatting more but was in the process of taking the family to see "Spider Man" and wanted to get to the drive-in early to get a good spot. (I love the drive lets me afford to take my family to the movies. Kids under 12 are free! Plus, I bring my boom box so I can crank the sound. Interestingly enough, if you put your hands on the speakers of a boom box you can actually feel the words being spoken--there is some research on this which may lead to a "body glove" form of a hearing aid.  Researchers are finding that our minds can actually learn to interpret vibrations from our skin into words! Dang I love technology. (No thank you on a cochlear implant though...I'll wait for a nerve regrowth serum, heh--that's also in the works.)
Yes...I was born hard-of-hearing.
We hard-of-hearing types can talk and use the phone and such. Communication becomes a problem though if it is noisy or if the other person is standing too far away, facing the other direction, has an accent, a certain pitch of voice, a mustache that covers his mouth, talks quietly, mumbles, stands in front of a bright light, or talks to us in the dark.
Using one's voice comes at a price though. Deaf people tend to mislabel you as "hearing in the head." Often this is an inappropriate label because there is a difference between being bilingual/bicultural and being "hearing in the head."

I'm bilingual/bicultural. That means I know two languages and I have two cultures. When I'm with hearing people I use that culture. When I'm with Deaf people I use that culture. That is not the same as "hearing in the head." "Hearing in the head" (HITH) is when a person is physically deaf but mentally hearing. His ears don't work but instead of embracing and respecting Deaf culture and sign language, he focuses on living in the hearing world. To a HITH person, functioning in the hearing world takes precedence. He would rather hang out with hearing people, attend a hearing school, and perform a hearing job, with hearing co-workers. When talking to a hearing person (when deaf people are around) a HITH tends to voice only and "forgets" to sign.

I'm the opposite. I prefer to hang out with deaf, attend educational programs that are taught via ASL (hence my doctorate from Lamar University's Deaf Studies Program), and work with Deaf coworkers in an ASL rich environment (Cal State, Sacramento's ASL Program). I tend to sign to hearing people even when deaf people aren't around. (Almost have to sit on my hands to stop using them.) My family lives in Utah. I miss them dearly, and wish I lived near them, but I much prefer to work in a Deaf-friendly position like the one I found here in California. I could earn almost twice as much in the technology field as I do in the ASL field, but I choose to give up the money to instead have an enjoyable day teaching ASL and chatting with my Deaf coworkers. Also, there is a branch of my church a few blocks away. Instead of taking my family there, I choose to drive an additional half-hour to a deaf congregation where ASL is used.
So, ask yourself, is this guy a HITH, or is he a bilingual/bicultural HOH?
Your other question was about my kids.  My kids sign when they want something, heh.  We use three styles of communication with our kids.  Generally we sign and voice to them simultaneously (sim-com).  [Note: Belinda, my wife, didn't learn to speak until she was about seven years old. Her first language was ASL.]
Depending on our mood or level of energy we will use straight ASL or just voice.  I'm glad we raised them in a bilingual environment.  While they are not "fluent" signers, they can get by, plus they are relatively good "readers" of ASL.  The end result though is they are incredibly good at verbal tasks.  Two of them are straight "A" students.  The oldest one is incredibly smart in some amazing ways.  The youngest "should be" delayed as far as verbal understanding (due to her disabilities) but while she is behind in some areas (pronunciation and writing--for physical reasons) she is actually ahead of her peers in certain areas (level of understanding and vocabulary comprehension) which are related to cognitive functioning rather than physical ability (proud papa here).


American Sign Language University ™ © William Vicars