ASL University | Bookstore | Catalog | Dictionary | Lessons | Resources | Syllabi | Library | Volume 1, Issue 17, Dec. 2004 | William G. Vicars Ed.D., Editor


●  Graduate Level Online Deaf Culture Classes
●  Never too old to learn
●  Empowerment and the Deaf Experience
●  Man wants to propose in ASL
●  Foreigner Talk vs Interference
●  New ASL Teacher Feels Inadequate
●  Using ASL to improve English literacy
●  Are Deaf Schools Dumping Grounds for Multiply-disabled Deaf Children?
●  Is a Deaf Coffee Chat a good idea?

Hello ASL Heroes! 
Welcome to December's tantalizing tidbits of truly tremendous tutelage. Thanks for all your emails and fun sources of discussion.  Remember, I might not be able to personally answer all of your questions but I sincerely do try as time permits.
Take care, and enjoy!

Dr. Bill

Graduate Level Online Deaf Culture Classes

In a message dated 12/1/2004 9:26:56 AM Pacific Standard Time, lindask3@ writes:

Dr. Vicars,

  Do you know of any Graduate classes that are online for Deaf Culture or Sign? I thought I would ask you first. I am a teacher and need recertification points at Graduate level.

  Also, a few months ago I wrote and asked if it really mattered waht hand you used for a Dominate hand? Meaning if you are right handed, but for whatever reason your left hand is more comfortable..can you use that. I know people who say NO!

Thanks so much
Linda S. Kuykendall


Linda,  (Gallaudet University) has graduate level Deaf Culture classes online.  I actually registered for and completed one of their classes. 

Let me give you my honest opinion of the experience.
It was an "okay" class.  But the teacher took a "one size fits all" approach. 
For example, the instructor treated me as if I were a freshman college student.  She gave assignments like "interview 3 deaf people about how they feel about Deaf Schools versus mainsteaming and write a paper about what you learned." 

Well, gee, I've already interviewed a hundreds of deaf colleagues in my line of work and daily interactions and thus I didn't "learn" anything new in that little assignment.  (Keep in mind, I've spent the last twenty-something years of my life in the Deaf community, my coworkers are deaf, and am married to a deaf woman for whom ASL is a first language.

Her assignment to me was sort of like if I assigned you to drive to the store and tell me what you learned from the experience.  Then when you tell me you didn't learn anything new, I tell you, "Well, you didn't do the assignment right!"

In my paper I told the teacher that I didn't learn anything new from the assignment and that the reason why was because I had prior experience.

She totally blew off the last portion of my explanation and proceeded to bawl me out for doing poorly on the assignment.  (Keep in mind that I did do the interviews, I did ask the questions, and I did record the results).  But the teacher couldn't seem to wrap her mind around the fact that this was a mundane assignment for me and I was simply being honest in telling her I didn't learn anything new. 
To get credit for the assignment I asked for permission to redo the interviews.
I "redid" my paper and wrote it as if I were a hearing newbie "discovering" all these amazing things about deafness after having interviewed three whole "DEAF" people, (a few of my many classmates whom I saw all the time.). 
Ah! That did the trick...she was then happy that she had "taught me" something.

It is experiences like the above that convince me "seat time" is a terrible measuring stick.  As an instructor, my philosophy is that if a student can demonstrate skill in a topic--you should be willing to give him a grade and send him on his way without forcing him to warm a seat in your class.  Boring instructors bribe their students with "participation points" as a way of getting students to stay awake in class.  Participation points are bogus.  Choose or write a curriculum that is engaging in and of itself. 
You don't have to award "participation points" or attendance points to get students to play video games--do you?  Why not?  Because videogames are interesting, challenging, and fun! Your classes should be the same way.

2.  You asked about right-handed people choosing to sign left-handed (or vice versa).  A signer can choose his or her own dominant hand for signing and fingerspelling.  The important thing is to be consistent.  I don't give a fig if you eat with your right hand and sign with your left. As long as you are doing all of your one handed signs with your left hand consistently.  Also use your left hand (or chosen dominant hand) as the "moving hand" for all of your two-handed signs in which only one hand moves. As long as you are consistent it is fine. 

However, if your signing is flaky and you do some signs with your right and some with your left, well then, that is "nonstandard" and sticks out like a sore thumb.

Note:  Advanced signers do occasionally switch from hand to hand, but they do it for specific reasons such as emphasizing a point or comparing two items.


In a message dated 12/12/2004 9:55:45 AM Pacific Standard Time, writes:

Dr. Vicars,

I just wanted to say thank you for the reply. I may take one online course about the Cochlear Implant. I went to Gallaudet for two summers. The second summer two of my professors had gotten CI's. I was dumbfounded. My other professor was very concerned about Deaf Culture dying out. This is a BIG issue now. So I thought I would take the class and find out what is going on.

I have a friend who became deaf. She got a CI. Last summer her face went numb. They had to do surgery again. I think I would rather deal with my Deafness then surgery and doctors.


Never too old to learn:

[This next email is regarding a previous correspondence with a woman named Joan who will be 60 by the time she gets done training to be an interpreter.] 

Hi Bill.

I very much enjoy your newsletter and wanted to respond Joan.  ...
I, too, an an "older" adult learner about to be 60 (in March).  I have 3 nursing degrees, a degree in theology and am an ordained clergy woman.  I returned to school to learn ASL so I could become an interpreter both in the medical field and at church.  Joan should know that age isn't a big factor when it comes to filling those needs--especially medical.  She already has that background and could certainly use her existing skills once she becomes fluent enough in ASL.  I hope you will send her my reply or better yet, your own encouraging her to keep going!  We are never too old to learn or be of service!

[Aileen also suggested that a previous reader, Sandra Amundsen, should contact the CA State Board of Registered Nursing in Sacramento about getting her courses recognized for CEU's in the nursing fields.  They may also have info about other health-related fields for her.]

Aileen Aidnik

Empowerment and the Deaf Experience

In a message dated 11/30/2004 8:59:22 PM Pacific Standard Time, dcdirks@ writes:

Dear Dr Vicars -- I just found the ASLU site tonight, and I have poured over it for several hours.  I feel a mixture of such gratitude to you, that you have developed this site, and empowerment, that I can do something proactive about my increasing hearing loss.  In other words, I am NOT -- NOT -- a victim : rather, a spiritual warrior facing new challenges.

Briefly, I have always been hard of hearing, and have always had tinnitus.  I was born this way.  I grew up automatically learning that I had to watch other people's mouths, to understand what they were saying.  I endured the all the childhood jibes about me being "deaf", and so on.  I was definitely in the "out" crowd in high school and college; that didn't really bother me, because I compensated scholastically.  I did develop a "loner's" attitude, because I felt uncomfortable in gatherings where I could not understand anything being said -- and I was tired of being told that I "talked too loud".  Over the years, I have found my own niche in life, and I am not unhappy.

This has changed several years ago, when I developed both Congestive Heart Failure and Sudden Cardiac Death Syndrome.  I barely survived, but I have turned my bad lifestyle habits around, and am now "out" of CHF, and I have an ICD (Implantable Cardiac Defibrillator) in my chest.  Twice since 2002 I have gone into fatal ventricular arrhythmia, and have been shocked back to normal rhythm by my ICD.  I am also on a LOT of medications, to keep all things under control.

For whatever reasons, probably a combination of both these life-saving medications, and my own altered body metabolism, my tinnitus has increased to a "deafening" pitch, all puns intended.  I have been experiencing more and more frustration and anxiety, that I can no longer understand people speaking, I MUST watch their lips -- and even then, sometimes their mouths don't always form words, if they don't enunciate clearly.  I must have the TV, radio, CD's, etc., at a volume at home that is too loud for anyone else.  I am being frequently told now to NOT shout, sometimes indignantly.

And it all came to a head two days ago at work (I work in the dietary department at a hospital).  I had prepared and served our Meals-On-Wheels meals, and a volunteer driver came back into the kitchen to tell us of a problem.  Where I was standing, I could not see this volunteer.  I heard some noises, looked around, couldn't figure out what they were, then heard them again louder (she was yelling "HEY! HEY!" I later found out) -- then she began whistling very loudly and piercingly -- it was like a nail being driven into my eye sockets.  I went to her, to help her, and she was so angry, and talking very loudly and fast, and I couldn't make out what she was saying; then she began jabbing her finger angrily and repeatedly at her list of meals.  I finally understood her, but by this time I was extremely frustrated, and I told her I would fix the missing meal, but would she not whistle at me like a dog?

She went postal.  All I could do was walk off to fix the meal, and the supervisor had to take care of the problem.

What an education. 
I felt such rage at myself for not being able to 1) understand her, or 2) control my frustration at my inability.  What I felt was the silent accusation "Why do you have someone working here who can't understand simple words????" (I actually have an Associates Degree, and am a Certified Dietary Manager.)

I finally settled down (after taking a Xanax LOL); I smoothed ruffled feathers and kissed what I needed to kiss to make everything OK again.

But of course things aren't "OK again", and won't be.  However, since I've had experience "changing paradigms" in order to first survive, then thrive and live fully and happily and productively (first when I came out gay; then when I was diagnosed as HepB+, finally when diagnosed with CHF and SCDS) -- this is only one more paradigm to change. 

And so the kaleidescope is turning again, to form a new pattern.  I have found that being proactive is my best therapy and rehab.  I do feel "in between" worlds -- not fully hearing, not fully deaf -- but learning ASL is the best positive thing I think I can do -- because it IS something that I can do.  I am not a victim.  I already know two languages -- English and German -- so now I am adding a third.  Someone sarcastically asked me why I would want to learn ASL -- it wouldn't help me communicate with THEM, hearing people.  All I could do was shake my head, and cryptically say "Empowerment conquers victimization," and left her wondering what I meant.  Since I must now pass through the shadowlands between the Deaf and Hearing Communities, and am not really a citizen of either world, I must learn the language of both.

I sincerely apologize for the extreme length of this post!  If I need a therapist, I should really cough up the money and hire one, eh? LOL.

Again, thank you for this site.  I am going to learn the basic fingerspelling first, then proceed through the lessons.  I am also contacting local agencies (in Wichita Kansas), and will investigate what kind of Deaf Community exists here.

Dwight Dirks

There's something I've wondered about for years.  I know most people would think I'm silly for suggesting the following idea...but hey, I'm a dreamer.

I would like you to investigate the concept of "noise cancellation technology."

I found the following on the internet:  [I sent him information on the related technology, you can find it at:

Dwight,'s my point...we need to find out if it is possible to determine the waveform and volume of the ringing in your ears and then have you wear a headset that beams a sound signal of the opposite phase into your ear that will result in absolute silence.

And even if that exact technology doesn't exist now...someday technology could possibly be adapted or modified to do this.

For example...someone with tinnitus would be willing to spend HOURS on a graphic equalizer going up and down the band until he or she stumbled upon the right waveform at the right phase to bring blissful silence.

Who knows? It is worth looking into.


Dr. Bill Vicars

Man wants to propose in ASL

In a message dated 11/29/2004 1:45:55 PM Pacific Standard Time, writes:

Hello Dr. Vicars,
    My name is Chris and I want to propose to my girlfriend in ASL. I did not know what order I put the signs in or which signs to use for "will you marry me?". I do not know sign language that much (only fingerspelling), but she does and I want everything to go smoothly. Thank you for taking time out of your day to read this, your knowledge and wisdom would be greatly appreciated. Thank you and God bless.


I reckon if you get on one knee, look at her lovingly, place a diamond ring (boxed or open) on a nearby table and sign "MARRY ME" with a pleading expression on your face -- she'll get the idea.

Good luck (if you haven't already asked her).

Let me know what she says.


Foreigner Talk vs Interference

In a message dated 12/3/2004 1:33:07 PM Pacific Standard Time, writes:

I am doing my research for my presentation. I have two questions;
What is "foreigner Talk" and "interference" ?

Hello David,

 "Foreigner talk" is how you talk to foreigners.  You simplify your own language.  You don't use their language, but rather you try to use your own language in an easily understandable way.

"Interference."  Suppose you know two languages. And while speaking one of the languages you accidentally use or mix in some of the other language.  Knowledge the other language interferes with production of the target language.

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


New ASL Teacher Feels Inadequate

In a message dated 11/28/2004 5:54:08 PM Pacific Standard Time, A teacher writes:

Dr. Vicars:


I am in a wonderful/dubious position this year. I am teaching ASL; yet my credentials are in English and Art. I used to interpret for Shasta County Office of Education, and when the principal where I teach saw that on my resume, she asked me to teach ASL I. Well, I agreed, and the more I work at it the more inadequate I feel.


Your Web site has given me hope. I have succeeded in getting my course UC approved, taught the students quite a bit of what you suggest, and have done a fair job at it. I am however, feeling like a boring drill sergeant. I have trouble trying to keep my students busy for 90 minutes a day.


Would you please let me know which of your products would be most beneficial for me to purchase? Thus far, I have made my own classroom decor (9-12th grade) and posters, but I want to be an excellent teacher, not a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants one.


None of my students knew they were taking ASL, and more that 80% of them have previously failed a foriegn language. I am finding that they tend to use and respond to SEE Sign grammatical syntax, but I want to move them to pure ASL at the semester break.


As I ramble, I think I am just looking for some guidance.


I have one serious concern about purchasing items form your site. Your address does not have an https in it. Without the "s" I understand that hackers can spy out a credit that occurred  after buying online. Out tech department told us that if an address does not have the "s" in it, not to make the purchase. Please provide input about how to make my purchases and which items would be best to have.


Deborah _______ 

Hi Deborah,

1.  Regarding ordering products from my bookstore.  I use CCNOW (and or Paypal) as the credit card processor for the bookstore. During the last phase of credit card purchasing you will notice that the web address switches over to

which has the "s" in "https."  The use of the "s" actually takes up more server resources (encryption) than normal transfer, so it is often reserved for only the portion of the transaction which involves your credit card information--that way your information is kept secure without wasting internet resources.

2.  As far as what to order from my website, I think you might just want to get my book.  You might also want to order the "e-report" called "How to Make a Decent Living Teaching ASL"  (62 page report).

3.  Feel free to make photocopies of the items in the book as handouts for your students.

4.  As far as guidance, you might want to check out  -- that is where I post most of my "guidance" for people who ask specific questions.  Find the "archives" and you will be able to read through hundreds of hints, tips, and responses to ASL teachers and students.  If you have specific questions you are welcome to email them to me.

5. To avoid feeling like a drill sergeant get the students playing games with the language. Modify popular game show themes for use in your class. 

What I do is I teach five new concepts then have them practice asking each other sentences with those concepts. Then I teach five more and have them switch partners and ask each other five new questions using the new vocabulary.  I do that four times which introduces a total of about 20 concepts.  Plus I give a daily review quiz.  The quiz keeps their attention because it affects their grade and provides feedback. The frequent interactions amongst themselves keeps them busy using the language for both expressive and receptive communication.  That is the key--keep them busy using the language in creative, meaningful ways.
Good luck with your class.


Dr. Vicars (Bill)


Using ASL to improve English literacy

In a message dated 12/6/2004 1:53:47 PM Pacific Standard Time, kormsby@Lee.Edu writes:

Hi Bill hope everything is good for you J I have an off the wall question: Before the question I need to set up my situation for you; I am a certified interpreter at our local community college my students range in skill level in English and sign, (that may sound surprising but is so true), anyway I have noticed those with higher sign skills do much better at learning the ins and outs of English. As I am asked to tutor many of my students for English class I want to boost their ASL skills in order to help with their English skills. Okay here is the question: is adding to their sign vocabulary enough? Are there other things I might do and if so what?

I do have to focus on the class I am being asked to tutor for, but in order to explain how things are set up in English I first show them how the concept is signed then what the English words look like for that concept. Maybe the more important question is am I on the right track? Am I out in left field? Please advise J

Kimberly Ormsby
Lee College
ASL Interpreter


I think you are on the right track.

What you are doing is known as a bilingual/bicultural approach to literacy.
This same approach also applies to interpreting in general.

I expect interpreters to supply the appropriate cultural and linguistic information that accompanies the "words" or "signs" involved in the interpretation.  This is not adding to or changing the meaning, but rather providing a "full" and appropriate interpretation. Some Deaf prefer and/or can benefit from minimal interpretation because they already understand English and Hearing culture.  These people are bilingual and bicultural and simply cannot hear.  Other Deaf people need expanded interpretation because in addition to not being able to hear spoken English, they also do not have the cultural background necessary for spoken words to make sense if simply changed into signs. The same is true of Hearing people.  Some "Hearing" people have been around Deaf people enough to not need an explanation/interpretation that the puff in a Deaf person's cheek as he signs Deaf means "and proud of it" or that a "Deaf School" is considered more along the lines of being a prestigious boarding school rather than some sort of "institution."  For other Hearing people though, you are going to need to include that information in your interpretation else wise "something" has been lost in "translation."



(Dr. Vicars)




Are Deaf Schools Dumping Grounds for Multiply-disabled Deaf Children?

In a message dated 11/26/2004 8:48:13 PM Pacific Standard Time, irishasl67 writes:

hi Bill,
i read your bio . thank you. so here are my questions. my research is on how residential schools, main streaming, and total communication programs effect deaf/hh  children and young adults socially.

1. What do you think the benefits are of for the residential schools for the  the social development of a deaf child today?

It depends on which residential school you go to.  Some residential schools have become little more than dumping grounds for multiple-disabled children for whom one of their disabilities happens to be deafness. Some Deaf parents of Deaf children go so far as to send their children to an out of state residential school rather than have their child attend an inferior local deaf school.  
Deaf schools have changed because now many "hearing" administrators think that the schools are restrictive and limit social opportunities for deaf children.  They feel residential schools actually hamper social development.  There are many people out there who believe mainstreaming and oralism is the way to go. There is a whole camp of people who believe that it is morally wrong to send deaf kids to residential schools and rely solely on signing because they say that will slow down their development.
But oftentimes the opposite is the case.  A deaf school where signing is used can provide a very good environment for the social development of deaf children.  As time goes on more and more schools adopt ASL (not just Signed English or "simultaneous communication" but genuine American Sign Language) as a way to teach deaf children.  It wasn’t always that way.  In the not too distant past oralism was the main philosophy for deaf education.  A major change in philosophy started happening in the mid-nineteen-eighties. Some schools were earlier, some later.  (Interesting though—before that, in the “distant past” signing was the norm, then oralism became popular, and now the switch to signing is actually a reversion rather than something new.)

1a.  do you believe the time spent away from their parents is out weighed by the positive impact of having deaf/hh peers and teachers? if so why?

The answer is always going to be "it depends."  Everything in this field is situational.  What if the parents are Deaf?  What if the parents are Hearing but know ASL?  What if the parents are Hearing but don't know ASL?  What if the parents are Deaf but alcoholics?  What if the parents are Hearing and don't know ASL but are extremely devoted, rich, provide lots of computer equipment and software, and arrange for visits from a Deaf mentor?  What if the dorm at the school is poorly supervised and the kid is getting raped every night?

Obviously if home life is little more than solitary confinement -- living in a communication vacuum-- then yes the benefits of attending a residential school outweigh those of living at home.  However, if the family learns and uses ASL, the home is visited by Deaf mentors, playmates who can sign are provided, the local school is supportive, a homeroom with several deaf children is provided, and skilled interpreters are hired, then I'd say the child is better off in the local environment.


1b. if not which program do you think is more beneficial main streaming or total communication to the child/ young adult socially?

Again.  It depends.  I'm hard of hearing, my wife is Deaf.  Our education needs were different.

Her first language was ASL.  She basically had no language until she was five.  Then she attended a total communication day program for the Deaf in Bakersfield, California.  There she learned ASL and started picking up spoken English.  It was signing that allowed her to develop socially as a child.  Her best memories are of time spent at "Deaf Camp" where she was surrounded by other deaf.  I don't think mainstreaming would have worked for her.  She would have been miserable.

Mainsteaming worked for me. But it is true that I spent much of my time as a youth frustrated with communication issues. So, I ended up a voracious reader because it was easier to read than to figure out what people were saying.  Eventually I did develop a circle of friends with whom I enjoyed spending time with on an individual basis, but groups were never my thing.

As adults, Belinda and I prefer to hang out with our deaf friends and attend a deaf social events. 

But three of our children are hearing and attend public schools.  Our fourth child, Sarah, attended a deaf school when she was younger, but is currently mainstreamed.  We are now seeking to have her attend a total communication program at a different school).   Our older children's teachers are hearing.  Their schoolmates are hearing.  The neighbors are hearing.  The grandparents are all hearing.  The parents of our children's friends are hearing. The doctor, dentist, and car mechanic are all hearing.  We are in a hearing world--whether we like it or not.  We would prefer that EVERYBODY in the entire world knew sign language and used it. That isn't going to happen.

1c which kind program would you have liked to attended? please expand on how you think this program would have benefited you more socially?

I would have liked to have attended a bilingual/bicultural English/ASL program where ASL and English were both held in high esteem and used at appropriate times during instruction.  It would have benefited me socially because I would have had full access to communication.

2. what changes in any of these programs  would  you like to see in the future for the social benefit of deaf/hh children and young adults. thank you for your time.

 My philosophy is we should set up integrated schools were three-fourths of the students are Deaf or hard of hearing.  The other one-fourth would be hearing.  The teachers would all know and use ASL.  The students would all sign.  Some of them would sign straight ASL. Others would sign and voice.  

I think deaf children should learn signing first, then go ahead and learn to lip-read and speak to whatever extent they can--within reason. It is a trade off.  There is an "opportunity cost."  You could waste a lot of years trying to learn how to speak and never develop clear speech.  That time could have been better spent learning to read, do math, or get along socially.  Not everybody can pick up speech and lip-reading, just as not everybody can get the hang of surfing or skateboarding. It doesn't mean you are less intelligent. It just means you are intelligent in other areas! If you meet someone who feels lip-reading is the best way to go, relax, maybe it's the best way to go for them. Each situation is different.

Is a Deaf Coffee Chat a good idea?

In a message dated 12/13/2004 1:16:35 PM Pacific Standard Time, writes:

Dr. Vicars,


Our church was inspired by Maria Podbereski, a deaf lady that performs songs in ASL, to start a Deaf Ministry. Several of us have basically been teaching ourselves to interpret for the various singers, speakers, and preachers in our church. Sometimes I am sure we are quite a spectacle!


I have a couple of questions that you might be able to help us with, if you have time.


Would your book Sign Me Up include hard to find signs like "widow" and "tattoo"? We seem to have more than our fair share of preachers who use impossible to translate words and phrases. How about translating a message called "Snerd's Words for the Birds"?!? ( I am not kidding)


And would your book have any information on interpreting those great big long Bible words, like "abomination" and "lasciviousness"?


Along the lines of my first question, how does one interpret cliches and metaphors? Maria told us that most Deaf do not understand many figures of speech. Has this been your experience as well? Is there an ASL resource that would help us with that?


Also, we have been considering having a "Deaf Coffee Chat" in order to meet some deaf people in our area, not only to "practice" on them but to begin to minister to them in whatever way is needed - do you think that idea would fly in the deaf community?


I love your website and the generous amount of information you have available. Any advice you could impart would be most appreciated.


Sincerely, (groveling)

Susan Raber

Dayton OH



My book is intended as a general introduction to ASL and Deaf culture.

Throughout its 212 pages you will find discussions about ASL and deaf people and a hundred or so signs. You will also find many handouts and fingerspelling activities.
One reader sent me this evaluation of my book:

"Having searched for a great comprehensive text to teach ASL basics, Deaf Culture and etc., I believe your work exemplifies this. I have used SIGNING NATURALLY (has its good points, but adult learners become impatient with it, and feel that it is too juvenile; it doesn't take into account the acquisition of the language adult learners already have), and LEARNING AMERICAN SIGN LANGUAGE (again, fair, but so incomplete)... both are extremely limiting.

Your book provides a WEALTH of resources. I only wish I found your website a couple of months ago, so I could have processed my book order with your text and videos for ASL III and IV (yes, sadly, much of what you exemplify in your ASL I and II, students have not demonstrated a knowledge or mastery of, by the time they complete ASL I and II in our local colleges... we have some 30 classes, and I see students who are lacking in the basics in both my ASL III and ASL IV classes, and feel I have to do a lot of "catch up" because of their lack of success elsewhere.

We are going to have a curriculum meeting (all of the ASL teachers at my college), at which I will be recommending your textbook and videos or CDs.

Keep up the wonderful work!

-- Mark C______

Certified American Sign Language Interpreter, CART/Real-Time Captioner,
Instructor (ASL III, IV)

Quite honestly?  I think Mark is a terrific guy (I've known him for a while now) but I think his praise is much stronger than my little book deserves (but it makes me feel good to read it).  The book (Sign Me Up!) is more of a set of notes of things that I want my students to know about ASL and Deaf people so they can fit into my world. 

What YOU need though seems to be a large reference dictionary for signs that are not commonly used.  I recommend you get the Random House Dictionary of ASL. 

I also recommend you find and use a local Deaf person as a resource to ask how to sign strange words that you won't find in ANY dictionary (not yet anyway).

You interpret clichés and metaphors by figuring out what they mean and signing the intended concept.
To sign long Bible words you can get a copy of the Bible on videotape and see how the people on the tape use those words.

Yes, I think a Deaf Social held at a local cafe is an excellent idea. The success of your meetings will depend largely on the demographics of your area.   Here in the Sacramento area there are a dozen colleges that teach ASL.  Most of the teachers require their students attend deaf events.  I donate my time each Saturday morning (7:45 a.m. heh) meeting with students from throughout the region. We meet at a local Denny's.  Some days there are over thirty students there.  Some days there are only six.  It took two months before any deaf other than me started showing up.  One thing you could do is pass around a donation box labeled with the intent to buy free breakfasts for deaf participants.  Then each time you get seven or eight bucks in the box go ahead and invite a deaf person for a free breakfast.  Try to invite a different deaf person each time. 


Dr. Vicars

American Sign Language University ™ © William Vicars