Hello ASL Heroes!
From the Desk of:
Recently one of you asked "Why is it called "pah!"?
Meaning, why do I use the name ASLpah as the title for the website
that I use as an archive for my newsletters?
"Pah" means "finally" or "success at last" in American Sign
Language. While doing the sign people tend to make a mouth
movement that if voiced would come out sounding like "pah!" So, the
exclamation "Pah!" in ASL is very positive and upbeat.
Since I consider myself a positive and upbeat guy, (er...that's
upbeat, not beat up) I chose Pah to be the name for my
I'm amazed and grateful for the terrific response to my efforts.
Oh hey, and you may be interested in checking out my latest:
ASL.ms is something I put together for people who would like to
practice their receptive fingerspelling skills. Literally all
you have to type into your browser address bar is asl.ms and the
website will show up.
Please feel free to post links to asl.ms from whatever sites you can.
In a message dated 5/31/2005 6:35:43 PM Pacific Daylight Time,
I have been studying ASL for several years, but am still very basic
in my skills. I completed two-years of "formal" classes and as many
informal classes as I could find. I have not progressed beyond
second-year level because I cannot find advanced night classes. I
plan to continue studying your on-line classes especially as summer
gives me more opportunity to be online.
I have received conflicting advice about teaching basic ASL to
others. The teacher I worked with in formal classes believes you
should not put yourself into any situation where you are not fully
qualified. A Deaf friend encourages me to teach the basics to
church friends so they can communicate with a Deaf visitor who often
attends our church. I would like to share what I've learned and
hope others would catch my passion and have the opportunity to
follow up with formal classes. What is your opinion on teaching
basics when I am rather basic myself?
Thanks again for your classes and tips.
Some Deaf feel that it is "not right" for hearing people to take
"paid ASL teaching jobs" that could be performed by a deaf person.
The line of reasoning behind this is that Hearing people can go get
any number of other jobs that require the ability to speak and
hear. Jobs involving ASL that don't require the ability to speak
and hear are ideal for Deaf people and should thus be filled by Deaf
and not Hearing. Many Deaf have the point of view that ASL belongs
to the Deaf and that it should be only Deaf people who get to reap
the financial rewards from the teaching of ASL.
But I do not see a conflict in what you stated in your email.
Your Deaf ASL instructor tells you that you should not put yourself
into any situation where you are not fully qualified.
Your Deaf friend encourages you to teach the basics to church
friends so they can communicate with a Deaf visitor who often
attends our church.
Where's the conflict?
You've been studying ASL for several years. You are continuing to
study ASL in whatever form you can. You are seeking advice from
professionals. You are aware of your own limitations. You are
humble, open, and passionate. You have deaf friends and
I think it would be a disservice to the deaf if you didn't
begin teaching your church friends.
I suggest though that you grab your Deaf friend and have him/her
team teach with
Having a Deaf co-teacher is important for beginning hearing ASL
teachers because regional and local differences in signs abound.
Many people feel that "their way" of signing is right. I suggest
you pick a good ASL curriculum (mine, heh) and stick with it. Then
if and when students tell you their Deaf friend signs it in such and
such a way you can compliment them for knowing a variation. Since
you have "Deaf friends" too, you can ask them how they sign it. If
several of your Deaf friends sign it differently than in your chosen
curriculum, you should go with what the local Deaf are using. (If
you are using my curriculum then contact me so I can add the other
sign as a variation to my sign pages.)
In a message dated 6/1/2005 9:52:50 AM Pacific Daylight
Time, SSQUYRES@ writes:
I cannot begin to express what an encouragement your message
is to me. Thank you so much for recognizing my passion for
the language and encouraging me to share it with others.
Regarding sign variations, I have a funny story for you. My
first Deaf friend named my Baptist pastor husband "priest."
I told her, "He is not a priest. He is a pastor." She
replied, "It's MY language!" She was right, so we called
him priest from then on! My new friend named him, "Beard
big guy." It would actually translate "Beard Fat" but I'm
not telling my hubby that! smiles.
My friend and I plan to go to a Deaf church this Sunday. It
will give him an opportunity to worship with other Deaf
people and I am sure I will enjoy the experience too.
In a message dated 5/30/2005 9:48:00 AM Pacific Daylight Time,
I just stumbled upon your website and am still familiarizing
myself as to it's content. So far, I am impressed and will
most likely order your book or other materials in the near
future. For now, I have a few quick questions. I am a
bilingual (Spanish/English) speech/language pathologist
working in the northwest Chicago suburban area. Years ago
in the late 1980's I co-created a curriculum to teach the langauge/pre-literacy skills for
students pre-k through third grade in rural areas of
Vermont. This population was exclusively English
speaking. Our target group consisted of
students on speech/language caseloads including several deaf
students but we provided therapy within the context of the
regular education classroom. In our curriculum we utilized
music, movement, sign language, story-telling, theater as a
means of teaching vocabulary, concepts, language structures
and enhancing retention and retrieval. Although for the
deaf kids the music aspect was not of benefit, the parents
of the deaf students were thrilled with this curriculum
because as parents they were faced with the decision of
either sending their six year old children away to a schools
for the deaf or keeping them in local school districts.
Introducing the "regular" students to sign language opened
the door to communication with the deaf students. As
clinicians, another benefit we recognized was the use of
sign language to enhance memory of new concepts learned.
Currently, I am developing a parallel curriculum for
students of Hispanic descent with significant language
delays in their native language.
These children are not only faced with
the challenge of developing language and literacy skills in
their native language but also need to transfer these skills
to a second language. The purpose for the sign language is
to utilize the sign as a bridge between languages. My
questions are; In teaching the colors for example, would I
teach "yellow" with the "Y" for "amarillo" in Spanish
to maintain the integrity of the ASL or would I utilize
signs from Spain or other Spanish speaking countries? It's
difficult to access Spanish signs. A few years ago I
completed an evaluation on a deaf student recently moved
here from Mexico. My sign language skills are ok but I felt
I needed help from the interpreters for evaluation
purposes. I had an ASL interpreter as well as an
interpreter of Mexican descent supposedly trained in the use
of Mexican sign language. To be perfectly honest, the
student relied almost exclusively in the ASL interpreter.
My next question is related to the business aspect. I'm an
educator and not business or technologically savvy. If I
wanted to make a sign language video or DVD or CD Rom what
would be the most economical way of doing this? Thank you
for your time and as I said, I will definitely continue to
look through your material. You have alot there to brwose
1. You asked what signed language you should use as you develop
your curriculum for students of Hispanic descent with
significant language delays. Use American Sign Language. It is
my observation that ASL is becoming the "English" of the Visual
Language world. By that I mean just as spoken English is
becoming the dominant language in the world of spoken and
written language, it appears that ASL is becoming more and more
dominant throughout the Deaf World.
ASL is used in varying degrees in Philippines, Ghana, Nigeria,
Chad, Burkina Faso, Gabon, Zaire, Central African Republic, Cote
d'Ivoire, Mauritania, Kenya, Madagascar, Benin, Togo, Zimbabwe,
Singapore, Hong Kong. (Source: Grimes, Barbara F. (editor),
(1996). "Languages of USA" Ethnologue: Languages of the World,
13th Edition. Institute of Linguistics.) According to my
contacts south of the border, ASL is also gaining in popularity
2. The most economical way of making a sign language video, or
DVD, or CD ROM would be to borrow all of the equipment
I'm serious. Many years ago when I was first starting out I
borrowed Dad's camcorder and made my first video. Then I rented
two VCRs from one of those "Rent-a-Center" type places.
I worked a day and all night making 40 copies of my
video onto VHS tapes and took the VCRs back the next day an only
had to pay a few dollars for the less than 24-hour rental. Then
I sold the 40 videos for $20 each and bought two VCRs of my own.
Ask around and I'm SURE you will find a friend, co-worker, or
organization that will let you make a video on their digital
Then you can burn that video onto a DVD using any one of the
$29.95 "video editing" software packages you see in the computer
Note: In an earlier newsletter I mentioned some information I
got from Governor Schwarzenegger's official website regarding
his proposed education reforms. Obviously this is a hot
topic, as evidenced by the following flame:
In a message dated
5/31/2005 6:20:01 PM Pacific Daylight Time, firstname.lastname@example.org
You couldn't be more wrong about Governor "Slash & Burn"
Schwarzenegger's education policies. To refer to public school
teachers such as myself as "educators," you are assuming that
"educator" is by title only. His proposals slash funding for
classroom, teachers, pension (including police & firefighters),
cut out licensure for over 300 professions, and shows that all
he cares about is himself. He has done nothing to fix the debt,
just deferred the debt to future generations - our current
students. As a university person, how can you defend Governor
Schwarzenegger? He's cut university budgets & increased
tuitions. And as for special education, he only cares about
special olympics - not increased funding for special eduaction
You should stick to what you know best, which is ASL. You wanna
vote for Schwarzenegger? Fine. You know very little about public
education funding & priorities.
Take a deep breath and think about what you just told
In one sentence you indicate that Schwarzenegger has "slashed"
In the next you indicate that he has done nothing to
decrease the debt.
I don't know how it works in your family, but if I want to
reduce my debt, I "slash" spending.
My kids don't like it and tell me all I care about is myself and
that I should spend more money on them.
You asked me, "As a university person, how can [I] defend
Governor Schwarzenegger?" It's easy for me because in addition
to being a "university person" I'm also a business person.
I understand that when you have overspent your budget, you need
to cut your expenses and get back on track. This is not
a popular thing to do because nobody likes a reduction in their
weekly allowance. But for the good of the family, it must be
done, otherwise the family will go bankrupt.
p.s. Well, actually, my kids are really pretty good
about reductions in their allowance. Because my wife and I have
taken the time to explain to them how budgets work. During the
three years while I was getting my doctorate they didn't get
allowance and they understood why. Now that I'm working
full-time again they get allowance again--after they do their
Regarding the "Interpreter Shortage:"
In a message dated 6/1/2005 7:38:20 AM Pacific Daylight Time, kputski@_______
From a hearing person's perspective, I can tell you why I have hesitated
to decide to go "whole hog" towards [Interpreter] certification. Hopefully
if enough stories like this come in, someone who can find solutions will be
able to use them to bridge the gap and alleviate the deficiency of
I started learning ASL several years ago so that my deaf friend and I could
communicate more easily. I had every intention when I first started of
obtaining certification to interpret. Here is a list of things I would love
to see implemented. Some of us are willing to do this, but in the past few
years the message I feel I have gotten is, "We want to make this hard to
prove to you you can't do this," instead of, "Let us help you learn this so
you can help others." I have no idea who the "they" are that create these
standards and attitudes, but "they" are really discouraging those of us who
want to help. I don't even know who to begin to write letters to to voice
these opinions. Maybe you have that answer. Here are the things that I have
wished so badly for as I have struggled (mostly alone) to learn this
Dear Powers That Be:
Below is a list of what would encourage me to become a certified
interpreter. I sincerely hope that some day someone who can do something
about this dilemma can make some changes. I would love to see this gap
1. Offer night classes. Adequate ones that reach beyond ASL I and II. Most
of us can memorize a list of signs on our own, but what we need is practice,
2. Create hearing/deaf groups where deaf people help those learning to
3. Have governmental assistance for those who are willing to learn. This is
a significant number of people that are being affected by this shortage. It
deserves the same consideration as deficiencies with other minorities.
4. Offer satellite classes for those of us who are not able to attend
classes across town every night, but could pick up a class during the day at
5. A BACHELOR'S DEGREE???? WHY????? Someone is not incapable just because
they don't have a Bachelor's Degree. It won't make them a good interpreter
if they have one, it won't make them a bad interpreter if they don't. My
friend in Germany does not have a Bachelor's Degree, yet she speaks and
writes excellently in both languages. I would hire her in a heartbeat to
interpret for me if I ever were to visit Germany. Give us the standard we
have to meet for signing ability, and if we can pass that, let us help! Many
people are able to work at their own paces and become fluent in a language
without doing it in a classroom setting. Why should they be eliminated as
interpreters just because they haven't obtained a degree? Many people grow
up in families signing. They may want to interpret! Don't eliminate them as
much-needed assistance over something as superficial as this! The question
should not be, "Do you have a degree?" It should be, "Are you fluent in this
language and do you know the rules of etiquette for this profession?"
6. Do what Fort Wayne deaf community has done! Their deaf community has
events where hearing people are encouraged to attend and interact with the
deaf community. Some of us want to learn and expose ourselves to ASL as much
as possible SO WE CAN HELP YOU! We are not out to make you feel "watched"
"gawked at" or "awkward." Learning a second language takes a lot of
dedication and a lot of practice. A lot of us feel just as awkward as you
do. It is something akin to walking into a foreign country. We respect your
need to have events where only deaf people get together and don't feel like
they're "tutoring", but the only way we can become fluent enough to
interpret is to be immersed in the language. Not someone to push my way in
where I am unwanted, I have cringed and often felt very torn between trying
to respect someone's wishes versus working towards the day when I can help
7. Have a mentorship program. Surely there are some deaf individuals who
wouldn't mind mentoring some of us hearing people. Just getting together and
chatting over a cup of coffee or talking about the kids once we're able to
sign enough for that. Deaf/hearing events would be so much less awkward for
some of us to attend if we had a deaf friend who was willing to take us
under their wing once in awhile.
8. Make this affordable. One college I called wanted over $1,000 for ONE
class in ASL. I would not just have to learn ASL. I would have to take
classes in deaf history and culture, buy textbooks, use umpteen gallons of
gas getting to various workshops and events....Some of us have young
families and don't have thousands of dollars a semester or year to pay for
all of this training. If the formal education route is the way some of us
need to use, we have to choose one class here or one event here, and it
takes us ten times the amount of time it should.
These are the things that I have noticed as I have worked to learn ASL. I
really hope some day in the near future I will be of some assistance to the
deaf community. I really am trying. I hope that something can be done to
make this a more enjoyable, less frustrating task.
A while back Pam Close asked me for advice:
> I am looking for your best recommendation for a high quality,
> no-messing-about sign language course in Los Angeles. It is actually
> not that easy to identify sign language classes, even in the typical
> community and cal state system venues. I've searched and googled and
> agency-requested this info and am finding the information offered
> somewhat uneven.
> I do happen to know that El Camino CC offers an awesome ASL fair each
> summer. I went there last summer and enjoyed it a lot.
> They seem to be very serious about ASL instruction.
> I'd try checking them out if I were you. See if you can get a Deaf
> teacher who has at least 7 years of experience.
> Bill Vicars
In a message dated 6/1/2005 8:41:58 AM Pacific Daylight Time, pclose@
Dear Dr. Vicars,
Here is a little follow-up:
You were completely correct about El Camino College and their
ASL/interpreters program. This week I am completing the first semester ASL
15 course, Perspectives on Deaf Culture and a combination Deaf
Culture/ASL lab. My instructor, Barbie Gomez, is congenitally deaf
(probably autosomal recessive: normal parents, deaf brother)and has been
teaching 11 years at El Camino and other area colleges. She is an excellent
instructor and a terrific person to boot.
I am enjoying this endeavor more than I can describe. The program at ACC is
quite large, with a variety of instructors, although your recommendation
about a native speaker as a first exposure was absolutely
on the money. I switched out of the class of a CODA instructor because I
was concerned that the emphasis on form would bury the
content/fluency/flow. This has been confirmed by other students in that
class since. This spring there were 5 sections of beginning ASL each with
30-40 students, to give you an idea of the size of the program.
Thanks again for the great advice.
Pamelyn Close, MD
In a message dated 5/31/2005 6:19:38 PM Pacific Daylight Time,
I am in the Maryland/DC area. I just completed my Master's
Degree in Divinity (Religion). I am interested in finishing my
ASL learning. About 6 years ago I began working on an AA in
ASL, then my job moved me to MD and that fell by the wayside,
due to my Ministerial work and the job. Now that things are
slowing down I want to continue with my ASL learning. I have
been using the web to brush up on my skills as well as I am
assisting with the Deaf Ministry at my church. More recently I
went to a cook out for three persons that graduate from
Galludette (hope I spelled that correctly) with their PhDs
My question is it possible to obtain a PhD in ASL or should I
attempt to begin at another avenue? I am interested in
Galludette. Any thoughts or suggestions?
Grace and Peace
If you have the chance or can "make" the chance to attend Gallaudet
University for an advanced degree I strongly recommend you do so.
Regarding your ASL skills, you simply need to determine which specific
classes will best meet your needs and start from there. For example, if
you've had three semester's of ASL then you should probably take the
fourth semester ASL class at whatever school you attend. You may want to
approach several ASL teachers and ask to observe their classes for a few
days to help you get a feel for where you should be.
In an earlier newsletter (May 2005) I mentioned a few of my areas of
In a message dated 6/1/2005 4:41:09 PM Pacific Daylight Time,
What does this mean? "Distance education / technology-enhanced
delivery of ASL Instruction."
Distance education means teaching ASL from a separate location
from the learner.
For example, I teach students in Minnesota, Texas, Utah, California, and
Technology-enhanced delivery refers to using technology
to improve ASL instruction. For example, using PowerPoint slides,
Internet web sites, CDs and DVDs, online testing and other
technology-based tools and methods of instruction.
For the past 8 years I have been a S.E.E. Educational Interpreter. I have
taken ASL 1-4. I am very involved in the Deaf community here in the Contra
Costa Area in Calif. I was just hired to teach a signing class at the adult
school. The former teacher has been teaching S.E.E. there for the past 12
years. I don't feel it is necessary to teach adults S.E.E. but I am not
qualified to teach ASL. We have a wonderful Deaf man that teaches ASL at the
college. I took on this job for one reason and that was to reach the parents
of mainstream deaf children. I think many adults feel that they can't learn
ASL or don't want to or are too scared to go to the junior college. I would
like to make the environment casual, non threatening and fun. I was thinking
of teaching ASL signs in English order which is PSE. That way they can
communicate to the Deaf community as well as their deaf child. I will have
them participate in the monthly deaf socials and I will have Deaf presenters
come to the class so they can learn about Deaf Culture. This will give
parents of deaf children an opportunity to meet each other and share since
they have so much in common like a deaf child. I feel this would be just the
beginning for them all. Do you think it is okay for me to teach ASL signs in
English order? If not what approach or curriculum would you use. Remember it
is an adult school not a college. If I find that someone is really
interested in ASL I will refer them to my Deaf friend that teaches at the
college level. Thanks for taking the time to read my e-mail.
Honestly? I'd just use the Lifeprint.com "ASL University" curriculum. Check
1. The curriculum is free. You can adapt it or use it as is.
2. It is discourse-based: It is very conversational. Students practice by
asking each other questions.
3. Students can study at home online using Lifeprint.com
4. Students can download the study sheets for free from:
In a message dated 5/11/2005 7:10:00 AM Pacific Daylight Time,
extremely passionate about ASL and love to learn more about
it any chance I get. I try to show the kids in my classroom
successful Deaf people and tell them how they can do
anything they want in life, but they must work hard in
school. I am an interpreter (trying to finish my BA in
interpreting but am having a hard time finding the money)
for four deaf students in third grade. It is a pull-out/
mainstream program that is very unsuccessful. (it is so
unsuccessful that when I started working here in September
they didn’t know the sign for deaf and when I asked them if
they could talk they all said yes and that they were
hearing, but just knew sign. Throughout the year I see them
sign things like “deaf is stupid” “I hate deaf!”
But anyway that is besides the point. I was reading about
the sign “at” and I couldn’t help but laugh. Last week one
of my students (who got a CI about two years ago) was trying
to get by my desk when she started saying something loudly--almost yelling at me. I turned around and looked at
her and she yelled again and signed “at-scuse me!” I moved
my chair in and asked her what she had said and she looked
at me very cocky and full of attitude and signed the sign
“at” followed by the sign for excuse me. Then jerked her
head to the side and rolled her eyes. I was just wondering
if this sign was similar to what you were talking about when
you discuss the sign “at-least” LOL!
just wanted to share this experience with you and let you
know how much I appreciate all the work you put into this
site and how it is being used by many eager people trying to
continue to grow in their ASL skills.
Many thanks and love,
Language is a fascinating beast eh? Another one I get a kick out of
is when people sign "TO"-"NIGHT" to mean "tonight." (Instead of the
more accurate NOW-NIGHT).
Twenty years from now (assuming I'm still around), I'm going to
enjoy seeing how ASL has changed over the years.
Your story regarding the deaf children's descriptions of themselves
is potentially very powerful. Literally you or someone else
could develop a dissertation based around the topic of mainstreamed
deaf children's "self-concept."
In a message dated 5/31/2005 7:16:14 PM Pacific Daylight Time,
Dear Dr. Vicars,
Hello! I haven't emailed u before, but I thought u might find
this info. personally interesting. A Deaf friend of mine
invited me along. She's been teaching me ASL/sign for about 20
months now. This is about the first ever Deaf Cruise, being
planned for Oct. 2007!! It would be the experience of a
lifetime, and I would dearly love to go (not just to be with my
friend, but to keep learning & to have the fun of meeting so
many people.........I could go on & on, ASL has been an
unfulfilled passion of mine for over 20 years now).
Anyhow, if I won't be able to go myself (I can't even afford to
go back to college for the 3.5 years to become
certified.........yet!), then I can at least pass the info.
along! You may have already gotten this, but I thought I'd pass
it to you just in case. This is not necessarily for posting on
your website. I just thought you and your wife might have a
chance for a great vacation!
Thanks very much!
St. Charles, MO
Thanks for the info. Actually there have been "all-deaf" cruises
before--maybe just not from THAT particular cruise line.
For example, I know of an all-deaf cruise that took place consisting of
1100 deaf seniors.
But still, what you describe is exciting!
In a previous newsletter a student asked for advice regarding how to
teach a student in her care.
In a message dated 6/1/2005 12:25:43 AM Pacific Daylight Time,
smather@ provides this bit of advice:
have another suggestion for a book that might help:
Teaching Kids w/ Learning Difficulties in the Regular Classroom -
am told that the ideas are extremely practical hands-on proven ways
to achieve results...
In a message dated 5/25/2005 8:07:15 AM Pacific Daylight Time,
Dear Mr Vicars,
is Jayme Blans and I am a Dutch undergraduate at Utrecht
University, the Netherlands. Last year, I took a few of your
online courses in ASL. I really enjoyed taking them and
learning more about signing and the Deaf community. I still
practice my signing whenever I find a few minutes to do so,
and ideally would like to take up a course in Dutch Sign
Language after I graduate. However, seeing as I live in the
Netherlands and have no access to native speakers of ASL who
could correct me and/or provide feedback on my signing, I
was wondering if you would be willing to answer a question
a second language learner of ASL, I found it difficult to
pronounce the Y-handshape at first (it took me
several days). I am a right handed signer (or at least
attempt to pass for one) and my right handed Y-handshape
could be considered as ok now, whereas my left handed
Y-handshape is still not quite there - the difficulty lies
in the ring finger and little finger.
question is as follows:
particular difficulty with the Y-handshape something that
you have seen happening before with other second language
learners, or is it simply my motor skills and nothing else?
Furthermore, might my following assumption be considered as
having some truth in it?
"Similar to learning a spoken
second language where second language learners of English
may perhaps never, or just about, master the correct
pronunciation of the sounds θ, ð, or æ in, for instance,
think – [θІŋk] vs. [sІŋk] [fІŋk] -, this – [ðІs] vs. [dІs]
-, or cat – [kæt] vs. [ket] -, so too may the Y-handshape
prove to be a difficult hand configuration for second
language learners of ASL. Especially the non-dominant hand
may demonstrate to be rather difficult to execute. In other
words, non-native speakers of ASL may experience the
Y-handshape to be rather difficult to articulate
which, as such, may also slow down one’s fluency.
Nevertheless, just as native speakers of English will be
able to understand non-native speakers when pronouncing [sІŋk]
or [fІŋk] instead of [θІŋk], so too will ASL signers most
likely understand an inadequatly pronounced
I thank you for your time
and hope to be hearing from you soon.
With kind regards,
Ms Jayme Blans
My students are all "Hearing" adult (or adolescent) second-languages
learners of American Sign Language. ASL is a non-native language for
all of them. The majority of my beginning level students do indeed
experience some level of difficulty "articulating" certain handshapes.
Some students do much better than others due to horizontal transfer of
ability. For example, dancers, visual-artists, and piano players seem
to do quite well.
Yes, skilled native signers can generally understand the "hand wavings"
of beginning-level signers.
What is fascinating however is that babies will begin signing many
months earlier than they begin speaking.
In a message dated 6/30/2005 11:53:40 PM Pacific Daylight
Time, melissadelana@___.com writes:
In an ASL/English bilingual training today, a trainer said
that ASL only has FOUR true idiomatic expressions. Surely
ASL has more than four idioms! The trainer explained that
some things we call idioms may not necessarily be idioms.
They could be metaphors, simply figurative language, or an
ASL interpretation of an English idiom.
I'd love to hear your thought on this!
Oh gee. ASL is replete with idioms. They just haven't passed a
litmus test and been neatly cataloged. [Litmus test--metaphor,
So tell you what, let's start an "ASL Idiom" cataloging project
right now eh?
The trick though, is getting people to agree on what is an
"idiom" and prevent them from pooh poohing your idiom and
calling it a metaphor.
Thus we must establish firm definitions (rules) if we are going
to play the game:
The definition of a "metaphor" according to dictionary.com is:
1. A figure of speech in which a word or phrase that ordinarily
designates one thing is used to designate another, thus making
an implicit comparison, as in “a sea of troubles” or “All the
world's a stage” (Shakespeare).
2. One thing conceived as representing another; a symbol:
“Hollywood has always been an irresistible, prefabricated
metaphor for the crass, the materialistic, the shallow, and the
craven” (Neal Gabler).
So then, how is a metaphor different from an idiom?
According to the 1993 Merriam-Webster dictionary, an idiom is
“an expression in the usage of a language that is peculiar to
itself either grammatically or in having a meaning that cannot
be derived from the conjoined meanings of its elements” (575).
Ah ha! There we go. The ASL idiom "TRAIN GONE" means "No, I'm
not going to repeat what I said." It isn't a metaphor because
"the leaving of a train" is sufficiently different from the idea
of "someone not repeating themselves" that you really can't make
a direct connection between the two. You have to possess
"insider" knowledge to be able to understand what is meant by
the idiom. Without context or insider knowledge it is likely
that I would understand that the metaphor "sea of troubles"
means to have a lot of problems. But without context or insider
knowledge I would not know that the idiom "kicked the bucket"
means someone died.
So, here is a call to my readers. Send me examples of
"idioms" you've seen in ASL that fit the above established
definition of an idiom and I'll post them at the Lifeprint
Library (under the topic "idioms") for review and comment.
In a message dated 7/8/2005 10:32:39 P.M. Pacific Daylight Time,
I know you get a lot of questions from your site, so take as
much time as you need to reply :) First - I have only recently
discovered your site! It is wonderful!!! I've been a teacher
of the Deaf for about 10 years, most recently in Guam (started
out in Utah) and I just started teaching ASL at the University
of Guam. Your site is a great resource!! Can I use your ideas
to help my students with their ASL? I ordered the "Sign Me Up"
book and would like to follow your lesson plan format as well,
if that is ok with you. Are all of the lessons included in the
I appreciate your time.
Lorell Loosle (not Dr. yet, but maybe someday :) LOL!)
Yes, feel free to use the various resources at my website. Feel free to
use the curriculum and lesson plans to teach your students. Any
information or handouts in my book "Sign Me Up!" you are welcome to make
copies and hand out to your students. The book has 212 pages of
information, but is only a forerunner to the current lesson plan hosted at
the web site. You or your students are welcome to download those
lessons free in the form of an electronic student workbook and use it in
your classes or as a home study tool.:
Additionally, if you have suggestions or special requests for
improvement of the curriculum, please do let me know.
William G. Vicars, Ed.D., ASLTA Certified
Sacramento State University