An ezine for students and teachers of
American Sign Language.

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 August, 2005   

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Hello ASL Heroes! 
My wife, kids, and I just returned from an awesome, week-long trip to my hometown, Brigham City, Utah.  It was great to visit family and catch up with old friends.  Now the school year is back in full swing at Sac State.  All my classes are scheduled on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays this semester.  Normally I teach a 7:30 a.m. class (crazy me) on Tues/Thurs but another teacher wanted to switch (crazy her).  What the hey, I'm flexible. (Heh).
Take care my friends and enjoy this month's newsletter.

In a message dated 7/9/2005 9:51:36 PM Pacific Daylight Time, ellen_hanafi_____ writes:
Dear Dr. Bill,

I am Ellen, from Indonesia. I am not deaf but I am interested in studying sign language for deaf people. But my aim is I hope one day I will help deaf people in my church to listen God's Word in Sunday Service by sign language, It means I will be a translator for them. But because I do not know at all about sign language, I am really confused how to start.
If I study ASL whereas I am in Indonesia, is it ok? Or ASL cannot be used in Indonesia because it's for USA only? Is there a universal sign language that can be used for all people in the world ?

Does it take a long time to study sign language?
The problem is I cannot take a sign language course because my parents do not agree if I study that field.
They are afraid I will change to be like deaf people or strange people if I study and gather with them.
That's why I need a sign language course via e-mail or something like that.

Or, do you know whether there is computer software to learn about it?

Please Mr. Bill, I need your information and your help about it.
Thank you very much for your kind attention.

Best Regards,
Just as English is spoken in many countries, American Sign Language is also used in varying degrees in the Philippines, Ghana, Nigeria, Chad, Burkina Faso, Gabon, Zaire, Central African Republic, Cote d'Ivoire, Mauritania, Kenya, Madagascar, Benin, Togo, Zimbabwe, Singapore, Hong Kong, Mexico, and Canada  (Grimes, 1996).  There is an "international sign language" but my advice though is for you to seek out Deaf people in your area and learn from them whatever sign language they are using.
Interacting with deaf people doesn't cause you to become deaf.  Deafness is not "contagious."
If you learn sign language and hang out with Deaf people you may become bicultural (have two cultures or ways of thinking about things).  You will likely become more visually attuned and during conversations will tend to use your eyes, hands, and facial expressions more than a typical person with normal hearing. If you hang out with deaf people you may fall in love with one. If you marry him you might have an increased chance of giving birth to a deaf child.  It depends on if the father became deaf due to genetic reasons or if you carry a gene for deafness.  Many children are born deaf due to illness, fever, or other event not caused by either parent.
One of my children was born hard of hearing.  Did she get it from me?  Maybe. My mother is hard of hearing, so is my brother.  My wife was born deaf due to her mother having German measles during pregnancy.
You do not need to spend a lot of money on computer software or books to learn sign language.  There are many free resources available on the Internet.  ( is one of mine--also see
I encourage you to pursue your goal of learning to sign. 
Best wishes.
Dr. Bill Vicars
[Reference:  Grimes, Barbara F. (editor), (1996). "Languages of USA" Ethnologue: Languages of the World, 13th Edition. Institute of Linguistics. Retrieved 10 May, 2001: <>]
In a message dated 7/22/2005 12:30:03 AM Pacific Daylight Time, writes:

Dear Dr. Bill,
Thank you for your advice that supports me to learn sign language. I'm glad to hear your advice because nobody agrees if I learn that sign language. At least, now I have you that agree with me.

Thank you very much.
Best Regards,

In a message dated 6/16/2005 12:27:03 P.M. Pacific Daylight Time, hi_i_must_b_jonathan@ writes:
Topic:  "Cochlear Implants"  As a member of the Deaf community....your thoughts and opinions?  Many thanks....
I know we're prolly not gonna' agree because I think oralism, when done well in today's day and age with today's technology, is a perfectly acceptable solution to deafness, as is a decision to use ASL, or to not use implant technology, or to use every method known to man for communication. So, yeah. Thanks again! ~jonathan wrote:
I'm on the road right now but will respond more fully when I get back to my home computer.
Actually, I'm very open to technology and progress.  I just think "opportunity cost" is an important factor.
In a message dated 6/20/2005 7:38:09 AM Pacific Daylight Time, hi_i_must_b_jonathan@ writes:
            Many thanks....yeah, that's cool you're open to technology. I think that implantation, like if I had a deaf child, would be used first along with a serious foundation in Spoken English. After 3 years, the mapping process is over and you can have a full awareness of their hearing's limitation with the implant. I know several deaf children with perfect hearing and speech who were implanted early, no ASL. That's a success. If the implantation were not a success, I would gladly teach them ASL to work around the implant's limitations and I know many deaf people who sign primarily but who have an implant like a high tech hearing aid, and that it grants them more independence (better speech, better English skills, not needing an interpreter as often). 
            As a Deaf man, you've been rather kind, considering many ASL-purists I know who are 40+ are very harsh towards parents/children who choose implantation. I hang out with them a lot, and they consider ASL-residential schools-Deaf pride the right way to go in raising a deaf child, no matter how successful thingsl ike Cued Speech, Signed English, implants, mainstreaming, etc. They often diss and lash out at people who do not do it THEIR way (ie, the RIGHT way) They claim Deafness is not a disability (I would disagree) and to be proud of being Deaf, and often feel as if people who grew up oral are either pathetically isolated or total snobs.
 Times are changing, there's no need to adhere to the ASL-purists rules all the time with all deaf people, and if deaf people choose to become hearing, that's their business. I don't see why the Deaf community feels they have a monopoly on deafness and deaf people, that their approach to life is automatically the correct one...
             Anyway, off my soapbox, thanks for being so open! I've just been rather infuriated as several good friends have just implanted their 2 yo son and the wife is hanging on her last nerve from all the cruel things Deaf people have said and done to her about her decision. Considering these people are also my friends, It's a rather controversial issue jst in my own mind.
~*fingerspelling* j-o-n-a-t-h-a-n


Okay, here's my view on ASL and Cochlear Implants:

I think nearly all parents of nearly all children (hearing or deaf) should begin teaching their child both spoken and signed language from birth.  It is now a well documented fact that infants can begin effectively communicating via sign language much earlier than they can via spoken language.  The vast majority of research and documentation I've seen also points to the fact that learning ASL actually facilitates the acquisition of spoken language.  This is due to the fact that ASL promotes early cognitive development which in turn supports concurrent and later English acquisition.

This belief isn't about "ASL purism" it is about providing the child (whether hearing or deaf) with the maximum communication resources for his or her mental development. 
Here's an analogy: Suppose you are in a city in Kansas and wanted your child to be able to ride a surf board on the ocean waves.  Lacking access to the ocean you might choose to provide your child with a "skateboard."  Your child will develop valuable skills such as balance, timing, estimation, planning, and so forth.  Later suppose he goes to the beach.  As a result of having learned how to skateboard he will have a much easier time learning how to surf.

This is called "horizontal transfer of learning."

The beautiful thing is that as an adult this person can now choose whether he wants to spend his time skateboarding or if he wants to go surfing--or both!  (In real life though, as an adult he ends up going to work and has no time for either surfing or skateboarding!!!)

If only learning to speak were as easy for a Deaf child as it is for a hearing child.  But it isn't.  So the concept of opportunity cost comes into play.  It is indeed possible for a blind man to become an expert at hitting a distant target with a bow and arrow.  To do so he would need to try and fail many, many times.  It might take him years, but sure enough, eventually he could hit the target.  The question is, what opportunities did that man miss during those years of practicing hitting an unseen target?  How many clocks could he have built, or clients could he have counseled, or bedtime stories could he have told?  How many parties could he have gone to? How much fun could he have had or good could he have done?  Focusing on developing that particular skill cost him a huge amount in terms of lost opportunities. What if he tried for years to become good at archery but never succeeded? Perhaps he would have been better off using his time more effectively?  Similarly perhaps it is better for Deaf children to spend their time more effectively by learning ASL instead of trying to hit a target they can't see? Or rather--voice a target they can't hear?  Who is to say that it isn't better to fully participate in a very small world than to marginally participate in a very large world. 



Now, about cochlear implants, consider the progress of computer processors from the early eighties to today.  Back in 1981 IBM came out with an "8088" chip that clocked in at about 4.77 MHz. If you are not familiar with the term hertz, it is a way of measuring how many operations a computer can cycle through per second.  One hertz equals one "operation" per second or the ability of the computer to process one instruction per second. One megahertz, or MHz, is roughly equal to a million operations per second. A gigahertz, or GHz, is roughly a billion cycles per second. 

Over a period of 25 years single-chip commercially available processors progressed from 4 MHz to 4 GHz.   Which is to say they became literally a thousand times faster.

During the next 25 years we are going to see a continued phenomenal advance in computing technology.  The cochlear implants of today will seem like mere toys compared to the technological marvels that our children and grandchildren will be designing.
More importantly though, advances in biotechnology are paving the way for nerve "hair cell" regeneration and prevention of hearing loss. This is not far fetched.  It is real and it is happening now.  American Biohealth Group is currently using technology licensed from the Navy to prevent and treat hearing loss. Google: "Navy N-acetylcysteine."  Also check out Auris Medical's "AM-111" drug, and Sound Pharmaceuticals' otoprotectant drug "SPI-1005."  
Drugs and biotechnology innovations will eliminate the need for mechanical implantation.
Soon this whole discussion about cochlear implants will become moot.

Dr. Bill
In a message dated 7/20/2005 4:01:24 AM Pacific Daylight Time, susan_paynter@ writes:
Hello Dr Vicars I am a mature student curently learning Stage 2 Bsl I also do Vaulantry work with Deaf Blind UK as in Telephone sapport and Pen friend I wonder if you could help me please. My pen friend is Deaf Blind and lives in UK she has an American Pen Friend her friend sent a Gold Badge that come out in America for School Children to be aware of sign Language as my friend
and the friend in America are both Deaf Blind nobody Knows what the sign means. As they don't sign I have looked at your site on the net but the sings I thought It would mean its not. And some of the signs in Uk are different . Our sign classes are on Summer vacation at the moment so I can't ask there either.
Thank you for your time I hope you can Help me help my friends.
Susan Paynter
Are you saying that there is a picture of a "signed" word on the gold badge?
And you want to know what that sign means?
If so, what does the picture look like?  Could you send me a photo scan of the picture or maybe describe it to me so I can tell you what the sign means?
Dr. Bill
In a message dated 7/20/2005 12:21:38 PM Pacific Daylight Time, susan_paynter@ writes:
Thank you very much for answering my E.mail I understand the School Children
in Colorado Spring All got one to help with deaf awareness then they went in
the shops for people to buy It is a gold Badge hope this picture helps
thanks susan.
That handsign is an acronym standing for "I Love You."  It is a combination of the ASL fingerspelled letters "I," "L," and "Y."  It is called the ILY sign.  The typed letters "ILY " are often used as a valediction (farewell statement) in romantic emails, IMs, (instant messages) TTY (teletype) conversations, and other text-based correspondence.
Dr. Bill

In a message dated 7/20/2005 3:30:08 PM Pacific Daylight Time, susan_paynter@ writes:
Thanks a Million for your help god bless susan

In a message dated 6/30/2005 3:16:08 AM Pacific Daylight Time, locomotiveguy@_____ writes:
Dr. Bill
   I am Hearing, but have been fascinated by sign language for some time. I recently found a book on it, at the book store, and found it easy to do. After the book I found an ASL CD. The animation was choppy. Then my kids lost it a week later, no great loss. Then I found your site. It is easy to follow, I can see what you are doing well, and Iím learning things about the Deaf community I didnít know I needed to know. The book was on signed English. I see now, why I donít want to go down that path.
  I also believe it is better to learn how to swim in the water. The sign language club thing, mentioned in the FAQs sounds like it is the way to go. I donít want to step on any toes, or have those toes kick me. I donít know any people that sign. At what lesson number do you think I could try signing with some Deaf people? Iím just on lesson 3 now, but feel Iím making good progress for the first week.   I am having one little problem. I keep losing track of which practice fingerspelling quiz Iím on. Quizzes #3 through #50 donít have their quiz numbers at the top.                                                                        
Thank you.
Mark Thomas
In response to your email I have added numbers 3 - 50 to the fingerspelling practice quizzes.
The website, (even though it has some 2,000 plus pages), is constantly under construction.
I full well expect it to hit 10,000 pages within a couple years.
There is no set lesson number or formula for how much you should know prior to attempting to interact with Deaf people, but since you asked, I'll share some thoughts on the topic.
The unasked question is, "How much do I need to know so that I don't bore, frustrate, or anger a deaf person via my attempts to communicate."
The answer to that question lies in the realm of sociolinguistics and varies from person to person.  I've witnessed young deaf guys and girls going out of their way to spend numerous hours hanging out with attractive hearing members of the opposite sex regardless of the person's communication ability.  Apparently hormones do wonders for one's patience level.
Those who are not "eye candy" (either no longer, or never were) and who are seeking to relationships based on communication will need to have a few other skills and abilities.
The more of these skills and abilities you have, the sooner you can succeed in interacting with the deaf:

Can you express yourself visually?  Do you like playing charades?  Can you easily figure out what other charades players are trying to communicate?

Can you read fingerspelling at one letter per second or better?  Can you understand fingerspelled words at a rate of one letter per second or faster?  Regardless what certain "experts" may tell you, fingerspelling plays a considerable role in everyday ASL communication and can be a huge help in many situations.

Suppose Bob and Jane both know 500 signs.  Suppose Jane also knows fingerspelling, how to mime, and lip-reading.  Bob doesn't.  Suppose Jane knows how to inflect her signs and use facial expressions to add or modify the meanings of her signs.  Bob doesn't.
It is quite possible that Jane can go to a party and have a fabulous time and communicate quite well with several new acquaintances.  Bob, on the other hand, goes to the same party and ends up frustrated because he can't seem to understand a thing nor can he make himself understood to other partygoers.
The size of your vocabulary is only a part of the total communication process.  Deaf people routinely hold conversations with Deaf people from other countries who use different signed languages. The actual vocabulary words (signs) are often quite different, but it matters little because the Deaf communicators have excellent visual conversation skills including mime, gesture, expressions, fingerspelling, and pragmatic (situation/context) awareness. 
How smart are you?  If I uncover a tablefull of various objects for sixty seconds and then cover them back up, how many objects from the table can you name?  Ten?  Twenty?  The fact is someone, somewhere will be able to name more than you.  That person will likely have an advantage over you in a social setting.  If a Deaf person shows you a new sign how well can you remember it three minutes later in the same conversation?  You will not do well in new language environment if you are dense, or need to see and practice a sign many times before being able to recall it.  Nothing personal mind you, I'm just answering your question.  You seem to like my website, so that is a strong indicator of intelligence right there.
How cool, funny, interesting are you?  On a scale of 1 to 10 how with it are you? If you have no hobbies, no passions, no interesting stories, no jokes, and no clue regarding current events, it won't matter if you know 8,000 signs.  You'll have a hard time communicating regardless of your vocabulary.
Cultural knowledge:
A large part of being "in" on the conversation is possessing a shared background knowledge.  There is surface knowledge of the "current event" variety.  And then there is a deeper knowledge of shared experiences, values, institutions, and comrades.  Do you know the names and/or cities of the various State Residential Schools for the Deaf?  Do you know the buildings on the Gallaudet Campus? Do you know the name of the president of that campus?  How about the location of the last Deafolympics?  The next? Where do we gather and hang out on a regular basis?
When you join us in "hanging out" we often make cultural references during our conversations. The more you know of our culture, the more you will be able to understand our conversations.
Some situations are intended to bring Deaf and Hearing people together.  Pizza socials, ASL night at the mall, Ice Cream Socials, Silent Auction fundraisers for the local Deaf Organization, open houses, and ASL parties. 
Go to these events and don't worry about signing.  Focus on watching.  It is okay to watch Deaf people communicating in those environments.  If we want a private conversation we will go someplace else.  If we come to an ice-cream social it is to be social and interact.
At first your conversations might be limited to spelling your name, indicating you are a student, and stating why you are learning sign.  The next conversation you might add a sentence or two to that.  And the next conversation you may get up to a whole handful of sentences.  Keep studying hard enough and going to socials long enough and you will eventually be able to hold up your end of a conversation and have a good time doing so.
Dr. Bill

In a message dated 7/1/2005 1:56:19 AM Pacific Daylight Time, CLHAnthem writes:
I stumbled upon your website and have decided to stick around and go through it thoroughly. I have a quick question, and I hope you don't mind responding.
I have recently been diagnosed with Meniere's Disease. I now have a total loss of hearing in my right ear and about 60 - 70 % loss in my left ear. I know I can still hear but I don't always understand what I'm hearing. Is that typical for hard of hearing people? I've been accused of "just not listening" and get very irritated having to explain what I'm experiencing.
I want to get a TTY, given I could lose the rest of my hearing overnight with this problem. Would you recommend that? I'm going to be 60 in a few months and with age most people lose hearing anyway. With the added problem I have, I want to get prepared for the inevitable.
I would appreciate a response, or any other suggestions you could make.
Carole Hannon
Hello Carole!

I understand completely your frustration regarding your role as a hard of hearing individual.
I go through it constantly.  Just because you can "talk" people think you can hear.  Or just because you can figure out what people are saying in some situations (quite room, fresh hearing aid battery, good lighting, no mustache, no accent, no gum, etc.) they think you should be able to understand them in all situations (noisy car, bright light shining in your eyes, high pitched or low pitched voice, food in their mouth, etc.).
People need to get it through their noggins that we aren't faking it.
I'm considering coming out with a line of T-shirts soon.  They will say things like:  "Just 'cuz I'm hard of hearing don't think that I'm not ignoring you too."
Or maybe, "I'm hard of hearing.  My kids are hard of listening.  You?  You're just hard to look at."

Should you get a TTY?  Depends on a few factors:
A.  Do you have plenty of money?  Get one.
B.  Do you have lots of friends or contacts who also have TTYs? Get one.

Otherwise I suggest you invest in a good text messaging phone.
For example, the Sidekick II by Motorola.  Google: "sidekick II motorola" and check out a few of the results.
Or visit your local cell phone dealer that carries the Motorola brand. 
I don't have one, but all my friends have Sidekicks and love 'em.  A buddy who upgraded even offered me his old Sidekick (black and white version) and wondered how I've possibly managed to live without one so long.  Eventually I'll go ahead and get one.  It took me forever to get DSL because I'm such a tightwad er, I mean frugal.

You can use your computer and internet connection as an "outgoing" TTY without having to purchase a TTY.
Google "ip relay" to get a list of providers.  Make sure to check out:
IP relay websites host "phone relay operators" who will call people for you and interpret back and forth so you can have a conversation.  The operator types out everything the person on the other end of the phone says so you won't miss a word. Then you type your response and the operator voices it to the other person for you.  Pretty slick, and it's free.

Here's an idea.  Get one of those old fashioned body aids or "hearing horns."  It might not help you hear any better, but when people see it they'll talk louder.  Heh.
Hey, take care and give 'em lots of attitude.
Dr. Bill

In a message dated 6/15/2005 7:21:08 PM Pacific Daylight Time, CurlyJM writes:
Hello Dr. Vicars,
Thank you for your wonderful site. I took an ASL class a few years ago and didn't do as well as in other language classes. I have been knocking around the idea of trying again and poked around your site. I have identified a few of the problems that I believe hindered my learning.
The first was addressed in your training the trainer section-Voicing in the Class. My instructor, who did not speak, made no consideration of our current language to peg signs to. Your example of the cheese completely made my point. She would have students act out scenes for which she gave them the words. We, in the audience, would spend so much effort trying to figure out what the scene was about that by the time we did figure it out, we had missed the relevant signs.
If I were to take a formal class, what would be the best way to inquire as to the instructor's use of our native language as a basis. I tired to discuss this with my instructor and she responded with her belief in total immersion. I tried to counter with the example that parents teach children language by first showing or giving them something such as a cookie and then speaking or signing the word. She didn't agree.
My second area of difficulty, is that there is not a notation system by which to take notes on signs (unless you are very quick at drawing). Is there a method that you would recommend for learners to use to take notes so that they can review the presented signs. Just curious, how are deaf children given vocabulary tests in school? I am not referring to being able to spell and write in English or give the definitions, but to show that they have learned to sign the word?
My biggest problem is that I am somewhat left handed, not enough to be considered ambidextrous, but enough that I have a hard time mentally transposing what looks to be on the left as to really being done on my right. I have a tendency, like many left handed people to mirror.  My dominant hand is my right so I would not be a left signer. When I was in my study group, I found it helpful to sit side-by-side with someone so I could see the hand movements as they were making them. My problem is when I am facing the signer, that I can't figure out which hand is doing what.  Do you have any suggestions to assist? I had hoped that with all of the new ASL computer programs, that someone would show the signs from the perspective of the signer as he was signing them.
Related to the above, I had a problem reconciling how a sign looked to me as the receiver with how the sign should look to me as the encoder/giver.  Ideally, I would love to find a class or computer program that would show both views simultaneously.
Have you encountered any other students with any of these problems, or am I just not wired a bit oddly? 
I thank your for the sight and any reply,
You asked:  "If I were to take a formal class, what would be the best way to inquire as to the instructor's use of [the student's] native language as a basis."
My response: There is no one best way to ask all instructors.  But if it were me, I'd generally do it in writing.  I'd email the instructor and ask her to send me a copy of the syllabus as an attachment.  I'd also ask her: 
How do you teach?
Do you use voice in class?
Do you allow your students to voice? 
What book do you use?
Do you follow it closely?
Do you use transparencies?
Do you use computer projection (for example, PowerPoint slides)?
Suppose you had a student who was slow, how would you handle that student?
You asked, "Is there a method that you would recommend for learners to use to take notes so that they can review the presented signs." 
My response: There is a system of ASL notation that is somewhat popular called "SignWriting."  For the casual student I recommend however that they simply type up a note page that includes the parameters of a sign and other related details.  Here is an example:
Palm orientation:

Let's make that even more specific: 
Sign:  EMPTY
Handshape: RH five (mid fing bent lg knuckle)  LH loose flat hand
Location: RH above LH. 
Palm orientation: down  RH perpendicular to LH
Movement: Tip of R mid fing slides forward along back of LH.
Synonyms:  naked empty available
Notes:  Can be aimed to indicate things are empty (forget = mind empty)
You asked, "How are deaf children given vocabulary tests in school?"
Response:  There are a number of ways. For example, you can show a picture and have the child sign it back to you.  Better yet, you can show a scene and have the child describe to you what is happening.
You asked, "My problem is when I am facing the signer, that I can't figure out which hand is doing what.  Do you have any suggestions to assist?"
My response: Note: This advice is not for everyone.  It is for hard-core dexterity challenged klutzes. When taking a class sit at the front, off to the side.  That way you can turn sideways somewhat in your seat and see the sign more from the teacher's perspective.  Other than that, you can go through a two step process each time you see a new sign. Get in the habit of identifying the signer's right hand (if he is right handed). Then immediately form your right hand into whatever handshape the signer is using.  Keep your focus on that right hand and mentally talk yourself though the movements, "He is moving his hand forward.  He is moving his hand to his left."  Listen to your mental directions and move your right hand forward and to the left.  Do whatever  movements your inner narration tells you.  If it is a two handed sign, try doing just the right hand the first time through and then doing both hands the second time.
If ambidexterity is still an issue after the first few days of class, enlist the help of a friend to do a simple copying exercise.  Stand opposite each other and have him or her make random (slow) hand, finger, and arm movements.  He should move slow enough that you can keep up. (This might be REALLY slow at the beginning.)  If he raises his right raise your right hand.  If he moves his hand forward toward move yours forward toward him.  Keep this up until it becomes easy and natural.  Also, switch roles from time to time so you can move your hands and see his hand movements in response.

Good luck.
Dr. Bill

In a message dated 6/15/2005 9:35:16 PM Pacific Daylight Time, a student writes:
Funny story: During my 1st ASL class I was waiting tables as a restaurant where we had to ask if the customers would like dessert. I had a table where the two customers were deaf. I thought I could use some of my new sign language so I made two small d hands and pulled them quite a bit apart a few times. The woman signed yes so I promptly came out with a dessert menu. She then began laughing. She took a piece of paper and wrote dessert and showed me the proper way to sign it with the two d's coming together a few times and close to each other. She then wrote divorce and showed the sign I had made. I was so embarrassed to realize I had asked if she wanted a divorce. Of course, she had signed,Yes.


In a message dated 6/19/2005 5:42:41 PM Pacific Daylight Time, redtalismn@_____ writes:
Hi my Name is Sue I HOH and so is my oldest son Alex he is 11 and has a unilateral loss he is completely deaf in his left ear and a minimal loss in his right. Since he is almost 12 he is starting to show signs of selective hearing as well.
For all of Alex's life he has "suffered" because is not considered deaf enough by most in the hearing community I have the same type loss he does so I have been his loudest and pushiest advocate.
Last year his 4th grade teacher was very "understanding" about his loss and in her condescending way looked right at Alex and said
" If you don't hear something correctly let me know and I would be happy to repeat it"
I was so dumbstruck I could not reply I could only laugh.
Take care
Sue and Alex Stefanich
I'm sure we both know what she meant was, "If you hear or see me saying something but you don't understand the words, let me know so I can repeat."
If we changed the word in her sentence from "correctly" to "clearly" then perhaps her sentence would have made more sense.
But, still, what she did say was silly.
Your story reminds me of an incident from my youth.
I remember in third grade during a particularly noisy class session I looked up to see my teacher saying something.  Being a curious and careful little wanker I went up to the front of the class to ask her what she was saying. She waived me to the side.  I noticed a few other students had come to the front as well.
Soon the class became quite as the bulk of the students noticed the handful of students standing at the front of the room.
The teacher repeated herself in a now quiet classroom, "I recently said, 'If you can hear me, come to the front of the room.'"
She then proceeded to reward with candy and privileges those of us who "heard" her.
I've been hyper visually attentive ever since.
--Dr. Bill

In a message dated 7/1/2005 8:48:25 AM Pacific Daylight Time, stmwater@_____ writes:
Hi Bill - My name is Kim and I am a hearing 32yr old woman in Philadelphia. I am currently learning ASL.  I began my classes a long time ago and I was making progress until I got married and I put school on hold. Well, when I did that I also put my desire on hold, my passion. I don't know what sparked my interest but I've had a desire to learn sign language every since I was in elementary school and now the drive is even stronger.  I am currently working as a receptionist in an accounting firm and I feel like I've let my fellow Deaf friends, and community down.  I plan to start school again this fall... If my finances allow; so that I can continue my dream or should I say my destiny.  I love the fact that you have lessons on-line however, I don't have a computer at home.  I am sending this email from my computer at work.
Anyway, I am writing you now because I am not happy here at my job and I don't think that I will ever be happy until I am doing something in the Deaf Community.  When I look for a job in the community I have to have an Interpreting degree. 
This may sound a little obsessive but... Is there any type of job that I can get without a degree, where I am at least in the presence of Deaf people until I finish school?
As you know, that is a hard question. If it were me I'd use electronic job boards and do searches for jobs with the word "deaf" in the description.
I'd also contact my state's school for the deaf and find out where and when they publish their jobs listing.  Then I'd check it regularly to see if any "service" jobs opened up.  For example, maybe working in the lunchroom or as a custodian.
For the most recent information on job opportunities contact the Scranton State School for the Deaf, Attention: Business Office, 1800 North Washington Avenue, Scranton, PA 18509; telephone (717) 963-4420; OR Department of Labor and Industry, Staffing Services Division, Room 1418, Labor and Industry Building, Harrisburg, PA 17120; telephone (717) 783-1290.
Also, you can look for other schools serving Deaf People.  Check out: Penna School For The Deaf, 100 W School House Ln, Philadelphia, PA 19144-3499, (215) 951-4700.
Good luck.
Dr. Bill

In a message dated 6/24/2005 7:16:12 AM Pacific Daylight Time, writes:
Hi!!  My daughter just turned 2 last week.  She is not speaking at all.  She can hear.  Her pediatrician recommended teaching her "sign language" as a way of communicating.  I do not know anything about the topic and am going to see a specialist, in the meantime, I have been doing some research.  Your site continues to popup.  Is your site an adequate source for me to learn from?  Is it enough to begin helping my baby communicate?  Thank you!!

Oh sure, my site is enough to begin communicating with your daughter.
If I were you I'd also check out your local library.
And check with your state's "School for the Deaf" regarding possible "Deaf Mentor" programs wherein a Deaf adult can come visit you and your daughter and help you with your language studies.  If they won't or can't because your daughter is able to hear, then ask them for possible tutors that you could hire.
Also, you might want to conatct the American Society for Deaf Children and find out if there is a local chapter in your area.  Here's their website:
Dr. Bill

In a message dated 6/27/2005 10:42:27 AM Pacific Daylight Time, sazawada_____ writes:
Hello Bill,
I am an intern at American Red Cross. I have a question to ask you. I had been asked to develop a packet for disaster volunteer team on Deaf. I am working on phrases handout that they might need to know when they meet a deaf person during a disaster time. I am wondering if I can use some of your pictures and I am aware to put give you credit. But...the question is how many pictures can I use? If it's more than the there anyway I can get more or what. Looking forward to hear from you soon.
Use as many as you would like for your handout.  No worries. I'm happy to do my part to support the Red Cross.  Keep up the good work.

In a message dated 7/24/2005 10:49:06 PM Pacific Daylight Time, writes:
My name is Gracemarie and I was diagnosed with Meniere's Disease and I am 43 years old.
My hearing is going fast and I have only 20% left in my right and about 80% left in my left.
My physician feels that I will be completely deaf within 4-5 years.  I need to learn ASL and
so do my loved ones.  I was a nurse and don't need the college credit or a college style course.
What is the easiest way to learn, besides a book.  I learn best by visual and tend to get very
dizzy when I read too much.  I look forward to your reply.
Look around for a community ed ASL course. Such courses are generally more laid back and less demanding.
Also check your library for ASL videos.  If they don't have any...ask your Librarian to hellp you borrow some through interlibrary loan from a library that does have them.
Most importantly need to start meeting more Deaf people and going to Deaf events.

In a message dated 7/10/2005 6:15:27 PM Pacific Daylight Time, GERSTEINB writes:
Dear Bill Vicars:
I used your website to help deaf friends with vocabulary. I am an ASL/Deaf Studies Specialist. I also do computer graphics.
I need to know where non-manuals came from? Who gave that idea as a developments.
Are there any resources on history of non-manuals signals?
Thank you, smile
Nonmanual Markers developed naturally as part of the language in the same way they did with spoken English.  For example, "Why do you nod your head to mean yes and shake it to mean no?" It just started happening that way over time, it could have gone the other way:  Bulgarians shake their head to mean yes and nod their head to mean no.
If you wish to study "nonmanual markers" in more depth you will likely find more resources by first researching "facial expressions," and "gestures."
Dr. Bill

In a message dated 7/29/2005 9:29:43 AM Pacific Daylight Time, writes:

Hello Bill.  Let me first say that I really love your website.  I am a first year home school mom.  My kids are in kindergarten (4 years old) and second grade (6 years old).  I want them to learn ASL as their foreign language.  I do not know ASL, nor do I know even one deaf or hard of hearing person, other than my grandfather who is hard of hearing as a result of being 90 years old and also doesnít know ASL. So, in short, I have a long road to hoe to teach my children ASL, or even signed English for that matter!!


In either case, I have a few questions.


1-       Am I correct in the assumption that I shouldnít try teaching finger spelling to my son until he can read?

2-       Are there any programs you recommend for small children? Currently I have Instant Immersion (which doesnít want to work properly on my computer) and a video series where you are watching a deaf family during their every day lives.

3-       Should I follow your lessons on your site with my kids or are those lessons too advanced for small children?

4-       Should I learn some ASL first, or learn with my kids?

Thank you so much for taking the time to build a website that is such a valuable resource and for answering my questions. 


Randi Smith

Your Question:  1-       Am I correct in the assumption that I shouldnít try teaching finger spelling to my son until he can read?
My response:  No.  That isn't correct.  Go ahead and fingerspell various words to your son.  He will learn to recognize the fingerspelled words as "letter groups" that have meaning.  For example, when talking about vitamins I fingerspell "V-I-T."  One day my daughter Kelsey pointed to the medicine cabinet and did an interesting handshape that looked like:

As it turned out, she was combining all three letters "V-I-T" into one handshape. The fact that her handshape was an acronym for an English word didn't matter a bit to her.  What was important to her was that it represented the sweet tasting vitamins in the medicine cabinet.  English was not a middleman.  The connection in her mind was direct.

2-       Are there any programs you recommend for small children? Currently I have Instant Immersion (which doesnít want to work properly on my computer) and a video series where you are watching a deaf family during their every day lives.
My response:  Of the well-known, popular products, the Bravo series seems to be the most geared to families with young children.
3-       Should I follow your lessons on your site with my kids or are those lessons too advanced for small children?
My response:  Use the "First 100 Signs Tour" at to start with.  Then switch over to the regular lessons.
4-       Should I learn some ASL first, or learn with my kids?
My response:  Stay a chapter ahead of your kids. Learn it then turn around and teach it. You will retain more. 

Tip: Try to develop connections to your local Deaf community. Keep your eyes open for deaf events.
--Dr. Bill

In a message dated 8/6/2005 7:27:58 PM Pacific Daylight Time, DJ3262 writes:
On lesson 2 on the bottom part of the lesson, you introduce yourself, tell how many children you have, and give their names. logan, kelsey, ben, and sarah. then you have kelsey introduce herself, give information about her parents, tell that she has two brothers, one sister and give their names. logan, herself (kelsey), fred, and sarah. who's fred?
Hello Douglas,
Any and all of those stories are made up.  I may have at times "loosely" based them on my own family, but they are still just made up stories about "fictional characters."  There is no Fred in my daughter Kelsey's immediate family.  We have though at times teased our kids by telling them "there used to be a first-born named Tom and that we got rid of him since he didn't behave."  Heh. 
But I can see your point.  It would "flow" better to have story 2 support story 1 from the "daughter's" perspective.
Thanks for the question/feedback.
Dr. Bill

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