An ezine for students and teachers of
American Sign Language.

spacer.gif (42 bytes) spacer.gif (42 bytes) Volume 1, Issue 26   

 Sept, 2005   

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Hello ASL Heroes!

From the Desk of:

If you haven't checked out " yet you might want to give it a try.
Dr. Bill

In a message dated 7/13/2005 2:28:03 PM Pacific Daylight Time, writes:

There's a new phenomena applied in my sign language, Kuwaiti sign language, and I'm wondering whether it is applied in ASL as well: Kuwaiti deaf used to sign the States as shooting guns (similar to FAST sign but with L-hnadshapes) refering to cowboys. As they discovered that deaf Americans are using a different one, kuwaitis had borrowed the American sign. Now we have changed our previous country signs, and replaced it with the signs the poeple of a given country practice.

My questions:
1. Is the same kind of borrowing  applied in ASL?!
2. if so, do you have a tendency to borrow signs for presidents or amirs as well???

Thank you...
Yes, ASL users engage in lexical borrowing from other countries--particularly for the names of those countries.  For example, we used to sign "Japan" by using a "J" near our eyes in reference to the shape of the eyes of Japanese people.  We now sign Japan by showing the shape of the country of Japan since that is the way people who are Deaf in Japan do it.
We used to sign China by twisting an index finger at the corner of the eye. (Again, referring to the shape of the eyes.)  Now we tend to sign China by pointing to our upper left chest, moving to the upper right chest area, and then down. Sort of like drawing a reverse (to the onlooker) "7" an inch or two in front of our chest.
If I saw a sign used by the people of a country to refer to the amir of that country I would certainly use it in preference to whatever sign is currently being used in ASL.

In a message dated 7/14/2005 9:03:32 AM Pacific Daylight Time, writes:
What exactly are you a doctor of?
I have two doctorates actually.
Ph.D. Doctor of Philosophy in Human Services -- from Pacific Western University.
Ed.D.  Doctor of Education in Deaf Education / Deaf Studies -- from Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas.
One of them is even real.  ;-)
--Dr. Bill

Question:  Do you think that ASL is the best sign language for developmentally delayed children?
Answer:  This is a hot topic and one not easily answered.  In general my answer is yes for the following reasons:
- ASL is a natural language that has developed over time to meet the needs of people who are Deaf. 
- ASL has wide support from the Deaf community.
- ASL is gaining in acceptance from the academic community.
- ASL fulfills foreign language requirements at many high schools and colleges.
- ASL is more efficient for visual-gestural communication than artificial codes that attempt to make English visible.
- ASL is cool (popular).
So, if I were teaching and working with a developmentally delayed child I would indeed use ASL. 
Now, there are some factors to consider.
Each child's environment is different.  For discussion sake, let's suppose a child were born into an extended family wherein every family member was already fluent in Signed English?  Which is to say, the grandparents, brothers, sisters, and cousins all knew Signed English. I know that scenario is far fetched, but it serves my point that due to the situation it would make sense to teach the child Signed English.
I think the more important issue is to surround the child with massive amounts of stimulating visual input and conversation.  Deaf children will actually make up their own signed language (this has been documented but is outside the scope of this response).
A child who is constantly learning and communicating about the world using a less efficient communication system is still much better off than a child who receives only minimal stimulation using a more efficient language.
Dr. Bill
In a message dated 9/6/2005 9:22:16 AM Pacific Daylight Time, writes:
Dr. Vicars,      I am learning a lot from your site.    I want  to respond to the mother who wrote about her hearing child not
communicating orally.

[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!!]

My son did not start to talk until he turned two.    He would say a word or two occasionally but not use those words again. He understood and had a large listening vocabulary when tested for speech at age three.   He learned to use body language and point and pull you to his needs.    His pediatrician did not recognize that my son had both small and large motor delays.    Though he made advances late (crawling, walking), it was usually still within the outer bounds for 'normal'.    The muscle development delays though made it difficult for him to form words correctly, to make his tongue and mouth do want was needed to get the correct sounds out, so for him, it was easier to point and pull.    He was my first born, so I did not recognize the motor delays either, other than to know that he was a bit uncoordinated.

Please pass on the advice to the mother that she should request motor development testing.    And I think sign language will help her child communicate.
-- Betty Kolbe
Thanks for sharing your experience and advice. 
I'll post this to my newsletter.
Best wishes.

In a message dated 7/30/2005 10:41:17 P.M. Pacific Daylight Time, writes:
Dr. Vicars,
Thank You for the update about your new website.  I will be using it in my first ASL I class!  I hope you received payment for the curriculum package that we will be using in our high school starting in the fall.
i just wanted to tell you how inspiring you are and how you encourage hearing people like me to believe in ourselves, our abilities and using them to advance awareness to the deaf and  the hearing!
When we are told that we don't have the right, or we're not skilled enough, you prove all those things to be wrong!  thank You for allow God to use you to speak life into our lives!
I recommend you r website to all of my friends whoi express interest and recently i have decided to start an online class (which is now on hold, finishing my masters dsegree) which will be up and running next spring/summer,  I hope! 
Is getting ASL cert difficult?  Are they tougher on hearing people than Deaf?  Sometimes we don't want to see things this way buit this is life and if we read some of your responses, this is true....
Do you do workshoips?  if so, what is your fee.  Excluding air fare?
Keep up  he hard work...did i forget good?  Keep up the good hard work  may the Lord continue to bless you for having such compassion and an open mind!
Rene Brown
Getting ASLTA certified is not "overly difficult."  Especially considering the fact that you can rehearse your video submission. See for details. ask if they (evaluators?) are harder on Hearing people than they are on Deaf people. Quite honestly, based on 20 years of professional experience in the field of ASL testing and instruction, I'd have to say that a person's status as a hearing person has an impact on an interviewer's perception of that person's signing skills.  This impact may be subconscious, but I reckon it is still there.
This should not be the case...but it is.  To test could video a deaf person signing a monolog.  Then you could go to a different area of the country and do a survey.  You'd show the video to 50 ASL evaluators and tell them that the signer is Deaf.  You'd ask the evaluators to rate the signer's skill in using ASL on a scale of 1 to 100.  Then you'd find 50 other ASL evaluators and tell them that the signer is Hearing and ask them to rate the signer's skill in using ASL on a scale of 1 to 100.  Then you'd tally up the scores from the two groups to see if those that were told the signer was deaf gave higher scores than the group that were told the signer was hearing.  I'd bet money you'd get a statistically relevant difference in the two ratings. You mentioned you are pursuing a masters degree.  Suppose you go on for a doctorate you could do the above study as part of your dissertation (grin).
BUT don't let a little "cultural-bias" get in the way of an otherwise terrific career.  If you love the language and the people then by all means...plow ahead passionately.  Just be humble and supportive of the Deaf community and eventually you will find your place.
Yes, I do workshops.  My fee is $500 per day plus air, hotel, and car.  
(So, I arrive and you give me a bottle of compressed air, title to a hotel, and a new car.)
Take care. 
William Vicars, Ed.D.
Director CCE Online and Immersion ASL Programs
Asst. Professor, ASL Program (on-campus)
CSUS Sacramento
Department of Special Education, Rehabilitation, and School Psychology
6000 J St. - Eureka Hall, Room 308
Sacramento, CA 95819-6079
(916) 278-4121

In a message dated 7/21/2005 12:31:34 PM Pacific Daylight Time, writes:
Is the correct email address for Dr. Bill Vicars?
Donna F. Turner
If you are sending a "thank you," an ASL question, or an electronic payment, yes this is my address.  If you are sending a bill, a summons, or a complaint--then no...I don't have an address.  (heh)

In a message dated 7/21/2005 8:43:02 AM Pacific Daylight Time, writes:
Hi Dr. Vicars,
Thanks for your site!! I don't have time or money to go to a college class to learn ASL right now because I just had a baby!  But I just feel drawn to learn more about the Deaf Community and the language.  So - anyway - I was wondering if the sign for "our" -- as in, who is our teacher? -- is the same sign as "we/us" or if it's the sign for "you and me?" Or... is it a completely different sign?
It is a bit different.  Do the sign "WE" but use a curved hand.  (A curved hand is like a "b" hand but the thumb is along the side and the hand is curved as if scooping up water to take a drink from your hand.)  Touch the thumb side of the curved hand to your upper right chest area (if you are right handed) and then arch the hand in front of you over to your upper left chest area so that the pinkie side touches your chest.
Now, let me point out something very important.  If you were sitting in a room with other signers waiting for the class to begin and you wanted to know the name of your teacher you would sign: "WHO TEACHER?"  This would be understood as: "Who is the teacher?" Notice how we don't need the sign OUR? You would only need the sign OUR if you had to distinguish between your group's teacher and some other group's teacher.

Forwarded Message:
Dr. Vicars,

I am a hearing individual who has recently been blessed to encounter a
handful of Deaf friends via the Internet.  Over the past few months, they
have been gracious enough to teach me many things about Deaf

But I am increasingly bothered by their cruelty to other hearies, even me
at times, if we don't instantly understand one of the many cultural
differences or don't agree with their actions once we do understand.
Bluntness is one thing-- some of the things they say or ways they react
border on cruel.  And they want me to treat the offending "hearie" the same way--accusing me of all sorts of things if I don't.

I'm just really at a loss and am not sure where to go from here.   I could
use some insight as to the best way to approach these situations.   Any help
you could give would be greatly appreciated!  :)

- (name on file)
Dear (Name on File),

Allow me to share with you Vicars' Parable of the Camel:

A camel and a horse both arrived at a watering hole.  They both started drinking at the same time.  After a minute or two the horse was full and rode off thinking that the Camel was a strange fellow to be drinking so much water.  The Camel continued to drink, thinking the horse was a strange fellow for drinking so little.
Due to the nature of the desert, camels often go for relatively long periods of time between opportunities to drink. Then when they do have the opportunity to drink, they drink long and deep. This behavior has developed as a response to a challenge presented by the environment.
Deaf people traditionally have had to go for long periods of time between opportunities to communicate.  Prior to the advent of electronic communication and text messaging devices it was not uncommon for many Deaf to spend much of their week in a communication void--surrounded by Hearing people at their jobs and in the community--yet unable to participate in meaningful conversations.  For us, life was often a dry and barren "communication desert."  Deaf clubs and events provided a language oasis where we could drink deeply of human interaction...slurping up knowledge of old friends and acquaintances. 
Have you ever seen or been with a thirsty person?  I have. When presented with a glass of water they waste no time in gulping it down.  They hold the glass upside down pressed to their lips and tap the bottom in an effort to get every drop.
Deaf culture is a "high context" culture.  When we communicate we tend to include a great deal of contextual information or "related details."  We want to know all the details because it has been a long while since we've heard from or about our acquaintances. We stay late and extend our good-byes.  We chat at the door. We chat at the car. We chat through the window as we drive away.
We drink deeply from the well.
Hearing American culture is a "low context" culture.  Hearing people sip often throughout the day.  There is no need to drink deeply because they rarely get thirsty for communication.  They are surrounded by it.  Their clock radio wakes them with news and information.  They get dressed with the TV on.  They make a few phone calls on their cell phone on the way to work.  They chit chat with the guard at the gate or the receptionist. And so it goes throughout the day--a glut of communication.  They can afford to be picky regarding their communication partners.
Imagine if a truly thirsty person showed up at your door and asked for a drink? Someone who hadn't drank for three days.  Suppose you said, "Sure, let me filter and chill it for you." 
Chances are he would say, "Don't bother!  Tap water is fine!"

In the Hearing world there are many types of people.  The same is true of the Deaf world. There are nice camels and mean ones that will bite you.
There are nice Deaf people and there are mean Deaf people. 
My suggestion for you is to seek out nice Deaf friends.  Avoid those who are insecure and who go out of their way to hurt other's feelings. Seek out Deaf people who are polite to everybody, not just to others like themselves.

Dr. Vicars,

Thank you for answering my question.  Your advice was very timely, and I am taking steps to find some nicer camels :) 
Thanks :)
- (name on file)

In a message dated 7/27/2005 12:31:45 PM Pacific Daylight Time, writes:
Dear Bill Vicars~

Hello. I applaud your website it is very informative and helpful. The
fingerspelling site especially.

My name is Amanda and I am a  Masters of Social Work Student whom is
interested in working with the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. My interests
are family therapy, community building, and ASL. I have two ASL
classes under my belt and hope to finish more so that I will be fluent
when I interact with my Deaf friends.

One day I hope to operate my own private practice that serves the Deaf
and Hard of Hearing Community. I may not be Deaf but as a minority I
do share some understanding of how challenging family and societal
dynamics can be. I have a  firm vision about reconnecting people and
enhancing communication. Which is why ASL seems to be a natural fit
for what I want to accomplish with helping others.

As far as employment goes do you have any advice about specific
clinical jobs/ job titles that I could apply for that would assist me
in becoming more culturally immersed and conversationally fluent? I am
still in school but if I could see what to look for I can plan what
courses to take and go after certain employment experiences.

I look forward to hearing from you and practicing on your website.
Google the following search terms and you will see in the results quite a number of specific clinical jobs / job titles that you can pursue or at least familiarize yourself:
"social worker" +deaf +qualifications +"american sign language"
When you do your search, include the quotes and the plus marks exactly the way I have them.
Good luck. 
Dr. Vicars

In a message dated 7/20/2005 11:42:40 AM Pacific Daylight Time, sara.dalton@______com writes:

Hi Bill,

  I have really been considering learning sign language, or taking sign language courses so that I can use the knowledge for a career.  I have a huge interest in working with the deaf and feel that it would be an incredibly rewarding career.  I would also like to use the sign language I learn for a deaf ministry.  My question is.....if I take your course and learn everything I possibly can....will that get me anywhere as far as a career goes, or will I need to have a degree of some sort.  I'm asking this because my husband and I are getting ready to move and where we are moving I can't seem to find anywhere in the area that offers this.  I'm pretty sure I would need some sort of certification, but will I need a degree to actually have a career working with the deaf?  Any information you can give me would be greatly appreciated.

Have a great day!
Sara J. Dalton
Customer Care Advocate


You should not register for my course.  Only do so if you need documentation.
You might want to get the CDs so you can self-study.
Whether you can find a job working with Deaf people without certification or a degree depends on where you live.  Places like Southern California have many, many Deaf people and thus have more jobs and a wider variety of jobs not requiring degrees.
The fact that you can't seem to find an ASL, Deaf Studies, or Interpreting program at any of the colleges in the area to which you are moving indicates that there are not many Deaf in your area and thus it is unlikely that there are many jobs.
Start with the end in mind. Reverse the process.  Look for Deaf-related jobs in the area.  Then check out the qualifications for those jobs and that will answer your question.  If you can't find any jobs, then it wouldn't have mattered what your qualifications were unless you are willing to move someplace else where they do have jobs.
Sometimes Deaf Schools hire "developmentalists" to do basic skills development work with deaf students. Many of these jobs do not require certification.  Some states still do not require interpreters to be certified to intepret for pay.  Deaf organizations occasionally hire hearing people to be secretaries and receptionists.
Be careful about two things:
1.  Don't develop a patronizing attitude. Hearing people wanting to "save" Deaf people is a cliche in the Deaf Community.  Give it a rest.  Don't minister to Deaf people, minister WITH Deaf people.  Feel free to fellowship, support, and contribute, but for heaven's sake, don't patronize.
2.  Don't go out of your way to train for and take a job that could have been filled by a Deaf person.  There are so many wonderful things you can do with your life...why take a job that could be wonderfully filled by a member of the Deaf community?  I used to teach computer networking classes.  (I'm hard of hearing and use hearing aids.)  But it got to the point where I couldn't hear my students well enough. It was very frustrating.  I was constantly running around the classroom trying to get within a few feet of each student that had a question because I couldn't stand at the front of the room and hear what they were saying.  I decided to get a full-time job teaching ASL so I could teach in an environment that didn't depend on being able to hear.  I went back to school and earned a doctorate in Deaf Studies / Deaf Education.  Now I very much enjoy my career.  I earn much less teaching ASL than I did teaching computer networking, but my hearing loss is no longer a detriment.
Good luck in your efforts.
Dr. Bill
In a message dated 7/20/2005 1:37:40 PM Pacific Daylight Time, writes:
Thank you so much for the advice.  I will be moving up near the Chicago area, and while there may not be many schools in the area that I am moving that offer sign language courses, it is possible that I could find work in Chicago.  I simply will not be able to drive that far for school as I will also have to work full time while taking classes.  
I am actually more interested in either teaching sign language, and maybe starting with interpreting to gain more experience...or working with hearing impaired children in some way.  When I said that I wanted to be involved in a deaf ministry, I meant for my church, there is a deaf ministry that works with the deaf within the church.  Not necessarily a deaf outreach program or anything like that.  
I spoke to a woman recently that is also a sign language instructor in the Tennessee area and she said it is the most rewarding and fulfilling thing she has ever done and she has made so many wonderful friends in the deaf community because she can communicate, whereas I do not know the first thing about sign language and have been approached by a deaf person and was unable to communicate with them.  Anyhow, I thank you again for your input.  I will definitely take it into consideration.  

Have a great day!
Sara J. Dalton
Customer Care Advocate
If you wish to become an ASL teacher then certainly you should go for it.
Don't let anything I said in my recent email dissuade you.
In truth I'm of the opinion that the more people that learn ASL...the more will want to learn it...thus creating a snowball effect where everyone will want to know it--which will create even more jobs.  Not all Deaf see it that way.  But I do.

In a message dated 7/20/2005 10:51:51 P.M. Pacific Daylight Time, writes:
Dear Dr how are you?
I hope you remember me and my MSc thesis which was  about a Hypermedia Learning Tool for Ethiopian Sign Language. It was basically aimed at teaching ESL in Amharic structure (Signed Amharic). Amharic is our national Language.
By now I have finished my work with Excellent grade and started to prepare a synopsis for my PhD, hoping to get the chance of continuing my research in abroad universities. I said this because there is no PhD program of study in the area in our country.
I am planning to work on a translation system for Ethiopian Sign Language with the basic aim of translating Ethiopian Sign Language into Amharic language and/or vice versa. Before going to the core work I  may need to study the grammatical structure of Ethiopian Sign Language, since no work has been done in this regard. 
Regarding my  thesis output , my advisor Dr Lynette Van Zijl from Stellenbosch University  has promised me to upload it on the web so that any one (including you ) may see it.
Now to the aim of this email: I thank you for all your cooperation you did for me during my thesis. I also have acknowledged you on my paper.
Kind regards,
Enadale Asefa
That is terrific!  When you get your thesis output uploaded to the web let me know so I can post a link to it and help you publicize it to the global signing community.
Keep up the great work!

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