An ezine for students and teachers of
American Sign Language.

spacer.gif (42 bytes) spacer.gif (42 bytes) Volume 1, Issue 27   

 October, 2005   

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*  A Canadian questions a sign for CANADA
*  The two-handed sign for ASK vs the index finger sign for ASK
Teaching and testing dyslexic ASL students
*  ASL in Zambia--the Kettson Kunda Project (help people in Africa learn ASL)
How do you sign "St. Patrick's Day?"
Philadelphia Interpreter Questions Cuing
Southington Ohio man deaf in one ear and can't hear too good out of the other
*  How to take a "fall" in ASL
Is being Deaf an excuse for rudeness?
Orangeburg, South Carolina Woman wants to get certified
How to Access the ASLpah Archives
*  Choosing a Thesis Question
Dr. Estes not alone in wishing for lab time

A Canadian questions a sign for CANADA

In a message dated 8/18/2005 11:23:50 AM Pacific Daylight Time, writes:

Bill Vicars,

Hello,  My name is Aylene Gracie.  I am the hearing mother of a hearing one and a half year old...     My daughter benefited greatly from using signs in her pre-verbal months and has a really extensive spoken vocabulary now thanks in part to that early exposure to communicating.  Very early on, I ditched the baby signs book and decided I want us to learn ASL. My daughter doesn't need to rely on signs any more but she still really enjoys signing with me.  My hope is to keep advancing our signing in hopes that we both end up knowing ASL and are able to forge friendships in our local deaf community up here in Ottawa, Canada. 

... I now have our family membership in the deaf community group and I'm just working on prepping for my first conversations (where I'm sure I'll have plenty of adjusting to do
to line up with our local dialect). 

Speaking of local dialect, I want to ask about the sign for Canada.  I've been watching our government channel (CPAC) where they have an ASL interpreter translating the question period and it seems we have a very different sign for Canada up here in ... well... Canada.  I know that the signs in ASL for various countries may vary from how it is signed in that country but I'm very surprised that, with Canada so close geographically, that we didn't end up having a common sign for Canada.  The sign I keep seeing on TV looks like the opposite motion of the sign 'day', with the right arm sweeping up instead of down and it is initialized, with the right hand forming the letter 'C'.   Have you seen this?  Would it be labeled as signed English because of the initialization?  Thanks again for sharing.

I shared your site with my toastmasters club in a talk on exercising their non-verbal communication by trying some ASL.   I showed them how one can change the meaning of the signed sentence  MANY APPLES YOU by using the various facial expressions to get:

You have many apples  (slight head nod)
You don't have many apples  (head shake)
Do you have many apples?   (yes/no ? face)
How many apples do you have?  (Wh ?  Face)

Did I get it right? I mean, should I have also used the sign for HAVE in there or was I correct in assuming it was implied?  The demo was a hit. None of them had any idea how important facial expression was to ASL.  Most people who don't know ASL assume that the facial features used in sign language simply add tone but it's fascinating to see examples where the meaning really changes dramatically.

Thanks again for sharing your talent, time and enthusiasm, 
Aylene Gracie
Nortel: Wireline Security Services

I love your "apples" demo.  Excellent work! 
You have the right idea on all the facial expressions.
The only thing I might mention (in case you  didn't know) is that the sign "HOW-MANY" moves a bit upward, whereas the sign MANY moves forward slightly. 

Thanks for sharing that variation of the sign for Canada.  It seems to me that somewhere in the recesses of my brain I can recall having seen that sign once.  But then, I don't watch Canadian TV.

I wouldn't label something as Signed English just because it is "initialized."  Many people have that reaction, but if every initialized sign were eliminated we would lose many very common ASL signs like "FAMILY."  If I happen to come across a different sign for Canada or find out more information on signs for Canada done by Deaf Canadians I'll post it to my website under "Canada."

The two-handed sign for ASK vs the index finger sign for ASK

In a message dated 8/19/2005 5:12:45 AM Pacific Daylight Time, writes:
When would you use 'ask' (two hands together) versus 'ask'  index finger? 
- Linda
Let's call the two handed version "ASK" and the one-handed version "ASK-to."
The one handed version (ASK-to) is much more "directional."  You can inflect (change) the direction of the movement of the sign and the palm orientation of the sign to establish who is the subject and who is the object of your sentence.
I use the "two handed" ASK version in more formal situations and occasionally as a noun.  The two handed version is similar in usage to the English word "request."  "Request" can be used as a noun or as a verb.
The ASK sign is less transitive than ASK-to. By transitive I mean "referring to an object." 
For example in the sentence, "Go ask your mom," the object is "mom."  You would sign, "ASK-to MOM" with one hand. You would do the sign in the direction of the child's mother if she is around.
Compare that with the sentence "He has a request."  This would generally be signed "HE HAVE ASK."  Or more likely, "HE WANT FAVOR" or "HE WANT KNOW, YOU-MIND..."
By the way, if you wanted to sign, "He has a question," you might use "HE HAVE QUESTION-MARK," (using the variation that draws a question mark in the air).
In a message dated 8/24/2005 4:16:14 A.M. Pacific Daylight Time, writes:
so in a sentence "he asked me for money" would it be 2 hands, like a request? Or, "I asked him not to go out" 2 hands?  Or, " I'll ask him to stop at your house"  Or "I asked her to baby-sit"... I'm still not sure... does it matter?  Is the 2 handed ask used less frequently?  Sorry to be dense.
- Linda
These are two different signs. Each has it's own meanings and usage.
I've actually seen the sign REQUEST used to mean "pretty please."  For example, "John" might ask Mary for a favor.  Then as she is thinking about it, John does the sign "request" and holds it with a pleading look on his face.  The sign REQUEST, when done with a double movement, can mean "pray" or "plead with."
The sign ASK-TO is not used in that manner.
In the sentences you listed if you used the sign ASK-TO the meaning would be "casual and straightforward."  If you used the sign REQUEST the meaning would be more serious, formal, or pleading.
Additionally, the sign REQUEST, can done at the end of a prayer to mean "amen."  ("REQUEST" is one of four popular ways to sign AMEN.)
ahh, the lightbulb is starting to flicker - so if I said "when I go to work I will ask for time off" that would be 2 hands? But if I said "the boys were wild so I asked them to leave" it would be one hand?
- Linda

Telling someone that you are going to seek time off work would indeed lean toward using the sign REQUEST rather than the sign ASK-TO.  It could go either way though depending on the relationship between the employee and the boss, the level of confidence of the employee, the difficulty of the process of asking (while passing in the hall or while sitting down in the boss's office).
Now, your second sentence would actually use the sign "TOLD."  You are using a hearing euphemism.  "I asked them to leave" is a polite Hearing way of saying that you told them to leave.  In ASL we are more direct. You wouldn't inform your friend that you asked two rowdy boys to leave.  You'd inform your friend that you told two rowdy boys to leave. You did not really ask them did you?  You did not have your eyebrows up in a yes / no question expression as you "asked them to leave." You did not wait at the end of your sentence for them to reply "yes, no, or we'll think about it."  Instead you had your face in a stern facial expression with tight lips and a furrowed brow and you told them leave.

oh, wow... you've given me allot to think about - it's really hard to think of those things when I'm signing to my friend in conversational English... I'm concentrating on the signs rather than the concept... of course she understands what I'm trying to say, but I wish I could get it right.  It's hard when I only spend an hour here or there with her, every few days... thanks again for all the time you've taken to explain to me.

Teaching and testing dyslexic ASL students:

In a message dated 8/23/2005 4:01:36 P.M. Pacific Daylight Time, signingcs3@______ writes:

Hello, Dr. Vicars.

My name is Roddey C______.  I am a NAD Level 4 interpreter, and a member of RID, and I am very familiar with your website. My wife and I recently moved to the Charlotte, NC/Rock Hill, SC area so that I can go to a local seminary and go on part-time staff with an area church. I am writing to you to seek your advice.

Two weeks ago, the school that my boys attend told me about a dyslexic student in the eleventh grade who, due to his dyslexia, he is unable to earn his foreign language credits in the traditional fashion. They then asked me if I would consider teaching ASL as his foreign language during his junior and senior years.

I would like to ask you a few questions in relation to teaching ASL in a high school setting:

1) Have you ever worked with dyslexic hearing children who have been seeking to learn ASL as a foreign language? If so, what observations do you have that you feel may be helpful as we proceed with meeting his needs?

2) In general, it would seem that the two semesters that you have on your website could normally be completed in a one-year time span in high school. However, with his disability, lessons typically take longer. Therefore, I have discussed with the school the idea of stretching the two semesters into two years. Do you feel that this is a workable arrangement?

3) Unless I have misinterpreted the curriculum, it seems that as it moves along, it has less and less material about Deaf Culture, Deaf History, and Grammar, and more of a focus on vocabulary. I would like to add more emphasis on learning about famous Deaf men and women (both in the secular field and in the church), various Deaf cultures and languages in the World. Do you have any thoughts about how to add such things into the curriculum?

Thank you for your time and your consideration of this matter. I look forward to hearing from you soon.


Roddey C________  / 

Hi Roddey,
I have had a number of dyslexic students in my classes over the years.
In general I recommend:
Use "proficiency-based" grading rather than "achievement-based."  What I mean by that is for you to judge him on whether he can perform certain functions in the language such as introducing himself, discussing his family, making requests, responding to requests--rather than grading him on having memorized pre-specified stories, sentences, signs, or grammar rules.
Along with this, consider "portfolio based" grading.  The point of a beginning language class is to expose students to new cultures, alternate ways of thinking, and give them a taste for the language to see if they might actually have an affinity for it. These goals lend themselves to portfolio development.  He could develop a video portfolio over a period of time.  Various video clips could be organized onto a CD or DVD, thus demonstrating his knowledge and skills in the second language.  Within a few years of taking a language class, most students have forgotten almost everything they learned. 
The idea of stretching two semesters to two years is an excellent idea depending on the grading system.  A "cumulative" approach to testing would be made worse by stretching out the course.  If you are not in a "use it" environment  you will "lose it."  The student would have to constantly be reviewing the material over the two year period.  While this would be helpful in terms of the student developing a genuine understanding of the language, it would be a much bigger investment in time for both the student and the proctor.
Yes, you are right, as my curriculum currently stands, the later lessons contain fewer cultural and historical components.  That is a temporary situation.  I will be adding more components as time goes on.  (Just not enough hours in the day, eh?).
What I recommend for now is to use various "library" topics (posted under the "library" heading at to flesh out the later lessons.
Just so you will know...I am constantly updating the curriculum.  Currently I'm working on making room for what I call "response vocabulary" to all of the lessons.  Additionally I will add many readings quizzes.
Take care, cordially,

ASL in Zambia--the Kettson Kunda Project

In a message dated 8/25/2005 7:43:53 P.M. Pacific Daylight Time, writes:
Dear Dr Vicars
Thank you for the newsletter. It is very educative and informative.
However, I am in Zambia and am following up the ASL. I did the basics at our local Deaf Association. But polishing up is a challenge for me and some of my friends. We do not have ASL materials available. I am asking if you could help connect me to some good Samaritans who could DONATE some old ASL materials such as ASL standard dictionaries, interpreter text book, any CD-ROM carrying ASL material including those willing to exchange information. I would really appreciate very much any help you would offer.
My address is:
Kettson Kunda
Suite 407A, 4th Floor, Kenneth Kaunda House
P.O. Box FW 143,
Freedomway, Lusaka, Zambia

...The deaf community is really growing up especially those that want to study the Bible. So we are struggling a number of us but as I indicated, we do not have ASL reference materials.
I look forward to your next newsletter.
Sincerely yours,

I'll initiate a project to help out.  I'll post your email to my newsletter and encourage people to donate ASL materials.

Dear ASL Heroes,
How about it?  Do you have an ASL textbook gathering dust on your shelf?  Want to reach out and touch the lives of people in Zambia?  People in this South African country have a life expectancy of 39 years.  Over 16 percent of the population have AIDS. (source:
Education and communication are critical.
Those of you who invest the time to send a book to Kettson please do let me know what you sent and when you sent it.  It's be great to know your first name and the city/state you are from.
Note:  a caveat (warning or caution) to readers of this newsletter: be careful about the types of information you share with people from "distant places." If you wish to send a book or some other ASL material I think that would be fine.  But I personally wouldn't "send or wire money," pay "taxes," provide a  telephone number, or any kind of account information to someone who contacted me from another country.  Don't do it.  Send a book instead.
--Bill V.

How do you sign "St. Patrick's Day?"

In a message dated 8/25/2005 2:38:54 P.M. Pacific Daylight Time, writes:

I want to know how you sign St. Patrick's Day or you just spell S-T
P-A-T-R-I-C-K then you sign day?
The most widespread sign I've seen for St. Patrick's day is to twist a bent "V" hand on the upper arm area and then sign or spell "day." The twisting movement represents "pinching" someone who is not wearing green.

Philadelphia Interpreter Questions Cuing

In a message dated 8/28/2005 8:04:36 P.M. Pacific Daylight Time, writes:

Dear Bill,

I stumbled onto your website this evening while looking up information about teaching sign language to recovering stroke patients.
I started interpreting in 1984, graduating from the second (!) ITP class at Phoenix College in Phoenix, AZ . I still love my work. 
We moved to the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania area from Arizona (I know, I know) about 9 years ago.  One of the things that I found is a huge regional variation in signs from West to East.  People tell me that Philadelphia signs are even more unique, due largely in part to the older Deaf population in the area who were educated at the PA School for the Deaf.  (I have found, though, that Philadelphians like to consider themselves unique in just about everything.) 
I recently had the opportunity to attend a workshop that taught the basics of cued speech.  Usually one to scorn what I consider to be fads, I was convinced to go because the presenter was also an interpreter.  I needed to put in some time for my employer, and, I reasoned, it couldn't hurt.  The presenter was based in the Washington, D.C./Gallaudet area and had a long list of credentials behind her name.  She told us that she was in charge of the 'cuing' students and their transliterators in the school district where she was employed.  Revelation number one:  Never having seen a transliterator at work, I asked if one could stand in front of a classroom and cue as fast as I could interpret.  She assured me that not only was it possible, but happened every day. 
I asked her just how prevalent cuing was and how well it was accepted in the Deaf community.  Her response indicated that there are cuers all over the United States, and that the Deaf community, especially at Gallaudet, is very accepting of cued speech because not all Gallaudet students sign and therefore embrace many communication modalities. 

In the twenty-some years that I have been working as an interpreter, I have never seen anyone utilizing cued speech. Is this because most of my experience has been in the California-influenced half of the U.S. with its strong ASL bias, or has cued speech actually become an 'accepted' means of communication across the nation and I've just missed the boat?
All the best--
Mary Cannon
There are indeed a "considerable" number of cuers out there.  But they are still a very small minority in the Deaf Community.
Here is a simple method to help you get a feel for the situation: 
Using quotes, type "cued speech" into and you will get around 36,800 hits.
Type "American Sign Language" into Google and you get 621,000 hits.
Type "sign language" into Google and you get 3,390,000 hits.
Dr. Bill

Deaf in one ear and can't hear too good out of the other:

In a message dated 8/9/2005 7:18:05 P.M. Pacific Daylight Time, DJ3262 writes:

Hey Dr. Vicars,
    I'll be 37 in Sept. Due to health reasons, i do not work or drive. I live with my parents. I was born deaf in my right ear and about 3 and a half years ago started losing my hearing in my left ear. I can hear sounds but can't make them out. Which is why I'm learning to sign. I would like to meet some deaf people, but i can't find any. I live in Southington, OH. I have looked on the internet under: deaf community, deaf events, deaf chats. Nothing local. I have seen deaf people in restaurants, but at the time i didn't think about going up to them and talking. Do you have any suggestions? Thanks,

You should join the Ohio Association of the Deaf and then ask the members of that association to help you make connections in Southington.
Check out:
Good luck. 
Dr. Bill

How to take a "fall" in ASL:

In a message dated 8/31/2005 9:27:21 A.M. Pacific Daylight Time, momme89@ writes:

In our ASL 4 class we were working on trip/fall sequences.  The teacher used her non-dominant hand in a flat b hand-shape as the “ground” and her dominant v hand-shape as the unfortunate “person” tripping, stumbling, sliding, falling, etc.  During her lecture I noticed the flat b hand was sometimes palm up and sometimes palm down.  It seemed to me there was some reason for this that I was missing.  So, I asked.  At first she indicated it was always palm down (the way it was in the sequence she just demonstrated).  But, then she quickly realized she had been signing it palm up as well in other sequences.  She worked through some scenarios and attempted to sort out when up and when down was appropriate.  She considered one way was for outside one for in; but, quickly discarded that.  Finally she said it was a curious question and that she thought they were interchangeable.

I’m not questioning her evaluation; but, I’m curious as to your take on this fine point of the language.  It also seems to me like a point you’d be interested in.  When you sign such a sequence is the flat b hand palm up, down, does it depend on the situation?  Is there some subtle inference as to the palm orientation of the non-dominant hand? 


FALL-[non-dominant hand (ndh) palm up] = Fall (in general).
FALL-[non-dominant hand (ndh) palm down] = Fall (from a specified surface or location). 

The FALL-[ndh-palm down] sign requires prior establishment of what it is you are falling off of. 

Which is to say, it feels funny (not right) to sign FALL-[ndh-palm down] without my having first told you where I was standing.
Here is an example of appropriate "FALL" usage.
YOU:  WOW HAPPEN-(wh)?  (What happened to you!?!)
ME:  YESTERDAY FALL-[ndh-palm up] ME   (I took a fall yesterday)
YOU:  OH-I-SEE, RIGHT! YOU HIKE YOU.  (Oh that's right, you went hiking!)
ME:  YES, KNOW W-I-D-O-W P-E-A-K?   (Yeah.  Are you familiar with Widow's Peak?)
YOU:  [nod] YES
ME:  [Use classifier "B" hands to describe the shape of a steep hill.)  I STAND-(Classifier "V" at top of hill)-[ndh palm down]. FALL-[ndh-palm down] [Use classifier "V" to show tumbling movement.]
A factor influencing the choice of "palm up" or "palm down" has to do with the amount of context that has been or needs to be established during the conversation.   The palm down version of FALL is typically inflected to carry more information that the palm up version.  For example "FALL-from high place" "FALL from sloping surface" etc.  Thus we will tend to use FALL-[ndh palm down] during the first stages of the conversation to establish context. 
Later, after the listener has a firm grasp of the context of the fall, (how high was it, the slope of the ground, whether the surface was moving), the signer may decrease the use of the specific FALL-[ndh-palm down] sign and use the more general FALL-[ndh-palm up] sign because there is a reduced need for such contextual details since the details were established earlier in the conversation.  The reverse can also be true.  Perhaps at first the signer is not interested in providing many details.  He may simply use the palm up version.  But then the listener asks for more specifics.  As the signer becomes more specific he will tend to use the FALL-[ndh-palm down] version to convey additional details.
Another factor has to do with the "ergonomics of signing."  Suppose a person is describing a complex scenario and has established referents on both the left and right hand sides of the signing area.  That person might tend to use the palm down version of FALL  when signing in right half of the signing space simply because it is more comfortable on the wrist.
Take care, cordially,

Is being Deaf an excuse for rudeness?

In a message dated 8/2/2005 3:32:57 PM Pacific Daylight Time, A student writes:

Hi Dr. Bill.
I am beginning to understand Deaf culture enough not to be offended when my dear Deaf friend calls me "old" or makes comments about people.  However, what do I say to other hearing people when they ask what my friend is saying .. and I fear the answer might offend them?
Dear student,
Within the Deaf Community there are polite people and there are rude people. There are people who are fun to be around because they find the best in others.  There are toxic individuals who make others around them sick by their very presence.
While it is true that those of us in the Deaf Community tend to be much more direct in our communication, that doesn't give us license to hurt others without regard to their feelings.  Directness and rudeness are two different things.  The other day I was at church and a friend named Walter mentioned that I should iron my shirt.  It had been a busy week and the only dress shirt I had was one that I didn't get out of the dryer in time. I wore it anyway and figured it wasn't "that" noticeable. Well, apparently the wrinkles were noticeable and he mentioned it to me similar to the way a father would mention untied shoe laces to his child. There was no malice--it was simply information being shared.
On the other hand if he mentioned it twice during the same meeting...or if he started pointing it out to others, or if he added a comment like "looks stupid" -- then his behavior would have been "rude."
When you are in the Deaf Community would you like your Deaf friend to point out cultural rules?  If you were being rude, would you like him to "educate" you so you could better get along with his friends?
If that is the case, then I suggest to you it works both ways.  If he truly is your friend, and a decent person, he will not desire to hurt the feelings of your hearing friends any more that you would wish to hurt his Deaf friends. 
If you are close enough to him to have built up a bond of respect and trust it is certainly proper to "educate" your friend regarding your culture.
As a hearing person must be aware that there exists an awesome and terrible imbalance of socioeconomic power between our two cultures.  If Superman and a normal man were to both yell their opinion...the normal man's would be lost as an insignificant whisper amidst the overwhelming volume of the man of steel.  That doesn't mean one opinion is right and the other is wrong.  They are, after all, just opinions.
You are striving to become bicultural (aware of and respectful of two cultures).
Is your friend also striving to become "bicultural?"  If so...there is no reason for him to go throughout his life offending others (of any culture) and claiming that it is okay because he is Deaf.
Dr. Bill
In a message dated 8/3/2005 12:56:52 PM Pacific Daylight Time, writes:
Very good point!  Yes I do try to tell my friend what is acceptable in hearing culture.  Of course, we both enjoy a bit of "gossip" about strangers.  I hope they don't understand sign!  (blush.)

However, at the point of contact I can't stop to educate him.  When he first met a friend of mine, he exclaimed that she is fat (she is!).  She asked, "What did he say?"  I replied, "That you are big.  It's acceptable in Deaf culture."  I seemed to be the one most embarrassed by the exchange.
Dear Student,
Throughout your relationship this should not happen more than a few times. Especially if you are letting him know how his statements affect others.
If he persists in such behavior, then I'd say your friend has issues beyond those covered by cultural differences.


Orangeburg, South Carolina Woman wants to get certified:

In a message dated 8/31/2005 9:22:57 A.M. Pacific Daylight Time, kizzie@______ writes:
Dr. Vicars,
My name is Kizzie and I am an interpreter in Orangeburg SC and I need to get certified.  I need to know about classes and how to become certified.  If you could help me or tell me where I can help me or tell me about some classes I would appreciate it.

Thank You,
Check with your State's Division of Occupational Licensing.  Ask them what organization runs your state's interpreter certification program.
 If that doesn't work. Check and seek out your state's chapter of Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf then ask them for local information.
Dr. Bill

How to Access the ASLpah Archives:

In a message dated 8/31/2005 3:48:45 A.M. Pacific Daylight Time, Anna writes:
I didn't receive your newsletter (it was blank). Can u pls resend.
Visit: and scroll down the left side under "ARCHIVES" until you get to the last one (#25) then click on it and you'll see the newsletter.  Any problems...let me know.

Choosing a Thesis Question:

Recently I responded to a terrific friend of mine who is currently formulating a thesis question.  This was my advice:

Dear Chandra,
I would recommend your thesis question be something that:

1.  You are passionate about
2.  Can later transform into a relatively high selling book.
3.  Can become a good presentation topic for which people will pay you gobs of money to lecture on.
4.  Doesn't cost an arm and a leg to research.  For example, some people decide to conduct research that involves conducting a number of surveys at various locations or interviewing certain groups of people.  That sounds great until you factor in the cost of travel.  You want to pick something that you can research for free.  Save the expensive "travel-based" research for later as something to do "on the side" when you are being paid to travel and lecture on your original research.  You fly someplace, lecture, get paid, then stay an extra day or two to research your "next" book.

It really helps to start with the end in mind and work backward toward your topic.  I just remember seeing so many students in my MA/Ed.D program pick topics that were easy, fun, or interesting on the surface, but later turned out to be uninspiring, short-lived, inapplicable, and relegated to gathering dust on a shelf.  It is much better to search out an ongoing need that exists in the community--one that you are passionate about and would love to study independent of the thesis requirement.  In so doing you end up helping other people, improving your financial situation, having fun, becoming smart(er), and completing your school assignment.

<<In a message dated 8/19/2005 5:12:45 AM Pacific Daylight Time, lwilt@ writes:
hi, Bill - I haven't bothered you in a long I've got a quick question for you... I saw a woman signing and she was saying 'I don't think so' by putting her 'one' finger to her cheek and then swinging it palm-out... sort of like 'don't mind' but on the cheek instead of the nose.  Is that an actual sign or is it her way of doing it, instead of on the forehead?
Hope you're having a great summer!  It's flying by so fast!
Take care,
Linda Wilt>>
Hi Linda,
When I sign the phrase "I don't think so" I just touch the tip of my index finger to the side of my forehead while shaking my head and scrunching my face a bit.   I don't add any sort of sign to indicate "so."  When I'm signing casually I might do that sign off the cheek.  So I think your friend is doing an actual sign for "don't think so." 
I doubt she is using an actual "reversal of orientation" to establish negation.  While that is common for the sign "don't know," I haven't seen any widespread usage of "reversal of orientation" for the sign "I don't think so."
Sure, there is a "possibility" that the woman is indeed reversing the sign on purpose, but the "swinging palm out" movement you describe, is probably just "movement epenthesis."  Movement epenthesis is the movement of your hand "in between" signs.  She might be swinging her hand out to a neutral position, or just thinking hard and not paying attention to what her hand is doing.  If you see others in your area doing the same variation, or if you find out more information about that sign, please do let me know.
Dr. Bill

Dr. Estes not alone in wishing for lab time

In a message dated 8/22/2005 2:13:39 PM Pacific Daylight Time, writes:

Hello Bill !  I hear so much about you, and thanks for including me.  I have been teaching ASL at Solano Community College for about 5 years.  I am attaching my Vitae, just because I understand there are some unqualified people out there.  I would love to require some "homework" for my students using your website.  Is there a way that they can email their practice session times to me ?  I have been trying (in vain) to get the college to give me lab time, but this would be a nice alternative.  Thanks for your help.  By the way, I have worked with Carol Maier, which department is ASL taught from there ? 

Thanks again and I hope to collaborate with end up with a lot of my students.

Dr. Colleen H. Estes
School Psychologist

Hi Colleen,
You are welcome to require homework from my website.
I know how you feel about wanting lab time for your students.  We don't have that at Sac State yet either.
I'm working on setting up a series of online study activities that end with quizzes.  But here's the kick...there will be 40 versions of the same quiz.  Heh...each student will do a slightly different version of the quiz so that they would have to do their own work instead of copying from their friend. 
I'm really having a ball with this online stuff.  When I get the quizzes set up I'll certainly announce it in my newsletter. Plus, within a month or so I'll have my new workbooks ready to post for (free) download.  I'm developing them now.  Thanks to your request I'll consider how they might also serve as "lab time."  Neat idea.  The ASL classes here are hosted from the Department of Special Education, Rehabilitation, and School Psychology.
Take care,

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