A journal for students and teachers of
American Sign Language.

spacer.gif (42 bytes) spacer.gif (42 bytes) Volume 1, Issue 32   

 March, 2006   

spacer.gif (42 bytes)

spacer.gif (42 bytes)

Hello ASL Heroes!

In a message dated 3/16/2006 8:01:56 A.M. Pacific Standard Time, writes:
Hi Bill-  I'm reading through your information on Deaf culture, and I've talked with a previous sign instructor about Deaf culture.   I looked at your comment about the Deaf Culture Police, and certain methods of gaining a person's attention being unacceptable from a hearing person.   I also remember an incident many years ago in which a Deaf person approached me, was signing to me trying to communicate something, and having had NO ASL experience at that time, I (not realizing what a no-no it was) handed the person a piece of paper to write it down so I could figure out what she was trying to tell me.   The person became furious, then waved her hands at me and stomped off.   (I know why now). 

It seems to me (an outsider) that individuals who are Deaf have a huge intolerance for hearing individuals, and seem to have a real prejudice when it comes to accommodating a hearing person's differences.    Hearing individuals seem to be almost shunned.    Is this a correct perception?   It really seems as though there is a strong resistance in the Deaf Community to accommodating a hearing person's  "ASL disability" or "deaf culture disability".    


Cindi Carnes

First of all, you seem to be a very intelligent, caring individual.  I applaud your expedition into the Deaf World. My comments below may seem sharp, but are meant to be so only in the sense that a surgeons scalpel is intended to be sharp. The surgeon himself has no desire to cause pain to the patient, but rather to deal with the underlying issue in an efficient, effective manner.
Here are my thoughts on the topic:
You use loaded words like "intolerance, shunned, and prejudice" to refer to Deaf behavior.
You then use mitigating words like "differences" to refer to Hearing behavior.
Deaf people prefer to be with other Deaf people for many reasons, the chief among them being the ability to communicate at high speeds.
Imagine yourself in a sports car on a multi-lane highway.  Now imagine it is a 75 mph zone but in every lane, driving side by side, there are slow-pokes doing 30 miles per hour.  How would you feel after just a few moments of having to drive behind these people?  Now imagine having to commute to work everyday there and back behind these slow pokes?  Now imagine they are doing 15 mph instead of 30.  Now imagine they frequently break down and ask you to tow them to their destination.
All you want to do is get to work and get home and you'd like to do it at full highway speeds.  Can you imagine the frustration?
Now, imagine one of the lanes frees up and starts moving at 75 miles per hour.  Would you hang around behind the slowpoke, or would you hastily move away from the slowpoke and get into the fast lane?  It isn't that you have anything against the slowpoke.  You don't really know him.  You just want to get to where you are going and getting in the fast lane is the least frustrating, most enjoyable way of getting to your destination.
It is the same for Deaf people every day of their lives.  They are surrounded by Hearing people and their slow-poke signing.  Sure, we tend to avoid you, but not because we hate you.  We avoid you in the same way you get out from behind the slowpoke on the highway. It is nothing personal.
Another example is a bee or wasp.  How do you react around wasps?   You tend to avoid them because they can (and sometimes do) sting you.  If you are sitting at the kitchen table near a closed window and a wasp comes up to the window and buzzes against the glass how do you react?  You get uncomfortable don't you?  You feel uncomfortable even though the window is closed and it is totally irrational to think the wasp could break the window and sting you.
It is the same for many Deaf people.  We have been stung by hearing con-artists, mechanics, contractors, and medical professionals. And maybe not us personally, but we know of others who have been stung.  And just the fear of getting stung is enough to cause us Deaf people to behave the way we do around Hearing people.
I need to state this very clearly:  It is absurdly easier for a Hearing person to learn to sign than it is for a Deaf person to learn to talk.
This fact seems lost on many Hearing people.  They expect us to accommodate them.  That is like expecting "Interstate Highway 5" to slow down to accommodate bicycles.  That is absurd.  If you want to get on the highway you should speed up...not the other way around.  If you are incapable of driving at highway speeds, content yourself to driving around town at 30mph (attending deaf events and sitting on the edges doing more watching than signing). I have a bike.  I often bike to work.  I don't label motorists as prejudicial and resistant to accommodating me when they speed past at much higher speeds.  I realize my place on the road and I enjoy the ride for the exercise.
If I want to be accepted on the road I have to invest in a faster vehicle.  If Hearing people want to be accepted in the Deaf Community they need to invest in ASL classes, videos, lurking time, and tutors.
Consider how medical doctors feel when they go to a party or to church.  Everyone and their dog comes up to them and starts listing off symptoms for some free medical advice. So what do doctors do?  They get unlisted phone numbers. 
Do you label doctors as prejudiced because they say, "Let's schedule you an appointment at the office so I can run a few tests" (instead of helping you right there at the party).  They don't want to waste their party time on you.  They want to go chat with their friends and have a good time. Do you label them as impatient because they don't want to talk to you in that circumstance and want to be paid for their knowledge?
If you want a Deaf person to be patient with your slow signing, you could simply PAY one of us to be patient with you. (That works really well, heh.)  Hire a tutor.
Okay, now on to a separate topic:  You state that handing a deaf person a piece of paper to write something down is a "no-no."  Who told you that? I don't think there is anything wrong in general with handing a Deaf person a piece of paper and pencil.
While it is likely the Deaf person "stomped off" in frustration, it is also possible that there are other reasons. Maybe she couldn't write very well or at least couldn't write the particular concept she had in mind and was thus embarrassed?
The Deaf person approached you, not the other way around. You were innocently trying to communicate via a time-tested approach.
Dr. Bill


In a message dated 4/1/2006 11:51:30 AM Pacific Standard Time, robertcgro writes:
...we can't assume that the majority of Hearing people could learn to Sign any easier than the majority of Deaf people could learn to speak. Some will find it easier than others, some impossible, and some inbetween.
According to "ease" refers to freedom from difficulty, hardship, or effort.
Is it more difficult and/or does it require more effort for a Deaf person to learn to speak than for a Hearing person to learn to sign?
Well, let us first consider if we were to take two hearing people and blindfold one of them, would the one who could see have an "absurdly" easier time learning sign language than the person wearing the blindfold?
Now, if we were to take two hearing people and place ear plugs in the ears of one of them, would the one without the ear plugs have an easier time learning a second spoken language than the person wearing the ear plugs?
If two individuals are learning a second language and one of the individuals is granted full access via his senses to the second language and the other individual is not granted access or granted only minimal access to the second language through his senses, it is quite arguable that the person with full access to the second language will have an easier time acquiring it.
Hearing people have full access to sign language via their eyes whereas Deaf people have only restricted access to spoken languages via their ears.



Note: The following workshop is NOT for beginners. Participants should have completed 3 years of ASL training (six semesters or equivalent) prior to registering.  For more details or to register, visit:

ASL Safari '06: an Advanced ASL Immersion Workshop

A week-long American Sign Language training (no-voice) campout.
July 30 through August 5, 2006.
Includes 20 workshops covering a wide variety of advanced topics. Hiking, swimming, hot pool (from a natural hot spring), nature trails and other recreational activities available.
The training will be provided by a team of eight instructors. Two of the instructors are college ASL teachers, two of them have international training experience, one is a certified interpreter for the deaf. Seven of the instructors are Deaf or hard of hearing.
Four workshops will be presented each day Monday through Friday.
Each workshop will consist of an interactive training component and then a skills application and testing component wherein the student will demonstrate mastery of the language skills related to the topic.
The training component of each workshop will be approximately an hour-and-a-half for a minimum of 30 hours total instruction.
The cost per student is $495.00
Participants are provided training, food, and sleeping space in a tent. Participants need to bring their own sleeping gear and may bring their own tent. A limited number of trailer locations are available.
This workshop is under the direction of Dr. Bill Vicars, an ASLTA (American Sign Language Teachers Association) certified instructor who holds an earned doctorate in Deaf Education.
Workshop activities and site management are being provided by co-coordinators John and Delight Lydiate.
Registration limited, first come first served basis.
For more details or to register, visit:

In a message dated 2/12/2006 10:29:24 P.M. Pacific Standard Time, alaidh@ writes:

Dr. Vicars,
I'm commenting on the post by Aylene Gracie on your site regarding the sign for Canada.  I'm not sure what she is seeing, but the only sign used for Canada is the one you have pictured, though we don't grab the shirt at all.  The interpretation on CPAC is LSQ - Langue des Signes Québécoise - and not ASL but, as far as I know, the sign for Canada is the same.  I'm a sign language interpreter and have worked with Deaf people for approximately 20 years and this is the only sign I've ever seen for Canada.

Thanks for the note.  You are everyday conversation the sign "Canada" doesn't "grab" the shirt. What a fascinating example of "motherese / teacher talk" in action. When teaching Hearing students, we ASL teachers often over-emphasize our signs to help the students recognize the salient features and or to function as a pneumonic device (memory helper) to sink it in.
The phrase "The Canadian Mounted Police always get their man" comes to mind.  The grabbing of the shirt is iconic of the "Mountie" grabbing the criminal.
That is sort of like when ASL teachers show the signs Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, etc. "palm forward" to their hearing classes, but do them palm up/back when chatting with their friends.
Now I'll have to put that on my to do list to go back and redo that sign.
Take care,

In a message dated 3/23/2006 6:19:07 PM Pacific Standard Time, wendy.m.spurling@ writes:

Hello, Bill,
I am in college and taking ASL I

I was talking with my instructor (who is Deaf), and I was asking him about the “ghost location,” as in when one signs to the right for Bill and to the left for Bob when they are not really there. It’s hard to explain, but I thought that the perspective of the signer and the “listener” were reversed, like when giving directions. I now understand why they are not reversed. I mean, Bill is where he is and Bob is where he is; but my Instructor signed “direction” to me, trying to explain (when I didn’t understand it) that the “ghost” people are the same perspective for the signer and the listener. Now I can’t find the sign “direction” anywhere. Not in my dictionaries, not online, not anywhere. What sign would one use to give the same meaning? Obviously, it’s not a sign that translates from ASL to English. This is driving me crazy because I am trying to remember what he signed. If this makes any sense to you, would you mind sending me an explanation and/or the sign a Deaf person who uses ASL would use for “direction”?

Thank you kindly,

There is an "initialized" form of "explain" that is used by some deaf people to mean "Direction."
Instead of doing the sign with "F" hands, use "D" hands.  Such a rendition of this sign could be interpreted as either "describe, or directions."
Also check out this discussion:
Dr. Bill

I have a question about becoming an interpreter/translator of ASL. I know a little sign my father was born deaf and taught us kids some sign, He could speak very well so only when we need to sign he would. My wife and I have a child with autism  that we sign to as well. I am at a point I would like to
become an interpreter. Do you know of any programs that I could do over the internet or local to Ohio.

Thank you for your time
Jim Weir
Visit: and click on their "online training" tab.

In a message dated 2/5/2006 12:25:26 PM Pacific Standard Time, writes:
Question: Your website seems to be free - at least for the casual learner - but what kind of quality can I expect for that kind of price?
I don't mean to be rude, but I believe in directness when I have a question like this.
Kyle Walker


Here's my bio and qualifications:
The site is far from perfect and I'll forever be tweaking it.
It is the same curriculum I use in my college classes at California State University, Sacramento.
Dr. Bill

Note to readers: In the old days, there was a saying called "Looking a gift horse in the mouth."
Kyle's question is a perfect example of that in modern times. 

n a message dated 2/6/2006 9:45:48 A.M. Pacific Standard Time, tnb_ent@com writes:
Found your contact info while surfing through the Web.  We are in need of a person who can do American Sign Language to interpret for our client who needs to meet with their doctor in his office in Norfolk, Virginia next week on Wednesday morning at 9:00 a.m.  Compensation will be paid to this person. 
Can you help me find someone who can do this assignment?  This person does NOT have to be "certified" to do this assignment. 
Ralph Bosen
TNB Language Service
Roanoke, Virginia
Try and look for their "find an interpreter" link.
Good luck.
Bill Vicars
thanks for your recommendation.  This site gave me many people to contact.  Hopefully, we'll be successful in finding someone through this site.
Best to you!
Ralph Bosen
TNB Language Service

In a message dated 3/1/2006 2:03:26 P.M. Pacific Standard Time, writes:
My name is Zahra and I am an ASL II student at Colleyville Heritage High School in Colleyville, Texas.  I am a senior in high school and will be graduating in May.  I was wondering if there are any jobs available or even an intership dealing with ASl.  I am really interested and want to minor in ASL when i go to college.  If you have any ideas or anything else in mind please let me know,  
Thanks a lot,  
Zahra Hooda
You can find quite a few jobs by searching Google for word strings like:
<<qualifications "american sign language" application>>
The idea is to use words that show up in typical position announcements.
Then scan the results and pick the ones that look promising.
Dr. Bill


To unsubscribe, visit: and click on unsubscribe.


© Lifeprint Institute