A journal for students and teachers of
American Sign Language.

spacer.gif (42 bytes) spacer.gif (42 bytes) Volume 1, Issue 33  

 April, 2006   

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Hello ASL Heroes!
Hey, two quick announcements and then on to your excellent questions and points.

!st of all, for those of you interested in a level 3 and 4 summer immersion (8 semester units of college credit/2-week program + online study), check out

If you are looking for a level 6 immersion (campout) check into

Take care until next month!
Dr. Bill

In a message dated 4/2/2006 12:52:00 A.M. Pacific Daylight Time, John L. writes:
I have a question for you, can you give me a definition for "Classifier Predicates"?
Classifier Predicates:
 A classifier (in ASL) is a sign that represents a general category of things, shapes, or sizes.
 A predicate is the part of a sentence that modifies (says something about or describes) the topic of the sentence or some other noun or noun phrase in the sentence.
(Valli & Lucas, 2000)
 The topic is “John” the predicate is an “adjective predicate” describing John’s appearance.
 Example:  JOHN RUN
 The topic is “John” the predicate is a “verb predicate” stating what John did or is doing.
 Example:  JOHN BED
 The topic is “John” the predicate is a “noun predicate” stating John’s location.
 Example:  JOHN CL:FF “eyes quickly looked at right”
 The topic is “John” the predicate is a “classifier predicate” indicating that John quickly looked to his right.
 Whenever you use a classifier to describe the shape, size, movement, or location of a noun, you are using a “classifier predicate.”
In a message dated 2/7/2006 3:01:30 PM Pacific Standard Time, an instructor writes:
Hi Bill-  I just got a call from ___________, who is a professor of Speech Pathology on campus who I have known for a long time.  She was talking with a group of her students who were giving you rave reviews on your class!  However, they were concerned about a book used in your class called "For Hearing People Only"  (or something like that) which talks very negatively about speech pathologists.  She and the students were concerned about such a negative book being used. 

Just passing this on to you.

The title of that book is "For Hearing People Only."
The third edition has 768 pages of information about Deaf people and Deaf Culture organized into 131 chapters. (No that isn't a misprint: 1-3-1 chapters.)
Of the 768 pages, five are devoted to discussing speech pathologists. In those five pages the book puts forth several assertions that could be considered negative: 
1.  Speech pathologists consider deaf people to be broken and in need of fixing.  The word "pathology" itself implies "disease."
2.  Many older deaf people have had very bad experiences with speech pathologists when they were younger.
3.  While some deaf children benefit from speech training and develop good speech skills, for many others it is unfruitful time that could have been better spent developing literacy and other communication skills.
4.  By dismissing ASL and not learning it, speech pathologists are making a tacit statement that what is important to us (the Deaf), is not important to them, and not important period.
Compare that to the situation of a teacher of English as a Second Language who travels to China.  Imagine if he spent 20 years teaching Chinese people how to speak English but never took the time to become skilled in their language?  How much more effective he would be if he were to have learned and developed a respect for their language prior to teaching them his language.
I'm very, very open to discussing the merits (or demerits) of that book.
I encourage Carole and/or any of her students to identify specific premises of the book and state why they are of concern.
If there is a legitimate concern, then whose concern is it?  Is it true? 
Do they or do they not have a view of deaf people as needing fixing?  Yes?
Did or did many Deaf people not have bad experiences in their youth? 
Are there many deaf children who do not develop speech recognizable to strangers even after years of training?
Is there a high percentage of speech pathologists who are not fluent in American Sign Language?
If the statements in the book are true--and if this is a concern as portraying (some) speech pathologists negatively, then isn't the right response to change the behavior of (some) Speech Pathologists and engage in public relations rather than to "ban the book" which raises the concerns?
I'm available for further discussion of this topic and open to being educated.

In a message dated 2/10/2006 7:32:25 PM Pacific Standard Time, DJ3262 writes:

Hey bill, i got the book Linguistics Of American Sign Language 4th edition. I don't know whether you have it or not. Very good and interesting. A few things, though. This book mentions that the sign for girl is repetitive. Where did they get that from? I couldn't find that in my dictionary or on your website. Also, i think i remember reading that you said lexicalized fingerspelling and loans signs were the same. This book reads like they are different and that both are part of asl. Third, it was interesting finding out that you can't have a subject after the verb. Like "silly boy". I noticed some changes on your website. How often is your website cd updated? Learning a lot. Thanks.



You will find that many Deaf sign "GIRL" with a single movement.
I've noticed that same thing with the sign "BOY." Some do "BOY" with a double movement, some do a single movement.
When "GIRL" is signed as part of a compound like "GIRL-FRIEND" it will certainly have a single movement.
So, add these two principles to your list:

1. There is a great deal of variation out there in the "real world."
2. American Sign Language, like all living languages, is constantly evolving.
What I said regarding lexicalized signs and loan signs was:
<<"Lexicalized" fingerspelled words used to be called "loan signs." Some people still call lexicalized fingerspelled words "loan signs" but the term "loan sign" more accurately applies to signs that were "borrowed" from other signed languages and became part of ASL.>>
Allow me to clarify: In the "old days" many ASL instructors (including me) referred to lexicalized fingerspelled words as "loan signs." Then, later we stopped calling such signs (#EARLY, #BANK, #WHAT, #BACK, #BURN, etc.) loan signs and started calling them lexicalized fingerspelling. Now we use the term "loan signs" to describe signs like the new versions of: JAPAN, CHINA, SPAIN, MEXICO, etc. which were "borrowed" from the signed languages of those countries.
Regarding the statement "you can't have a subject after the verb" -- hate to break it to you bud, "silly" isn't a verb, it is an adjective. But I know what you are referring to: the principle that you shouldn't use physiological / emotional descriptions prior to nouns e.g. "silly boy," "sick dog." I'd again like to point out principle number 2 above: ASL is constantly evolving.

For many years people used to say "ain't" wasn't a word and that it wasn't in the (English) dictionary. Well actually, they said, "Ain't ain't a word and it ain't in the dictionary." Heh. But, guess what? It is now. (
I think you will find the same is happening with ASL. Forms and usages that may not have been common 10 years ago are working their way into mainstream acceptance. When will "new phrases" (or grammar styles) be considered "acceptable?" Accepted by who? A high school kid may almost instantly accept a new sign. Heck, he probably made it up in the first place. But it will be years before the new sign finds its way into an ASL dictionary, (if ever).
What constitutes "proper" ASL depends on either group consensus, or the person who is giving the grade.
If you find yourself in a new group or taking a class taught by a new teacher, you need to adjust your concept of "the right way to sign" to match your new circumstances.
My website is updated almost daily.
My CD is updated every few months.

Dr. Bill

In a message dated 1/24/2006 9:30:34 A.M. Pacific Standard Time, writes:
My name is Kathy McClain. I have purchased your [e-report] "How to make a living teaching sign language."
My question to you is: How do you get the press releases? All of the papers I have contacted so far have said that I am a business and will have to do regular advertising for my workshops. They said if I was a non-profit organization that they would run the stories. I have seen other press releases on sign language from people that make money from holding workshops for a registered price. What is it I am supposed to do? Please help asap. Thank You!
Kathy McClain

Hi Kathy,
First of all "contacting" the newspaper and opening up a discussion is a bit of a mistake. Newspapers are in the business of selling advertising, not giving it away free. The only reason they print articles is to help them sell more advertisements.
So if you contact them and begin a dialog regarding getting publicity for your workshops they will think, "Oh, you want publicity, that's an advertising function, you need to contact our advertising department."
The trick is to do something newsworthy and simply forward that news to the newspaper so they will think, "Oh, this is news, let's put this in our 'community news' section."
What I used to do was I'd contact a library (or hospital, or community center) and ask if they had a "community room" that could be scheduled for community events. Then I'd tell them that the local sign language club (me and my friends) wanted to use the room to host a free sign language workshop as both a public service and as way to get more people interested in sign language.
After I'd get approval to hold the meeting, I'd start building up my relationship with the library. I'd point out that the workshop would be a great opportunity to showcase the library's ASL books and related materials. Then I'd ask the librarian if she'd like me to set up a table at the back of the room with the various library books on it and encourage participants to check the books out.
After I had the library firmly involved with the workshop (so that it became "our" workshop instead of "my" workshop, I'd type up and send the following news release to the "community editor" of all the nearby newspapers:
News Release

Contact Person: Bill Vicars (916) 555-1234 / myemailaddress@
For Immediate Release:

"Free ASL Workshop"

An American Sign Language workshop will be presented by Bill Vicars at the City Library, 28 Somestreet, Somecity, on Saturday, February 18, from 10 a.m. to noon. Students will learn useful phrases and be given the opportunity to ask questions. For more information call (916) 555-1234 or email

If I ever got into a situation like yours, where the newspaper developed the opinion that I was a business person just trying to get free advertising, I would simply approach the library and ask THEM to send out the news release on their stationary. I'd write it for them and I'd include the relevant mailing address (or email address).

You might be thinking, but I don't want to give a "free" workshop. I want to make MONEY. My response is, you will! Just be patient. Get lots of people in the door. Then "wow" them for two hours with your best stuff. At the end of the two hours hand them all a six week lesson plan and let them know that if they'd like to learn more they are welcome to take your community education course which just happens to start next week at this same time!
It is important to keep up the relationships with libraries or community centers once you establish them. For example, while helping clean up after the event, mention to the librarian how well it went and that you had quite a few people indicate that they would have liked to have come but couldn't make it on that particular day. Then bring up the subject, "perhaps we could do this again in a few months?" Then lock it in...every three months on the second Saturday from 9 to noon.
Set up that type of relationship with five or six libraries, hospitals, or community centers and eventually you will be completely booked up with plenty of paying students.
Dr. Bill

In a message dated 1/24/2006 1:08:54 P.M. Pacific Standard Time, kathymmcclain@ writes:
Thank you for your quick responce to my question. Final question, so are you a business for profit or a non-profit or not-for-profit? How can a person find out what they need to be?
Thank again,
Kathy McClain
As an ASL consultant you are generally what is called a "sole proprietor."  You are definitely in business to make a profit.  You are a businessperson.
To become a government recognized 501 (c)(3) "not-for-profit" organization requires filling out about 50 hours worth of paperwork, setting up a board of directors, getting a certain amount of citizen support, and giving up a lot of control of your activities. 
My wife and I (and a few close friends) set up a non-profit once.  We called it the Regional Deaf Access Center of Northern Utah. We started applying for grants and got a few thousand dollars here and there.  We were working toward getting a Deaf Center set up in Ogden, Utah.  We started holding public meetings to generate support and soon found out that everyone wanted a say in how it was set up and how it was run.  After a while my wife and I realized that we enjoyed life much better just running a small ASL consultancy and teaching ASL classes.  (So that's what we went back to doing.)
Being a sole proprietor is much easier and simpler than any of the other (legal) business structure.
I've read articles about setting up "S - Corps" and other ways to incorporate that, as far as I can tell, could eventually be much safer and more lucrative in terms of sheltering income from taxes and protecting personal assets.  Incorporating is certainly something that you might want to consider, but as for the time being, I'm going to stay a sole proprietor.

In a message dated 1/10/2006 4:59:00 PM Pacific Standard Time, hoftim@ writes:
I live in Salt Lake City and want to learn American Sign Language yesterday because of a very special deaf friend I have made recently. I can finger spell but that is about all. Who do you know here where I live that can help me learn quickly. Thank you for your time and thoughts. I hope you are experiencing a beautiful new year:)

Hi Timothy,
How about your new Deaf friend?  You could ask him or her to teach you eh?
Try visiting your library and checkout an armload of books and videos. 
Then visit the Utah Association for the Deaf's website:
Click on the "About UAD" link. Then click on the "Membership / Donation" link.
You can download the membership form and join the UAD.  Then go on over to the calendar where you will see a list of various Deaf events listed.  Go to those events and do a lot of watching...then volunteer to help clean up after the events (pick up garbage, put away chairs, wash dishes, etc.) and you will be amazed at how a little hard work can open a lot of doors.

Next visit:
and learn about:
Robert G. Sanderson Community Center of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
5709 South 1500 West
Taylorsville, Utah 84123
801.263.4860 (v/tty)
800.860.4860 (toll free-in state only)
801.263.4865 (fax)

Visit the center and ask the secretary regarding upcoming ASL classes.
Best of luck to you.
Dr. Bill Vicars

In a message dated 1/18/2006 2:16:25 PM Pacific Standard Time, robert.calvert@ writes:

I found your website while surfing for ASL info. I am an electronics instructor at a Jr. college. This semester I have a deaf student. His interpreter does not know anything about electronics.
Is there a dictionary of signs for electronic terminology? The interpreter has to spell out many long or commonly used terms/phrases and tends to fall behind during my lectures. (Ex. Astable multivibrator, thermal transducer, resistance).
What else can I do to facilitate the transfer of information? The student is very sharp and has some electronics training already. I took an ASL course about 20 years ago and still remember a few signs.
Thank you for any suggestions and assistance.
Robert Calvert
Electronics Technology
Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College

Contact your college's office of services to students with disabilities. They might have access to a more talented interpreter.
In this situation you might want to consider "real time captioning" rather than an interpreter.
A stenographer could keep up with the lecture, the student could read what you say within two seconds after you say it, plus he would have a complete set of notes to take home with him and study.

In a message dated 1/25/2006 7:46:48 PM Pacific Standard Time, NeoAnderson48 writes:
Hey! I have to do a research paper for my Bible class on a Christian that was important in Christian history. They couldn't have been in the Bible and they have to be dead. I was wondering if there is someone that would be interesting to do a paper on that either ministered to the Deaf, or something like that. Thx!
You might just LOVE researching Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet.
Go here,, and click on the "Gallaudet Family History" link. Then look for the "Notable Gallaudets from American History" link.
Dr. Bill

In a message dated 1/31/2006 3:24:23 PM Pacific Standard Time, johnai3@ writes:
Dr. Bill,
I recently stumbled across your web site, and plan on using it to help me learn ASL.
(First, a little background on me.)  I am 32 years old, living in Kaysville, Utah, have a wife and 3 young daughters (7.5, 6, and 2.5).  2 1/2 years ago I was diagnosed with Neurofibromatosis Type II (NF2) and had a medium sized Vestibular Schwanomma (Acoustic Neuroma) removed from my left Auditory / Facial / Balance Nerve leaving me totally deaf on that side.  I am now gradually losing hearing on my right side and will soon be totally deaf.  When this occurs, I will recieve an ABI (or hopefully PABI from Dr. Brackmann at the House Ear Institute in California).  My doctor has told me that lip reading will probably benifit me more than sign language classes, but, in speaking with other NF2 sufferers and their family members, I think that learning ASL would be good, if not necessary. (Hey, it can't hurt, right?)
My question for you is this:  Over the past couple of years I have tried, unsuccessfully, to start ASL courses at the Utah Deaf Center. (I quess it's called something else now, but . . .)  Each of these attempts has failed, due largely to my own issues, but also due to the fact that the classes are so far away and infrequent.  (I know that I said there's a question in here, it's coming.)  I now feel an urgency in learning ASL and would like my wife and children to learn as well.  Do you know of any ASL courses being taught in the Davis / Weber area that I might benifit from?  I have tried internet searches for the Davis School District and Weber State but couldn't find anything.  (Which surprises me - I know WSU has to offer ASL Courses, I just couldn't find them.)  Cost is obviously another issue.
Also, do you know of anywhere that I can get lip reading instruction (if there is such a thing).  Any help or suggestions that you could give me would be appreciated.
John Steele
Hello John,
For many, many years Weber State University did offer ASL classes. (I taught there for a decade!) Then they formed a partnership with Salt Lake Community College and had the SLCC instructors teach the classes.  I do not know if that is still the case (I moved on to graduate school and a position at Sacramento State), but if you want to know about ASL classes at Weber State, I suggest you contact their office of services to students with disabilities.  The people in that office will likely know about any ASL classes at their school.  They might even be able to put you in touch with a Deaf college student who could tutor you and your family in ASL. It is worth asking.
You might also contact the Utah School for the Deaf.  They have a campus there in Ogden.  I know they used to offer ASL classes to parents of deaf children.  The classes may be open to the public.  Again, it is worth asking.  Plus maybe they can direct you to other resources. Back when I was in the area there were several "night school" ASL classes offered via community education programs.  Also if you are LDS (Mormon), there is a Deaf congregation that meets in Ogden.
One final comment.  You might want to contact the Utah Division of Rehabilitation Services, become a client, and possibly have them pay for your ASL classes.
Good luck.
Dr. Bill

In a message dated 1/31/2006 4:25:10 PM Pacific Standard Time, LDinoto551 writes:
Changing the subject. Someone once told me that the movie "children of a lesser God" with Marlee Matlin has incorrect signing all through the movie.  Is this true?  Just out of curiosity.
It has been years since I've watched that movie (saw a TV version of it once).  The signs looked fine to me. 
I recall watching her sign in an other movie.  In that movie I noticed her signing "birthday" using the sign BIRTH and then the sign DAY. 
The fact is there are dozens of different signs for "birthday."  Your sign will either be "right" or "wrong" according to the region in which you live.  As I watched her sign BIRTH-DAY I thought, "Hmmm, she is using a very safe / generic version" of that sign."
So, no, I don't think her signing was "incorrect" all through the movie, I just think that it is hard to please everyone.

In a message dated 1/14/2006 4:19:30 PM Pacific Standard Time, emma.michael@ writes:
If you have a minute, I have a question for you. Is the "I love you" sign motionless, or should you shake it a bit?
The ILY (I love you) sign is done both ways.  My observation has been that "shaking" it a bit does several things:
1. Shaking draws and maintains attention to the sign
2. The sign can be shaken in such a way as to take on a "motherese" quality.  Which is to say, a mother saying "I love you" to her baby has a much different meaning than a 21-year old boy saying "I love you" to his 21-year-old girl friend. Thus the shaking can be a way of saying, "I love you, in a brotherly sort of way."
3. The shaking movement can be used to make the sign suitable for "leave taking."  Just as Hearing people raise their voices and stretch out the word "bye" while saying  "good-bye," --shaking the ILY sign during leave taking inflects the sign to mean: "good bye, I love you" all rolled into one sign.

In a message dated 1/29/2006 5:25:01 P.M. Pacific Standard Time, a "free spirit" writes:
Dr. Vicars,
A BIG Hello to you from the Sunshine State!  Guess I have been in the SUN & HURRICANES too long and NOW the Florida DEADLINE for the ASLTA has snuck up and bit me!  YIKES! 
I have been interpreting for Deaf and DeafBlind Individuals for 20+ years, and an ASL teacher for Secondary and Post Secondary Education and former Director of the Northwest Florida Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services Center in Pensacola.  Currently I am living in Tallahassee and in Private Practice and also contract with FSU.
So, with that said, WHY have  I been a "hold out" for so long and against the establishment?
Probably something left over from the 70's! hahahaha!
Well anyway, now I am scouring the WEB trying to BUY a degree (my husband is disgusted with me for even looking!), and thought you might have a bit of encouragement to lend me! 
Hey Carol,
I remember the chair of the department introducing me at a dept. meeting.  He announced that I had TWO degrees.  At which time I piped up, "Yeah, and ONE of them is even real."
Honestly, my advice is find a good "distance education" program that grants credit for life experience.  Make sure it is accredited by one of the agencies recognized by the US Dept. of Education.  That's why I ended up getting the second doctorate.  I wanted to go through life feeling secure in my credentials.  It took me three extra years of poverty and sweat, but I'm glad I made the investment of time.  For a balanced discussion of the topic, check out Dr. John Bear's books on "distance education."
These days it is easier than ever to get a legitimate distance education degree.
My wife is getting her Masters (MFA) in Creative Writing from an accredited school up in Oregon (Pacific University).  She travels up there twice a year for a couple weeks each time.  The rest of the program is done via correspondence. Studying from home fits her needs as a Deaf person because she doesn't have to deal with constantly trying to lip-read or having to rely on an interpreter.
Dr. Bill

In a message dated 1/31/2006 6:25:52 PM Pacific Standard Time, sacornelius@ writes:

I teach special ed.  A lot of the students respond better when the main words are signed instead of only spoken.  They aren't deaf.  (They are more likely to sit down, go to the table, etc, if the sign is used at the same time as the direction is spoken.)  My question is: What type of sign language should be used with hearing individuals who use sign?  I use the ASL signs because I am more familiar with them but should I be signing SEE since they aren't deaf?  Or Pidgin Sign? What is your advice?

You are using a form of signing which is sometimes called "simcom" which is short for "simultaneous communication."  Simcom uses "Pidgin Sign" (also called "contact signing") combined with speech.
My advice?  Stick with what you are doing. It isn't going to qualify anyone for "foreign language credit" --but that isn't your goal.  Effective communication with your target audience (your students) is your goal and it seems to me that you are succeeding.
Keep up the good work.
Dr. Bill

In a message dated 2/1/2006 11:25:29 A.M. Pacific Standard Time, Zani11111 writes:
Good morning.
  My name is Suzanne Yardumian.  I am a Special Education (LH) teacher at Big Bear High School, in California.  I am interested in obtaining a single subject credential in ASL (foreign language).  I am currently teaching a small, after school ROP class of beginning sign language, offering only elective credits.  I would like to take some classes before attempting the CSET in ASL.  Years ago I signed fluently.  (Peter Wechsberg was my instructor)  Now the only signing I do is with kids who are just learning.  I am trying to arrange to take some classes through Riverside Community College, but wondered if you knew of anything on-line I might take to help prepare me?
Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Suzanne Yardumian
It is a challenging test for most applicants.  Online resources at this time are not sufficient to prepare you for the California Subject Examinations for Teachers, Languages Other than English:  American Sign Language. (CSET:ASL).
(I was one of the development committees and also helped develop the scoring levels for it.)
Make sure you download the information manual for that test:
My suggestion for preparation is to READ every one of the books suggested in that manual.
Take notes.
Plus go to as many deaf socials as you can.
And practice your expressive and receptive fingerspelling ability.
Watch a video or two of "storytelling" done by a skilled native ASL signer and pick several stories and MEMORIZE them until you can tell a beautiful ASL story from memory.
Good luck,
Dr. Bill

In a message dated 1/14/2006 9:36:59 AM Pacific Standard Time, mom4ccbr@ writes:
My question is this, can you recommend a beginning book for getting started in signing ? Thanks and thanks again for your wonderful website.
P. S. I went to a Deaf persons house yesterday and there was a note by the door bell that said "Ring, one time the bell, please."  My friend who is the interpretor told me to notice the sentence structure versus how that would read in English. At first I did not notice the difference and then I did. Take care and look forward to your response.
I recommend "Learning American Sign Language" by Humphries and Padden, (available via
Plus I suggest you borrow an armload of ASL books from your local library and pick a few signs to compare in each ASL book so you can get a feel for the amount of variation.
Now a comment regarding the "sentence structure" of "Ring, one time the bell, please."
That is an interesting example of a topic/comment (subject/predicate) thought process.
The topic: the ringing of the bell: "RING"
The predicate:  do it just once:  "ONE TIME THE BELL"
In a message dated 1/14/2006 9:27:49 PM Pacific Standard Time, writes:
Thank you for the recommendation of books, I will get them, and I am headed to the library on Monday.  On a humorous note, my friend who is Deaf and reads lips very very well was in a crowd of people one time and someone across ther room said something about her family, she reads lips so well she knew what they said, went up to them and said she had noticed what they said. They were flabbergasted that she was able to do that. Guess it serves them right !
Thanks again.



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