A journal for students and teachers of
American Sign Language.

spacer.gif (42 bytes) spacer.gif (42 bytes) Issue 36  

 July, 2006   

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Hello ASL Heroes!

Topic:  Is Kissing Part of Deaf Goodbyes?

In a message dated 6/7/2006 1:10:16 PM Pacific Daylight Time, Kristin@______ writes:
I have a question about Deaf culture. I know you mention on your website how emphatically Deaf people greet one another with lots of hugging. My sign teacher is deaf and blind (but has some vision) and he is a big fan of long hugs. This is fine with me.  But today we were practicing sign outside of the classroom and at a local park. When it was time to leave, he hugged me but then also gave a quick kiss on my lips. Is this customary? It kind of threw me for a loop. I don't want to be insulting if that is part of the culture, but i am not sure that it is something I am comfortable with doing. He is significantly older than me so i'm fairly certain it wasn't any romantic thing. I just wasn't sure if Deaf people greet and say goodbye to each other like that as well.
No, it is not customary for Deaf people (in America) to kiss upon greetings or departures. 
The range of culturally appropriate and/or socially acceptable behavior of a Deaf-Blind individual will vary widely--depending on the current age of the individual, age of onset, the extent of the condition, and the relationship to others in the environment.
Even so, it is still "inappropriate" for an instructor to be kissing his student on the lips.  Have you seen him kiss any other students on the lips?  Does he kiss the male students on the lips as well?  Does he do this behavior when his boss is around?
The fact that we Deaf tend to hug other members of our community doesn't excuse an instructor to start kissing his students.  Notice I said "other members of our community."  Just because I hug my Deaf friends more doesn't mean I hug my Hearing friends.  I have a very good Hearing friend from childhood. He is not a member of the Deaf community, (but he speaks up when he is around me, he faces me when he talks to me, and he has learned how to sign a bit).  After many years of friendship he and I were driving across town working on a project and I had to stop by a Deaf event to pick up some papers from an associate.  After thanking my associate I gave him a hug and hopped back in the car.  My good friend looked confused and concerned.  After some coaxing the friend asked me, "Why did you hug him?" 
The question was totally understandable in that my lifelong Hearing friend and I had never hugged nor had he ever seen me hug another guy.  So I explained the difference in culture to him and he said "Oh" and we went on with our journey.
When Hearing people come to our events they experience a bit of culture shock to see us communicating with lots of facial expressions, stomping on the floor, banging on the table, waving our hands, flashing the lights, tapping shoulders, making "pah" and "cha" sounds, lingering goodbyes, and hugs.
Most Deaf however are bicultural.  We "behave" Deaf around other Deaf, then when we are in "mixed" company we switch over and to some extent follow the norms of the larger Hearing society. 
For more information and to better understand the topic of kissing and how it relates to Deaf-Blind people, I suggest you check out the text:
"Introduction to Sexuality Education for Individuals Who Are Deaf-Blind and Significantly Developmentally Delayed" by Kate Robbeie and M. Bolashsa.  (Here is a link to a PDF format file:
If you feel uncomfortable with being hugged or kissed by your instructor--do not feel obliged in any way to participate. I realize this is easier said than done. 
Some tips: 
If he insists on hugging you, don't hug back or if you feel you have to be polite then hug with only one arm and then only to pat him on the back twice as if burping him.  Bend somewhat at the waist so as to prevent full body contact (using a slight "Oriental style bow"). Bend the other arm at the elbow and place your forearm across your chest with a fist on the end to function as a spacer between your bodies. Turn your face away from him during the hug to make it very difficult for him to initiate any kissing. Suppose it was your right arm that you were patting him with--after a couple pats on his back bring the arm around to the front and place it on his shoulder as you gently force him back from you and immediately begin signing something like "THANK-you, SEE YOU TUESDAY CLASS."
Good luck.
Dr. Bill

In a message dated 5/1/2006 3:41:37 PM Pacific Daylight Time, wesrox@ writes:
Hi Dr. Vicars,

I became a stepmom to a deaf teenage boy about 2 years ago. I spent alot of time searching for information about ASL and how to best communicate with him. You were a voice in the wilderness and I thank you so much. Now, 2 years later, I am in my second year of weekly ASL classes and have progressed as well as a 40+ person can. I love it and find it a beautiful language.

I read the letter from one of your readers regarding their concern about negative comments towards speech pathologists in the book "For Hearing People Only". I live in a city of over a million people so imagine my shock and surprise the first time I went to the speech pathologists office with my stepson and discovered that they do not know sign language. Our health care system manages the speech pathology programs through the hospital system - so it is large. None of the pathologists know how to sign and they were upset with me for not bringing an interpreter. They then resorted to writing notes, but made it clear that they find that writing back and forth much too time consuming and my stepson was not able to ask all of his questions within the time alloted to us. Furthermore, they pushed and pushed him to get a hearing aid and could not understand when he refused. When he told them (through me) that he likes how he is, they thought he was crazy. He also told them that the
seven years he wore a hearing aid, he could hear nothing but irrational noise. So, the next time I made sure that I booked an interpreter through the wonderful people at the Deaf & Hard of Hearing Society to meet us there and my stepson was finally able to ask his questions and communicate with them. He is 17 years old and wants to ask his own questions, not have stepmom do it for him.

I agreed completely with your reply and thank you for saying what we all should be saying. A deaf person is not broken or "slow" and they deserve the same respect that we all expect. We should respect the deaf culture just as we should respect anyone's culture - there is no difference.

Thank you for letting me send my opinion,
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Thanks for the feedback.  It truly is a pleasure being able to provide a forum to put forth the "other side" of the story.
Best wishes in your ASL endeavors.
Dr. Bill

In a message dated 5/1/2006 7:14:01 PM Pacific Daylight Time, cynk______@ writes:

RE: Speech Pathology...I have a Deaf student in my (high school) ASL class.
They call him out of my class once a week to go to speech. He hates going!
My classis where he feels at home (no interpreter) and it's his comfort zone. I understand the reasoning for taking him out of my class, (he's
getting his Foreign Language credits) but I feel badly for him. Sometimes we just call and tell the S.P. that we're doing something important just to
give him a break. I agree with you. Having interpreted at the community college level and seen those students going to Speech; there were some whom
it benefited and other whom it did not. I fail to see the reasoning for requiring everyone to go.

Just my thoughts.
Cynthia K________

It just goes to show the "one size fits all" mentality doesn't apply to Deaf people.

In a message dated 5/1/2006 4:17:47 PM Pacific Daylight Time, writes:
Dear Dr. Bill,
 My name is Holly. I am 16 and I am a 10th grader in high school. I am hearing and i am in a sign lanuage class. I am thinking about becomeing a interrupter. I was wondering if you have any advise for me. 
                                                                                          Thanks, Holly
First bit of advice is don't become an "interrupter" because interrupting is considered rude.  Heh.  Um...sorry.  Just pointing out that 'interrupt" means to hinder or stop a conversation, action, or process.  What you mean is "interpret."
Sure, I have lots of advice for you. And it is already posted conveniently in the Lifeprint Library at:
Just scroll down to "interpreting."
If you have questions after reading those articles (and after visting feel free to ask.
Dr. Bill
In a message dated 5/2/2006 8:38:22 AM Pacific Daylight Time, andrews_suttorp@ writes:
It's funny...I know signs can be regional, but a lot of times, the signs on Michigan State's ASL browser are different from what I learned in my classes--right here in Michigan--but your signs are the same.  (?)
That's because I'm pure of heart and therefore entitled to better inspiration.
Er...either that or I have many well-traveled d/Deaf coworkers who are helpful (in a piranha-like but reassuringly sugar-coated way) as to informing me of the "right" way to sign.  Heh.
Plus, whenever I see more than one variation of a sign, I instantly start interviewing everyone within 100 meters regarding "their" preferred sign for that concept.  Hmmm, who would ever have thought that "obsessive compulsive" tendencies could actually turn out so beneficial.  :)

In a message dated 5/1/2006 3:11:59 PM Pacific Daylight Time, writes:
Dear Dr Bill,

I contacted you before regarding the problems I have with reception as opposed to signing. I have worked on the problem and
it is slowly coming and getting better. I have been involved with the Deaf in my church for 12 years. Most of them are seniors and
have used SEE all their life, so that's what I learned when I became involved with them. I also took my first 3 levels in ASL
back in the mid-90's but never used it very much as they always preferred SEE. Now, I'm enrolled for a full ASL immersion program
in August. One full week in signs only, no voice.

Some people are telling me that I will find it very difficult and I feel somewhat discouraged by these comments. I am currently
taking level 4 and find it ok, though I find it hard to say 'I' pointing at myself rather then using the pinky as we do in SEE.
Old habits die hard. I guess my question to you is simply this: Can you suggest some things I should do to prepare for the
program? I told you in the past that my biggest problem in Sign Language, SEE or ASL, is reception. I can sign but have a very
difficult time receiving. But to prepare myself not only for that part of the program, but as a whole, since I sign SEE more than
ASL, can you help me?

To help me learn reception better and faster, I have joined a group of Deaf who meet at the mall food court every Friday
evening. In a way, I feel like I am "listening" in on their conversation, but if these people were using their voice, I would
hear what they say anyway. So it is a good practice for me to watch and see how much I can pick up from the conversation. I
also join in, meet new Deaf friends (that part I love the most), and of course, converse with them, which means really paying
attention to what they are signing because some can sign SO FAST!!! WOW!

I appreciate ANY and EVERY feedback you can throw my way.

I suggest you read the "Reflections of an ASL Student" blog at my website:
Of anything I could suggest, you are ALREADY doing the best thing:  You are going out of your way to interact with members of the Deaf Community.
Some ideas to improve:
1.  Buy the biggest, most comprehensive ASL dictionary you can find and go through it systematically and expose yourself to every concept in it.
I did this once with Martin L. Sternberg's book (the unabridged one not the "concise" one) way back in my "youth."  Even though my new vocabulary acquisition and articulation was "imperfect" due to the limitations of the 2 dimentional media, I know for a fact that later on while going through college I'd often see a sign for the first time and recognize it instantly because I had "learned" it from a book.  Some people will scoff at this, but after many years of systematically expanding my vocabulary I know it works.  Besides, it's fun to know signs like "hedgehog" and "broadband."
2.  Watch ASL Videos.  You can find names of videos at  Then you can order them via or other source of your choice.  Rewind and watch the same segment over and over again until you absolutely recognize what is being signed.
3.  Put in earplugs when you go to Deaf events.  This will help you do a paradigm shift and start to think more "deaf."
4.  When you see someone signing something...always visualize yourself signing it.  Actually reherse the movements of your hands in your mind.  Feel the motion in your mind.  See your hands moving through the air similar to the hands of the person who is signing to you or whom you are watching.  This will help develop muscle memory and enable you to recall signs faster and produce them better the first time you actually attempt to do the new signs.
5.  Remember, just because the "naysayers" think something will be difficult for you doesn't mean it will be.  Decide for yourself.  Some people think parachuting is scary (most people actually).  But there are others who think it is simply thrilling and fun.

In a message dated 4/4/2006 6:31:19 PM Pacific Daylight Time, NeoAnderson48 writes:
Hey Bill! I have a question. Can you use the sign "get"  to say "Get Bob"? In my experience they've always just pointed to the person and I've known to tap the on the shoulder, but can I tell someone to "get so-and-so"?
You would use the sign "summon" (see my website under CALL--scroll way down)  or you'd sign "Tell BOB come-here."  Or you could use the "air tap" where you tap on the person's shoulder (even though he is in the other room).
As in, YOU-MIND "air tap" BOB? (which would be interpreted as would you mind going and tapping Bob on the shoulder for me?)

In a message dated 4/5/2006 8:45:02 A.M. Pacific Daylight Time, americansignlanguage@ writes:
We want to post print material using sign language for EMERGENCY RESPONSE to read:  "HELP WILL COME"  This will be posted at the Emergency Button to let anyone know that after pressing the button, help is coming to that location.  It has audio response. 
What is the best way to inform a deaf person that after pressing the button the police have already been alerted and are on their way.  It is much like the pay telephone access....all you need to do is dial and 911 was alerted to your location.
Carol R___
Hmmm, this sounds like a complex situation and I'm concerned that I don't know the situation well enough to be dishing out advice, but I'll tell you what comes off the top of my head and if it is useful to you, then good.
I would be hesitant to post a bunch of graphics showing ASL signs.
You might consider doing a "language neutral" series of four simple photographs.
You could have the first picture showing a person in front of the button. 
Picture two:  Pushing the button
Picture three:  Looking at wristwatch
Picture four" Police officer arriving

Four photographs wouldn't take up much room and would communicate across language barriers.
Dr. Bill Vicars

In a message dated 4/5/2006 8:22:18 A.M. Pacific Daylight Time, LainGwingil@ writes:
Hi, Mr. Bill, it's me, Bailey, once again. :)

I'm homeschooled, and my tutor said that I need to come up with ten sentences by next week using the wonderful lifeprint, and I was wondering if there's a different sign for homeschooled, or if you just put home and school together.

I appreciate everything you do! You're a great teacher!

Just sign home and then school.
Technically, when you compound the sign, you would only touch your cheek once and only bring the hands together once. (You lose the double movements).
Bill wrote:
In a message dated 5/1/2006 10:35:22 A.M. Pacific Daylight Time, h_hmin121271@ writes:
Dear Bill,
     My wife and I are missionaries in Mexico and wondered if you have any sources for learning Mexican Sign Language?  We don't know of any deaf people yet  but we would like to learn some in case we come across any.  Thanks for any help you can offer.
              Le Roy and Georgie Chandler
Le Roy and Georgie,
No, I'm sorry.  I know there are some great resources out there, but to find them I'd end up doing the same searching you are doing.  I'd Google:  Mexican sign language video, and also: Mexican sign language book, and see what turns up.  (Which you've probably already done.)
In a message dated 5/2/2006 8:39:55 AM Pacific Daylight Time, h_hmin121271@ writes:
Thanks for your reply.  No I have not done that yet, but thanks for the tip.  I will try it.
                      Le Roy

In a message dated 5/4/2006 11:30:17 A.M. Pacific Daylight Time, writes:
Dr. Vicars,
  ... [Are] the warnings about the bird flue are getting out to the deaf community? On May 9th ABC will have a TV show called "Fatal Contact" but there is more to the story.
    Part of the avian flu planning involves "social distancing."  Places like schools, movie theaters, day care, sports events, churches and work are all places being considered as places of "risk." Some may be closed or curtailed.
    So far scouts, puritans, 4-H, silent dinners, etc have not come up in any discussions but to be prepared I'm sending this along. I'm not sure how much time/energy to put in it but please do read the article at eweek news.
   Because no one is sure when or how it will strike all plans are very fluid. It might not be any worse than Y2K was. Lots of effort, lots of preparation but few problems.
   Thanks for keeping the newsletter going.
I don't think many Deaf have given this as much attention as Hearing people have.  You do bring up a good point. I'll post your email address for any individuals who are interested in this topic can contact you.

In a message dated 5/9/2006 10:57:06 PM Pacific Daylight Time, Foonrodan writes:
Dr. Vicars
I am concerned about the recent developments at Gallaudet.
Students are not happy with one individual.
My understanding is that she was born deaf.
The students don't like the fact that she did not learn sign until later in her life and they feel that she is not fluent in sign.  I understand that she was deaf at birth.
At what point do you consider someone deaf or Deaf?
I am sure that there are things that i am not considering
That is why i am asking your opinion on this matter.
Respectfully submitted
Compare the situation to that of Blacks in America.
There are different shades of Blacks from light brown to "very black."
For many years it has been much easier for "light brown" people than it has been for Blacks that are "very dark" to succeed in their interactions with White people. (For confirmation of this consider examples of Blacks in employment, television, and movies.  The ones who made in-roads were those who were "light brown.")
Being Deaf is like that. 
The people at Gallaudet are tired of being told that to be acceptable you have to be a light brown shade of Deaf.
The students and faculty want a "very black" shade of Deaf to be president.

In a message dated 6/5/2006 7:08:25 PM Pacific Daylight Time, hirethedeaf@ writes:
Hopefully I didn't miss this on your site.  While me and a couple of co-workers were looking for the manual alphabet, we found it, but you didn't put the corresponding letters beneath each handshape.  Rex asked me, "How do I know which letter is which handshape?  (Other than going "A","B", "C", oh, ok, that's "D".)  They don't have the letters labeling them.".  I looked for that, once he made that comment, but could find only the unmarked handshapes.  Did I miss it?  He was looking for a place to refresh his memory.  He doesn't know the manual alphabet yet. 
Brenda :-)
Here's the latest version of my ABC wallpaper, see:

A teacher asks: 

"I know you do not teach babies sign language, but what would be the recommended price for that age range and specific audience that includes family members?"


When you are first starting out you tend to charge a lot less than after you are established.
One way to set your prices is to charge about what it costs someone to go to the movies in your area.
Meaning, if it costs $8.00 in your area to go see a 90-minute movie then you ought to charge about that much for your class per 90-minute session.
So...if you are teaching a four session class that meets an hour-and-a-half each time, you should charge $32.00 for the course.
But there is much to be considered. Do you provide handouts? Do you provide a booklet? How about a CD or DVD? Do you provide advanced classes? Do you let your students email you for more information? Are you certified? Who is your audience? (I know of a woman who earns hundreds of thousands a year teaching private swimming lessons to children of "movie stars.")
What it all comes down to is this: Market Demand.
What are people willing to pay for your services? The only sure way to know that is to start offering your services and then increase your fee each time you offer a new course until you don't get any registrations. Generally what instructors do is offer a course at a "reasonable" price, $20 to $60 for a 4 to 8 week course, advertise it, and see how many show up.
However, don't put artificial barriers on your income level. You might very well succeed at charging $140 or $160 for a 10-week course. I noticed that when I bundled my products into a "course pack" my sales skyrocketed. I charge companies here in California $3,000 to $6,000 for an ASL course. But then again, I've got the advanced degree, the college connections, the curriculum, and 20 years of experience. Two decades ago I was thrilled to pull in a tenth of that amount. I recall at one time I used to teach 13 different courses a week for various companies, colleges, and programs. Your eventual goal will be to teach less and charge more. You may even want to hire others to teach for you. I did that for a while, but realized my goal wasn't to become an "administrator" but rather to enjoy teaching ASL and/or getting paid for my ASL knowledge. So now I sometimes partner with other instructors and simply split the profit down the middle or in whatever proportion is fair. That motivates them to help advertise the program and recruit more students.
Dr. Bill

In a message dated 7/8/2006 3:37:03 PM Pacific Daylight Time, jhender@ writes:
Hi again Bill,
You might want to delicately note on the 'wish' sign that if you do it a few times it means 'h o r n y'. Facial expression is important too, but I can imagine how a really hungry person might give a similar facial expression too. I'd be funny, but for everyone else, heh.
Yes, you are certainly right, but the thing is...I have lots of really young kids using that site.
Even putting the word "h o r n y" on a web page can get it banned from some searches.
I'll post this to my newsletter though.


In a message dated 7/8/2006 3:22:33 PM Pacific Daylight Time, jhender writes:

Hi Bill!
Great, great site. You might want to note, or ask someone you know who is deaf, that your last sign for 'email' is for a singular, noun form of email. If you wanted to verbize it, or make it plural, you'd use a b-handshape instead of a 1-handshape, signifying more than one email.

I've also seen quite frequently a variation where you wave an e-handshape in the air and then sign 'letter/mail' by licking your thumb and slapping it in the corner of an open-b-handshape like it was a piece of mail.

Thanks for the email (which happened to be about the sign "email" heh).
I have adjusted that page a bit and added the following statement:
 <<Note:  A person emailed me stating that the sign for 'email' above is for "a singular, noun form of email. If you wanted to verbize it, or make it plural, you'd use a b-handshape instead of a 1-handshape, signifying more than one email."  
 My own experience is that the "1-handshape" (passing through a "C" handshape) version of this sign uses a single movement as the verb form and a repeated movement is the noun form.
 Back when email started becoming popular I noticed the bent-B-hand version being used prior to the index finger version.  As time passed the index finger version started showing up more than the bent-B-hand version.  Thus I think of the index finger version as the new form of the B-hand version.>>
That makes me wonder, Justin, where you got that idea from?  What area of the country do you live in?
Seems to me the usage you suggest is a "neologism."  (A term, or phrase which has been recently created ("coined") often to apply to new concepts, or to reshape older terms in newer language 
I'll be following the usage of this sign closely to see if a consensus develops.  I'll chat this up with my colleagues at the college and see where it goes.
Take care,

In a message dated 6/13/2006 12:23:24 PM Pacific Daylight Time, writes:
Saludos Bill!

Just read ASLPah 36.  Here are the two sources for Mexican Sign
Language that I have found to be the best.

VHS & book:

DVD & VHS by Ronald Henson

Both are done in English and Spanish.  The Ronald Henson videos are
more complete but a little slow moving, in my opinion.

I DON'T recommend the MSL/ASL translator cd by IDRT.  Very incomplete
and several Hispanic deaf have laughed at some of their signs.

Mexico's Department of Education (SEP) had produced a series of
booklets but they have been difficult to get ahold of.  The Chandler's
best bet is to go to the local special ed school in Mexico and see
what someone there has and ask to photocopy it.  Chances are a teacher
has a photocopy of a photocopy etc......

Hope this helps!
Hello Robin,
Great to hear from you!
Thanks for the information regarding MSL resources!
I'll be posting it in an upcoming newsletter (I already have a couple months in the pipeline, but it will show up eventually).  :)
Plus I'm going to set up a page over at in the Library titled Mexican Sign Language and put an edited version over there.

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