A journal for students and teachers of
American Sign Language.

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 Oct, 2006   

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In a message dated 9/14/2006 2:17:43 PM Pacific Daylight Time, a mother and fledgling ASL instructor writes:
I'm going to try to condense the last 7 months into a few short paragraphs. 
I grabbed the kids and left the state, heading to a domestic abuse shelter in Michigan in February.  I've been out of circulation pretty much ever
since.  My husband just got the Personal Protection Order and Divorce papers served to him, and he took down the ASL website immediately (as some sort of strange retaliation?)

I have all of the files saved onto a geocities site, but I can't figure out how to fix them (because I had copied them straight from the [old] site.  I only have internet through the library and the local college, now.  So your link to the [old] site (what used to be ASL playgroup) is down... permanently.  Someday I'd like to fix what I have on geocities, but I don't have the knowledge or the time at the moment. :(

I'm doing well now, finally have a place to live, a job, and part time college.  The boys have people around them who love them, and they have a
yard.  Haven't had time to see if there is any sort of Deaf community here, but think it may be too small a town.

If you reply to this email, it's best to do it to _______ (on file) as I don't check this one often.

Also, Southwestern Michigan College is looking for someone certified to teach ASL.  If you know of anyone, send them this way.  I talked to them
today and they said they'd be delighted to have it offered, but can't find an instructor (Niles, Michigan, but they also have a branch in Dowagiac).

(name on file)
Hello (name on file),
My heart goes out to you in your challenges.
Hang in there and things will improve. (I know, that sounds lame, but still...)
Things are going well out here in Sacramento.  These days my life consists of teaching at Sac State, working on my websites, doing a few projects with various agencies, and taking care of my family. 
My wife is almost finished with her Masters degree in creative writing.  My oldest son just got the lead in his school play, "Dracula." To say he is "psyched" would be a severe understatement.
Niles Michigan eh?  Hmmm that's going to be a toughie -- finding an ASL instructor.
When you get your site back up, let me know and I'll repost it to my resources page.
William Vicars, Ed.D.
Director, ASL Online and Immersion Programs
Sacramento State, College of Continuing Education
6000 J St. - Eureka Hall, Room 308
Sacramento, CA 95819-6079 * *

Hello Dr. Vicars,

It is Anthony from Aviano, Italy reminding you of the lunch invitation a couple of years from now when you bring your wife to Italy.

I look forward to your newsletter and I read each question and look forward to your responses.  When I read the first e-mail [in
issue #36/June] from "John" about [the difference between the terms] deaf/Deaf, I thought hmmmm....I wonder how Dr. Vicars will respond. Great answer.  His second e-mail made me a bit angry, but I loved your response.  By his third e-mail, I had the feeling that he was attempting to make you angry.  But I do love the diplomatic way that you responded.  deaf? Deaf? Spanish? African American vs [the "n" word] vs black vs them.....????????

Let's see.  War in Iraq. Hurricanes. Oil prices.  Tea in China. Chocolate or vanilla.

Bless you for the patience that you show in responding to these e-mails.  And I think that your response about teachers sending students to interview deaf people was right on.

In Italy, there is a SOCIETA DEI SORDO-MUTI, which translates directly to Society of Deaf Mutes.  I was interpreting a bulletin for a sign language interpreter
and I read it aloud in Italian first and then directly translated it into English. She went crazy and asked me how I DARE call them DEAF MUTES.  Well, if someone speaks the word MUTO in Italian and I need to translate it into English, there is no other word except MUTE!

I believe Americans believe that there is only one culture - that being American culture.  In Italy, SORDO-MUTO is not offensive.  Wouldn't it, as you stated, be great if labels were removed all around.  It might be boring, but I think that we could all use a bit of boredom in our lives these days.

Nothing really to ask you.  I just wish people would talk to deaf/Deaf (!) people and get to know them instead of analyzing and attempting to make things politically correct.  The bottom line is that things are the way they are JUST BECAUSE.  When I studied Russian (I am an Interpreter of Russian/Italian/French by trade) we'd have students who would argue over why something was said in a certain doesn't make sense in English.  I seriously believe that if one accepts "that is just the way that it is" learning a language is so much easier. English is not the only language on the planet, nor is American culture the only culture.  I know, I am preaching to the choir.   Dr. Vicars, thank you for your newsletter and for your humor and insights.

--Anthony from Italy
p.s. Still waiting to welcome you in Venice!

Hello Anthony,
Let me share with you a portion of an email I received this summer from Marci Wilson, an interpreter coordinator for Carson City School District in Nevada, U.S. I had previously suggested they focus on creating a "highly visual environment" wherein the participants (including the Hearing people) would communicate only in sign language. She writes:
<<Hey, we started our "silent classroom" on Monday.  The kids named it "The Deaf Room".  They wanted to name it "The Deaf Mute Room" because they see "mute" on the remote [control device] and it means "no sound".  We talked about the connotations from the past, but said it was their day, new way and all...but they decided "The Deaf Room" would be more accepted if Deaf adults came to visit.  I love it!  The interpreters are a little reluctant but the kids love it, too.  Thanks for the suggestion. 
-- Marci>>
I replied:
This is one of the most fascinating things presented to me all year:  The semantic evolution of the term "mute."
We now have a generation of Deaf who have a totally fresh understanding of the term mute. Theoretically it would be possible for the term "mute" to make an in-your-face comeback. There are zeitgeist websites out there devoted to "crip" humor for the "severely euphemized.
I look forward to investigating the ongoing "evolution" of the word "mute."
-- Bill

In a message dated 8/5/2006 7:39:53 AM Pacific Daylight Time, windlaw@ writes:
<<I was wondering if there was a sign for PAH other than finger spelling. I have seen so many references to the expression, many are e-mail addresses from the deaf community that incorporate PAH in their e-address.>>

Dear Windlaw,
Yes, "PAH" is the sign for SUCCESS done with a single outward/upward sweeping movement, along with the "Pah!" mouth morpheme that looks as if you were saying the word "pah."


In a message dated 8/30/2006 1:00:38 PM Pacific Daylight Time, twodogpurple@ writes:
Why do sign language people make funny faces?
Dr. Bill's Response: 
We like to laugh.
Bwahahahaha...  While many of us do indeed enjoy a good chuckle, I believe what you are referring to is "facial grammar."  Hearing people often think that us Deaf people look funny or odd due to the many expressions we display on our faces.
Facial movements and body language are a very important part of ASL.
Skilled users of ASL tend to use a lot of facial expressions to clarify and extend the meanings of their signs.  How you use your face also helps establish if you are asking a question and whether that question is open-ended or if it should be answered with a simple yes or no response.
Also, when we tell stories we often shift ourselves into the role of the characters in those stories. For example, if we are talking about someone who became angry, we adopt an angry facial expression.  If we are telling a story about someone who was happy, we put on a happy facial expression.  If we are telling a story with lots of different characters who are experiencing lots of different emotions you will indeed see a lot of "funny faces" in a very short span of time.
For more information, visit:
Dr. Bill

In a message dated 8/29/2006 11:13:34 AM Pacific Daylight Time, Shirleen.Jones@ writes:
Well - here is another question - It is based on observations that i have made and wanted your opinion.  A friend of mine (who was deafened by illness at abt age 4 or 5  - mainstreamed thru school - went to Gallaudet - masters in deaf ed) missed out on a teaching position last yr - When I asked her abt it - she rolled her eyes and signed "hearing brain" they think i have.  Do you perceive that there are status differences w/in Deaf community based on being "generationally" (not sure if that is even a word - but u know what i mean) Deaf (your parents, Deaf - their parents Deaf - their parents' parents Deaf) etcetc.  Pls let me know if you think this question is offensive - i will respectfully back off.  shirleen
Yes, there are indeed many status differences in the Deaf community.  Think of the community as a "dartboard" with rings that move outward from the center.  The closer to the center the ring is, the more valuable it is considered.
At the center of the target would find a Deaf person from a multigenerational Deaf family who's members have attended a state residential school for the deaf and Gallaudet university and have married other Deaf with similar experiences.  The less residual hearing a person has in the Deaf community, the higher his status.  If a person lipreads well or can talk, he is considered to be less "Deaf."  Sometimes this is referred to as being "hearing in the head."  That is unfortunate though because the "hearing in the head" sign really should be applied to those Deaf who "think like hearing people and value the things that hearing people value."  For example, I'm "Hard of Hearing" but I do not consider myself "hearing in the head."  I consider myself HH/Deaf.  By that I mean, I'm physically hard of hearing, but culturally Deaf.  Or at least "bicultural."
See below.

In a message dated 9/2/2006 7:27:55 AM Pacific Daylight Time, Abigail writes:
Dear Dr. Vicars,
 This question has been bothering me for a little while and I thought you'd be the right person to ask. My sister and I Amanda (she and I have sent you email before) are learning ASL. (We are 16 years old.) We both want to go into some kind of career that has to do with ASL such as teaching or interpreting so we want start learning now. We're sort of teaching ourselves through various sources such as your site, other sites, and books. We're twins so we are almost always with each other and take many of the opportunities when we're alone to sign to each other. Is it "dangerous" to try to teach yourself ASL? I ask this because I think that Amanda and I could unawares learn a concept or a sign wrong and then by the time we get to college and take real courses have a messed up knowledge of sign language. Am I right in thinking this way, or am I all wet?
Sure, there is a possibility of fossilizing a few wrong signs and concepts, but so what? Obviously you are a bright person.  Later on, when you recognize or learn a better variation of a sign you can drop your old sign.  Just keep an attitude of "Oh, so that's how you do it." 

Often young people like yourself are concerned that you might offend someone.  I respond to that by simply saying I'd much rather someone be interested in my language and make a few mistakes than for that person to avoid learning how to communicate with me due to being afraid of offending me. 

Besides, anyone who is easily offended by a second language learner's flubs probably isn't someone you want to make friends with in the first place.
You are using a variety of sources and materials for your studies instead of just one book so you are on the right path. By studying from many sources you add a measure of safety to your studies.
Next you need to seek out opportunities to actually interact with Deaf people so the foundation you are building can be smoothed out and refined.
Best wishes in your ASL endeavors.
Dr. Bill

In a message dated 9/2/2006 3:06:54 PM Pacific Daylight Time, a fledgling instructor writes:
One Sign question.  The books for signing songs for children use the word "I" by pointing at oneself.  Of course I'm use to the "I" being a fist in the chest with the little finger raised.  I'm wondering if it is okay to teach the children to point at themselves trusting they will learn the 'adult' way later in life (sort of like teaching Santa Claus, which bothers me). 

My history with Sign is one 40-hour week of intensive training taught by a deaf instructor from ________ College, _______.  I loved it so, I've kept it up ever since studying books, audio visuals, etc.  I was employed in an area with deaf residents and I was asked by the Board I was under if I would be willing to learn so I could communicate with them.
Dear Bothered,
Actually, the "adult" way IS pointing at yourself with an index finger, and the "Hearing" "English On The Hands" way is to form the letter "I" and thump it to the chest.  Initializing signs is one of many avenues used to turn ASL into "visual English."
Pointing is an integral and respected part of American Sign Language.  The terms "I" and "me" refer to the same person and are not relevant in ASL.  In ASL we simply "index" (point at) the person to whom we are referring.  (Or we use their name sign.)
Signed English (which uses the "I" hand) and ASL are two different things.    Signed English is not a language--it is a system or code that attempts to represent the English Language via the hands. 
ASL is a full, natural language that is used in many areas throughout the world. ASL is also used in varying degrees in Philippines, Ghana, Nigeria, Chad, Burkina Faso, Gabon, Zaire, Central African Republic, Cote d'Ivoire, Mauritania, Kenya, Madagascar, Benin, Togo, Zimbabwe, Singapore, Hong Kong (--Ethnolog:
Now, if your Deaf instructor taught you to use the "I" version instead of the "index" version, that means he or she taught you an aspect of Signed English rather than ASL.
Dr. Bill


In a message dated 8/25/2006 4:50:06 PM Pacific Daylight Time, bleedingstar81@ writes:
  I received my name sign when I was 8, from a deaf man in a park in Oregon, he blew fire in the park for money and I
always contributed.  He signed my name Christina with a C handshape over the heart tapping it 3 times which I thought was because my name is 3 syllables.
  I became very close with him and a hearing man who lived in the park and signed also... the hearing man later explained to me that I had been given
the name sign with three taps because I had an enormous heart... Now here is my dilemma, I met a girl Christine who is deaf, she has the same name
sign... I don't mind giving it up to her as long as I am given another with the same meaning!!!  Will you please assign me a new name sign... or should
I move? :)
Thank you so much for allowing access to your lessons I have learned many new signs and corrected many that I was doing wrong.
Dear Christina,
The best thing to do would be to get a namesign from a local Deaf person.  Why local?  To avoid the exact same situation that caused you to contact me--someone else in your area has a competing name sign.
A local Deaf person who is active in their community has a strong likelihood of knowing which name signs are being used in your area and which ones are available.
For example, you might want to contact the "Deaf Christina" in your area and ask her to help you come up with a new name sign. 
I'll go ahead now and suggest a namesign for you, and then you can check it out with local Deaf people next time you get a chance.  Instead of using a tapping movement, you could use a double brushing movement.  Or you could possibly tap twice--the first time with a "C" and the second time with your last initial.  Or tap it on the lower shoulder and then on the heart.
Dr. Bill

 In a message dated 8/22/2006 4:05:39 AM Pacific Daylight Time, Tony Ortiz writes:
Im a 19 year old hearing male that would like to give you my own research paper. That i did it on this group of deaf friends of mine to see if i could learn ASL i did it for fun but am still am not done learning. . The only thing i want back from this paper is feed back it will contain video feed of me and every one of my new friends learning more about each other and a written explanation of what i got out of every visit. I've always wanted to learn and maybe teach ASL i have never been around deaf people that much before. It makes me happy to see there faces when i come over and i am able to sign more and communicate more. They tell me how there day went who they saw and this is with out any prior knowledge other than fingerspelling. I found this site and it intrigued me so much that i e-mailed you to see what you'd say. Will you help a knowledge seeker like myself out. It would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you,
Tony Ortiz

Hello Tony,
I will certainly consider your research paper for publication online. Not all papers make it into the Lifeprint Library. If yours is of sufficient quality--I'll post it to the world.
Dr. Bill

In a message dated 10/11/2006 5:31:13 PM Pacific Daylight Time, iblong2him@ writes:

I will be teaching ASL in my church to anyone who wishes to learn to communicate to our deaf community.   I am asking your permission to print lessons and practice sheets for ASL and receptive fingerspelling.   It will be an ongoing class as long as there are interested students.
I really have no name for the project.  Maybe just 'Learning How NOT To Speak.' ?????
I will be using any resources you have to offer.   I had an abundance of books, materials of every description from my past studies in Deaf Ed and Certification Prep.   When my husband died this past March, I felt as if I would never get involved again, so I gave them all away.  My mistake.  I have bought a few of the materials I used to have, then I discovered your site and said "Praise The Lord!"
I would welcome any suggestions about how to keep new class members in pace with people who have been in the class for several weeks, or any in any area you can think of.   As I said, it will be ongoing. 
Thank you very much.
-- Judith Ashley


You are welcome to use my materials.
The challenge of handling students who are at different levels of progress is indeed a challenge.
I used to try to do that many years ago when I was first starting out. I learned quickly that it is critical to establish very clear goals and checkpoints for your student so they have something to aim for.  If an advanced student comes to class an you waste his time while you rehash previously learned material for the newbies you will likely lose the advanced student. 
Some approaches:
Choose one night a week and have three levels of classes. (Or teach a Saturday Program and have 6 levels of classes--depending on how many students you have). 
Sample weeknight program:
6:00 p.m. = Beginners
7:00 p.m. = Intermediate
8:00 p.m. = Advanced
Then start a new class every 12 weeks.  Teach 10 lessons per course.  Use the extra two weeks for your orientation and for your final exam. 

Adjust the Lifeprint Curriculum lessons to meet your needs.  For example, if you can't teach a whole lesson, then break one lesson into two lessons.
Or teach two "six-week" courses that meet an hour-and-a-half each week instead of three 12-week courses.
After you get graduates from the "Advanced" class, you can invite them to become teacher's aides for the beginner and intermediate classes, and or tutors outside of class.
Or set up an ASL Choir.  Teach your Advanced Students the signs and then they can work one on one with newbies to teach the newbies how to sign the songs.
And by all means, get some Deaf people involved with your classes and/or choir.
(Dr. Bill of

In a message dated 10/12/2006 5:30:13 PM Pacific Daylight Time, writes:
Is the sign /visit/ directional as in I VISIT YOU (moving towards you) or YOU VISIT ME (moving towards me)?
Yes.  That usage is a bit less common than many other "directional" signs, but "VISIT" is indeed directional.


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