ASL University | Bookstore | Catalog | Dictionary | Lessons | Resources | Syllabi | Library | Volume 1, Issue 45, April 2007 | William G. Vicars Ed.D., Editor



In a message dated 3/9/2007 9:15:18 A.M. Pacific Standard Time, writes:
Dr. Vicars,
      I am doing a ASL 1 project. For my project i am doing a song called "
Hound dog" by Elvis Presley i looked on many different websites for the sign
"hound" i can't find it anywhere my teacher says i just have to fingerspell
it. i was hoping if you would know the sign if it even exists. looking
forward to hearing back from you.

          Thank You,
                        Lauren G.
The word "hound" means to track or to hunt.  A hound dog is a tracking or hunting dog.
Thus you could use either "chase" or "hunt" in place of "hound" in your song.
Dr. Bill

In a message dated 3/15/2007 12:11:49 PM Pacific Daylight Time, lily9326@ writes:
Dr. Vicars,
My name is Ashley and I am a mother of a 6 month old.  I took a few years of sign language and I want to start teaching her some.  My plan is to sign many of the things I say to her.  One of the things I do is say her name a lot, Sophie, so she learns to associate herself with her name.  However, she does not have a name sign and I know as a hearing person I am not allowed to give her one.  I prefer not to have to spell her name out every time and I also prefer not to just point to her, since I use that when I say "you".  I want her to be able to distinguish between "Sophie" and "you/me."  Do you have any suggestions as to how to go about this?  Thank you for your help.
Ashley Crain
For starters you could just twist an "s" on the cheek and use that for her name sign.
Then later when you make a deaf friend ask that person if they think the "S" on the cheek is a good match for your daughter and doesn't conflict with any local names.  If there is a conflict, then ask your new deaf friend for a better suggestion.

In a message dated 3/12/2007 8:20:48 A.M. Pacific Daylight Time, KennedyL@ writes:

Dear Bill:
Here a our high school, we are using your ASL online lessons and disk to facilitate and Independent Study ASL course.  I am the teacher who is proctoring the coursework.  I have a question regarding the Quiz for lesson 9.   
The answer for question #189 is given as two questions or a two fold question.  (Do you have a garage? And if so, how many cars does it hold?)
I have a student who has responded with:  How many cars does your garage hold?   
I have corrected the students response as wrong based on general linguistic principles.  However, she continues to argue the point that her response is the same as the key answer, according to ASL linguistic rules.  Could you shed some light on this?  Is the student correct?  Based on English semantics it would not be correct.  However, are the semantics different with ASL?
Laura Pena
St. Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists
St. Paul, Mn

The question at hand is:
GARAGE HAVE? CL:3-(vehicle, "park")++ HOW-MANY CAN?  (Do you have a garage? --if so-- How many cars will it fit?)
The student's interpretation was:  How many cars does your garage hold?
As an instructor correcting the student's test, the overriding issue here is, "Did the student understand what was being signed?"  Which is to say, did the student understand the signs:
CL:3 - ("parked car")
Did the student also understand the overall intent of the question as wanting to know how many cars can fit in the person's garage?
Now, under the "strictest" interpretation of that sentence it is a fact that I sought two pieces of information:  Does the listener have a garage?  How many cars does that garage hold?
In linguistics we move from phonology to morphology to syntax to semantics and then to pragmatics.  Pragmatics, in this case, referring to the situational context within which sentence is expressed. Pragmatics also involves taking a look at the knowledge and beliefs of the speaker and the relation between speaker and listener.
Let's consider two different circumstances:
Situation 1:  Testing environment:  The sentence is expressed as an isolated language sample in a non-conversational setting to a group of students.

Situation 2:  Real life conversation between two individuals.

In the first situation (during a test) there is no opportunity for participation of the listener in the construction of meaning during the "GARAGE HAVE" portion of the question. 

In the second situation (during a conversation) the listener would actively participate in the construction of meaning by either nodding or shaking their head.  The listener could technically shake their head "no" and the speaker would need to abandon the rest of the question because it would not make sense.

Thus it is can be argued that while the semantics in each sentence of each situation are the same, the pragmatics are different.

So, if it can be "argued," then what is the argument?
The student could argue that the "GARAGE HAVE" portion of the sentence is used to establish whether the listener owns or possesses a garage. 
The student could then argue that the "your garage" portion of her answer corresponds to the "HAVE GARAGE" portion of the question since "your" and "HAVE" are both used to indicate possession of the garage.
It would be tempting to assert that YOUR and HAVE are two different signs, (which they are), but again, we are talking about pragmatics (overall meaning) not morphology (the meanings of individual units).
In everyday ASL usage, it is common (but not required) to establish a topic through a process of "topicalization," and then to make a comment or ask a question about that topic. See:

So, bottom line?  It could go either way.  As an instructor you have to ask yourself, is this a good student?  Did she get most of the other sentences correct?  Did she answer correctly at least one other sentence which used the sign "HAVE?"  Do you feel that she doesn't know the sign for "HAVE?"  Did she omit the first part of the answer because she did not understand the signs or did she instead interpret the question the way she did because she was choosing a casual (yet basically correct) interpretation?  Also, was the concept covered carefully during a classroom lesson?   Expectations for the precision of answers be to questions about a particular concept should be directly correlated to the amount of time spent in class emphasizing that concept.

And finally, something for you to consider when students come up to "argue" with you:  "Will it really matter?"
In terms of grading, will the loss or addition of this "one" point or set of points affect the student's grade at the end of the semester?  You can head off a lot of arguments by simply reassuring a student that at the end of the semester if she is "one point" away from getting her "A" that she is welcome to remind you of this "borderline" question and you will give it to her.
For what it is worth, I personally would have given it to the student.  I showed it to my wife (who also teaches ASL) and she indicated that she would give it to the student as well.

In a message dated 3/12/2007 9:31:59 A.M. Pacific Daylight Time, an interpreter asks:
How would you interpret:  "You weren't even a gleam in your parents eye yet."
There are two aspects to this interpretation:
1.  The meaning
2.  The metaphor
The general meaning is easy enough to interpret: 
BEFORE-(prior to version) YOU BORN
An even more general interpretation would be:  HAPPEN LONG-AGO.
As interpreters though, we mourn the loss of the metaphor.  We know it is there.  We know it has impact, adds interest, and carries meaning. But we know it only carries meaning if the recipient has enough of a cognitive base to understand the metaphor.

We human beings are "pattern recognizing" animals.
We survive because we have the ability to recognize patterns and relate them to previously acquired information.  We see an impression in the mud and recognize it as the pattern of a tiger's paw and relate that to the same patterns we saw on the ground last week after a tiger carried away our uncle Fred (Flintstone). In recognizing the pattern and relating it to previously acquired information we have that "aha!" moment where "meaning" is achieved. Thus those who are good at recognizing patterns survive. Those who are not good at recognizing patterns get carried away by tigers and thus the gene pool gravitates inexorably toward offspring who enjoy looking for and recognizing patterns. 
Recognition literally means to "again cognize" which means to perceive or become conscious of something that we have previously perceived or become conscious of.
If we have not previously perceived something we cannot "recognize it."  We cannot have that aha moment because there is nothing to which it can be attached.  The information is simply an "uh huh" or an "oh" but it is incapable of causing an "aha!"
Humans, (particularly young children) enjoy doing "connect the dots" puzzles because of the "aha" principle of pattern recognition.
We start with a picture of a rabbit and then we make it abstract.  We represent it as a series of dots.  The dots are an abstraction of the picture of the rabbit.  Children (and adults) enjoy moving from the abstract to the concrete.
Metaphors are abstractions.  We start with a meaning and then we distort it into a different but related (recognizable) pattern.
We enjoy metaphors because they are just ambiguous enough that if we think about them for a moment we will be able to relate them to previously perceived information and think "Aha!  I get it. What that means is..."
The challenge facing interpreters is that when presented with a metaphor we end up "doing what we can within the time available to us" because we are seldom granted enough time to "connect the dots" for our clients."

----- Original Message -----
Sent: Monday, March 12, 2007 7:24 PM
Subject: Re: ASL University

In a message dated 3/12/2007 2:17:55 P.M. Pacific Daylight Time, writes:
What a fascinating website!
I've been teaching ASL, continuing education, for nearly 15 years. For a few years before that, I freelance interpreted.
I am entering the world of "high-school instruction" and was looking into your program.  You mention a 3 credit college course, or ASL 1 being equivalent to a 1 semester High School Course. Your lessons/quizzes, etc., make it a no-brainer for an instructor. With the additional use of video, games, receptive and expressive practice, you have done all the work.
My question, to sum up, is the ASL1 and ASL2 program appropriate for high school, in class, instruction?
Suzanne Carter
Absolutely.  ASL 1 and 2 at ASLU is indeed appropriate for High School.  It also works well for home schooling.
Feel free to use the curriculum in your high school courses and if you develop any materials based on the ASLU curriculum you are welcome to forward them to me for (possible) inclusion in the curriculum or posting as "additional resources."
(Dr. V of

In a message dated 3/13/2007 3:53:33 A.M. Pacific Daylight Time, writes:
Good Morning Bill!
I truly appreciate your speedy email. I never expected such a quick response from such a busy person.
I would like to ask your opinion on this situation. Your opinion, and that of other ASL Instructors, matter deeply to me.
I attended college in 1994 and received my AS in Business, and then went on to my certificate in Deaf Studies. I completed all but one course; the program was dropped.
I then immersed myself in Deaf Culture, Deaf Clubs, interpreting for friends everywhere, I lived and breathed sign. I did this for 5 years.
I then slowed way down to get married, have a family, etc. I stayed in touch with a few friends, one of which was teaching continuing ed at a vocational school. I attended with her for 2 years, soaking it all in, and then took the job upon myself.  My circle of friends truly felt I was ready to; and I did too.
This is now nearly 15 years ago. I am extremely comfortable teaching my 20 hour course at continuing ed. I introduce ASL and inform them of SEE, Total Communication, etc. I inform them of Deaf Culture; having had so many friends living that way it is easy to retract those years. I cut out articles in papers and magazines and we "debate" cochlear implants, a hearing president at Galludet, etc. I bring games, fun, and I truly feel I am great at that. I stress upon facial expression and give practice time at the end of each class to build upon receptive skills.
However, here is where my indecision lies: I am not immersed in Deaf Culture right now. I have not signed daily with Deaf people in years. I occasionally run into a signing person at the vocational school, but in all honesty, it is no more than 5-10 times a year.  When I do sign, I am comfortable, and simply ask the signer to slow down if I feel I need them to. There are parts of ASL I have never taught because of continuing ed time constraints.  There are signs I do not know and I am very open about this - we'll learn together. There are many English words I do not know either! I did log onto the ASLTA site and I have to be honest, the provisional scares me.  I have not signed fluently for 5 years. I can easily prepare a syllabus and lesson plan, however.
Your lesson plans for ASL 1 and 2 didn't frighten me..there are signs I need to brush up on. At this particular High School, I do not need to be a certified teacher. I have the Superintendent, my hearing frieds, my students, and the teachers in the building (because I substitute daily in the elementary school) all telling me I can do this. However, you and I both know that a hearing person without any knowledge of ASL thinks the language intriguing from the alphabet on; it is much more than that. This class has never been offered in this school district so it is appealing to all. I could do a terrible job and no one would be the wiser - but me.
Am I doing a disservice to these kids knowing that my receptive skills are NOT up to par?  Knowing also, this is an introductory class that is in no way preparing them to be an interpreter or teacher.  Am I misrepresenting  those instructors/teachers/presenters that are currently signing daily, immersed in Deaf Culture, and doing a heck of a great job?
I'm so sorry to lie all of this on you. I'm truly looking for an honest opinion, not a sugar-coated one.
In one hand, I know my limitations. However, I am able to pick up any resource book/video, study it over the summer to refresh for September.  I also know that I do not have a tremendous amount of self-confidence and am scared to death to try this for a year; I'm afraid to push myself and make a hugh mistake.
Awaiting your reply,
Suzanne Carter
Dear Suzanne,
You asked my opinion regarding if you'd be doing a disservice to the students at your school by accepting a position teaching them an introductory ASL class.
Let's consider:
You participated in a Deaf Studies program.  You "lived and breathed" sign language and immersed yourself in Deaf Culture for 5 years.   You have freelance interpreting experience.  You have taught a continuing education ASL course for 15 years.  You used to have a number of Deaf friends.  You currently interact with Deaf people 10 to 15 times a year. You have a collection of Deaf-related news articles ready to share.  You use games and know how to make your class fun. And to top all that off you are humble, self-aware, and concerned about doing a good job!
It is clear to me that you will do a wonderful job as a high-school ASL instructor.
I'm sure this next bit of advice is not news, but I'll mention it for emphasis:  As you prepare to take on this new assignment it will be helpful for you to "re-immerse" yourself into the culture and develop at least a few strong connections to your local Deaf community.  For example, pick a few Deaf events in your area and attend them regularly.  Make sure to stick around socialize afterward.  Develop a few Deaf contacts that you can ask for feedback on your signing. 
Have fun and enjoy your new position!
(Dr. Vicars of


American Sign Language University William Vicars