ASL University | Bookstore | Catalog | Dictionary | Lessons | Resources | Syllabi | Library | Volume 1, Issue 46, May 2007 | William G. Vicars Ed.D., Editor


Items this issue:
* An ASL learner from Austria asks whether it makes sense to learn ASL in Europe
* An hard of hearing child of a Deaf adult takes issue with the sign for "STUDENT"
* A computer analyst wants to know if wearing earplugs makes a mockery of Deaf people
* A list of three ASL Immersions:  Safari: Boot Camp,  Safari: Disney,  and an 8-credit hour Summer Immersion

In a message dated 3/20/2007 1:17:25 P.M. Pacific Daylight Time, writes:
Dear Dr. Bill,

I have one question concerning learning ASL via E-learning. I am still learning ASL using your great webpage (thank you! seriously) and some other resources.... But: I live in Austria (Europe) so practising ASL will be difficult. There's is an introductionary course for ASL held in the institute where I just started to learn the Austrian Sign Language (ÖGS) so I could probably find a few people to practice a bit.
So does it make any sense to learn ASL in Europe? Besides that I really enjoy learning it. Will there ever be the need for it? Meaning do ASL users travel to Europe a lot (or the other way round)? Does it make sense to learn ASL to eventually teach it in Europe? What would You think?

And this leads me to my second question: I am 33 and not particulary gifted in learning languages (so-so). I am a historian and am working for an ethics institute of the catholic church mainly in publishing, webcontent managing, some education and resarch; but I am getting my mind set on taking a turn in my professional life as I am planning to take classes in the field education and if possible special education and Orthopedagogy and eventually want work in the social/educational field. So, do I stand any chances of ever learning these languages to a decent level? I am ready to devote energy and time into this project of mine.

Excuse me for taking your time, any comment would be thankfully appreciated
Best regards
Gerhard Dabringer

p.s. In case you wonder: I am using this free-email adress because my regular adress seems not to get through to america (always gets delivery failure messages...) and I have no idea why.
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.
Source:  Grimes, Barbara F. (editor), (1996). "Languages of USA" Ethnologue: Languages of the World, 13th Edition. Institute of Linguistics. Retrieved 10 May, 2001: <>
Since ASL use is widespread and becoming more widely used as time goes on it stands to reason that learning it could prove useful to you depending on what your future holds. 
As to whether you will ever reach fluency in ASL or any other signed language that is simply a matter of how much time and effort you put into it.  If you opportunities to use the language and take advantage of those opportunities then it is likely you will become fluent.  If you have few or no opportunities to converse in sign language then it is likely that you won't become fluent.  It is one of those "use it or lose it" situations.

In a message dated 5/2/2007 1:28:47 P.M. Pacific Daylight Time, vermyles@ writes:

mr. vigars;
I am looking at the signs your are teaching my daughter and there are a few that throws her. for instantance we sign student with the word study&person straight down.
I am now hard of hearing I am deaf inculturated, also a coda. the main person I studied under were the deaf themselves. all my life. lottie riechoff was also my teacher. she taught at galladet. also edward lawrence at central bible college. I am not pure asl nor english I do pigeon sign. I am able to flucuate between both. the way you sign student has not been widely accepted. also each state or region has their own variation of sign. my daughter is also having the same hearing difficulty now and it is important that she learns acturately. she is not patient enough with me. because I do not use my lips nor finger spell with her. I use straight signage. the way I learned.
mrs. myles

Hello Mrs. Myles,
Actually my name is Dr. William Vicars (no "g" in it).  But feel free to call me "Bill."   :)
I'm glad your daughter is furthering her ASL studies.  You indicated that the way I sign "STUDENT" (LEARN-PERSON) has not been widely accepted and that you believe your sign "STUDY-PERSON" is more accurate and representative of how it is signed in the Deaf community. 
Thank you for sharing your opinion and allow me to issue you a friendly little challenge: 
Go to your library or bookstore and open up 10 ASL dictionaries or textbooks to their "student" entry and note whether they are using "my" version or your version.  Next, google "American Sign Language" and find 3 or more online ASL dictionaries and click on their entry for "student" to see which version the online dictionaries are using.
As I go about the process of deciding which signs to include in my dictionary and lessons I have found that a multi-step approach to verification is the best way to go:  First I compare numerous respected sign language dictionaries and textbooks to see how the sign is demonstrated in those dictionaries. Occasionally the dictionaries conflict with each other but eventually a dominant sign tends to emerge.  After doing a thorough review of the literature it is time to interview a cross section of Deaf adults who have extensive experience signing.  For example, I teach ASL at California State University, Sacramento where many of my co-workers are Deaf. (I myself am Deaf/hh -- meaning, I am hard of hearing, and culturally Deaf/immersed in the Deaf Community). In addition to my coworkers, the majority of my friends are Deaf. My wife is Deaf.  I interview them all as to how they do that particular sign. I make it a goal to ask a minimum of 10 advanced Deaf signers how "they" do it.
The next stage of investigating a sign is to consider how the sign is done in other locations and decide which version is more widely used.  I've lived in California, Utah, Texas, Indiana, Oregon, Maryland, and Washington D.C. (at Gallaudet in Benson Hall). My friends and co-workers have lived all over the map.
And finally the last stage is to post the sign online to my website where it is exposed to the scrutiny of thousands of individuals such as yourself who then email me and tell me their version is better.  :)
And since it is true that often times there are two or three good versions of a sign, I do strive to post such variations.

In a message dated 3/8/2007 8:55:50 P.M. Pacific Standard Time, itpro4470@ writes:
      I am new to ASL....  I want to try an experiment but I am afraid of offending the Deaf community. To better understand being deaf, when I become good at signing, I'd like to wear earplugs for a certain period of time like a week or even a month. I am afraid of this being seen as mockery, distasteful or rude if it is I will not do this. Thank you for taking the time to read and answer my question.

Robert McMahon
Solution Center Analyst
I think whether or not you offend anyone will depend greatly on factors other than having ear plugs in your ears.  There is a difference between "having ear plugs," and "announcing that you have ear plugs."  Eventually someone will ask you why you are wearing ear plugs. Instead of "announcing" that you are doing an experiment, you can humbly state "plugs help me concentrate." 

One of the problems with able-bodied people participating in "disabled for a day" (or a week) types of experiments is that such individuals lack the foundational skills to function as a person with a disability.  For example, if you put an able bodied person in a wheelchair he or she will feel very awkward and will tend to experience extreme frustration when trying to get anywhere or do anything.  This causes the able-bodied person to pity or feel sorry for individuals with disabilities. Worse, it causes the able-bodied person to underestimate the abilities of people with disabilities. Just because YOU can't get through a door in a wheelchair doesn't mean that a long-time user of a wheelchair can't.  He or she has had practice, you haven't.  An able bodied person tries it for a day and decides, "Oh those poor disabled people--we'd better put them all on welfare because they sure as heck can't function in society--I know because I was in a wheelchair for a day and I couldn't even get through a door."  That's what you call "handicapping the disabled."   My wife once dated a fellow who uses a wheelchair.  When he got over to her apartment she felt embarrassed that she forgot to account for a short row of steps leading up to her apartment door.  The fellow simply turned his wheelchair sideways and hopped up the stairs!  (Apparently he was quite the athlete and regularly competed in various sporting events).  I'm not saying that all wheelchair users can outrun speeding bullets and leap tall stairs in a single bound. I'm simply saying that able bodied people need to be very careful about making assumptions regarding the abilities of individuals with disabilities.  My wife might have missed out on a great date and a new friend by making such assumptions.

If you were to have grown up Deaf you would have developed visual skills that you do not currently possess.  Putting in a pair of ear plugs for a week or a month would cause you to experience the world of a "late deafened adult" -- not the world of a culturally Deaf person.  Actually, if your hearing is pretty good, earplugs will, at best, only help you experience a "hard of hearing" existence--not a Deaf existence--since most ear plugs only block 30 or fewer decibels of sound.

Additionally, your experiment would likely lead to a misperception of the "Deaf experience" because in the back of your mind you know that you can "take out" the earplugs whenever you would like.  Thus you lack the resolute acceptance of your condition experienced by someone who has been Deaf for many years and who plans on remaining Deaf until the day they die.

That being said, I'm all for experimentation and Hearing people trying to better understand people who are Deaf. So, by all means if you want to do such an experiment, have at it. 
(Dr. V of
p.s. Watch out for cars and other large moving objects.


In a message dated 3/9/2007 7:38:33 P.M. Pacific Standard Time, itpro4470@ writes:

Thank you Bill for enlightening me. I have made the decision to not do that experiment, it would just yield inaccurate results. Instead I will interact with the Deaf community as much as I can and use empathy to help me understand what it is really like (even though I will never truly know). I am learning ASL because I am aspiring to  be a firefighter and in Columbus we have the Ohio school for the deaf and a fairly large Deaf community. I believe it will be essential for me to be able to sign and understand the Deaf community's struggles, triumphs, successes, failures, and most importantly my P's and Q's to better serve our local community (deaf and hearing) and hopefully I will be able to educate some of the
hearing to the misconceptions that the mainstream has about the Deaf community....

In a message dated 5/21/2007 9:26:58 A.M. Pacific Daylight Time, tntbros25@  writes:

Hi Dr Vicars ~
  I would like to find out if you can help. I advocate for a friend of mine. He is deaf. He (we) have been attending FRC (Feather River College), Quincy Ca. for ASL classes. Teacher name Lynne Koeller.  My friend's name is Mike Sinsabaugh. He grew up lip reading. He was born with hearing loss, but he did not find out until he was 40 years old. Other schools thought he was slow learner. He passed/finished ASL1 and ASL2. The college now says that if he want to have interupter for next semester, he needs to know more ASL. We cant move to Sac. We go Deaf chat in Reno,( third wednesday - Starbucks -Sparks) Chico, (third friday - Chico Mall -food court) (4th friday Starbucks - Chico) and Quincy (  second wednesday - Plumas county Library) here.  Deaf community is very small here in mountains. We sign everyday at home. but not many people to sign with. He really need more to continue with education. Any suggestions?

Thank you for your time, Julz Statler

There are other options than an "ASL" interpreter.  Your friend could ask for RTC (real time captioning).  The office for students with disabilities at your school can provide real time captioning. .  You need to ask for a trained captionist or stenographer using a stenographic keyboard. Skilled captionists can transcribe at 225 words a minute.  If you can't get a captionist then certainly you can get at least a fast typist and a laptop computer.
Regarding the college's assertion that the individual needs to know more ASL prior to having an interpreter, my question is, "How much more ASL?" What is the benchmark? 
I would also ask, "What if Mike asked for an oral interpreter?"  How about an oral interpreter who uses ASL signs in English word order while mouthing the words?  Obviously your friend understands English well and thus "English" isn't the challenge.  The problem is a hearing loss, not a lack of ability to use and understand English.
If Mike isn't currently a client of your state's division of rehabilitation services, he needs to check into it.  "Rehab" can pay for special ASL tutoring if it is deemed beneficial in preparing Mike for gainful employment thus it is certainly worth checking into.
Dr. Bill

Follow up:  In further conversations with Julz, as it turns out, Mike has only limited English skills as well.  Thus there will be no quick and easy route to communication for him.  Instead it is now a matter of increasing the amount and frequency of comprehensible language input.  What I mean by that is--the more he studies and practices both English and ASL in an environment and through systems that allow him to control the pace of learning and challenge him at a level that is always just slightly ahead of his current abilities--the better he will become at both. Such activities will include attending Deaf events with a companion or friend who can "fill him in" on signs that he doesn't understand, taking progressively more challenging ASL and English classes, and keeping a dictionary nearby when he reads.

This rest of this email contains three items that are FYI only:

1.  Information about a special 3-day ASL Immersion limited to approximately 10 participants.
2.  Information about a week-long ASL Immersion near Lake Tahoe.
3.  Information about a 2-week ASL Immersion at Sac State  that provides 8 semester-credit-hours. (Accredited).
I hope things are going well for you and you are looking forward to a terrific summer!

William Vicars, Ed.D.
Director, ASL Online and Immersion Programs
California State University, Sacramento


Each year I invite a limited number of participants along on a no-voice trip to Disneyland or some other fun theme park for a day of fun, interaction, and  accelerated ASL learning.

Here are the details for the 2007 trip:

3-Day ASL Immersion Excursion   

Dates of event: June 19 - 21, 2007

Days of event:  Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday

Destination: Disneyland in Anaheim California

Mode of travel:  Large passenger van

Modes of communication permitted: signing, writing, gesturing, miming, laughing, (Screaming is permitted on rides as long as you are not screaming intelligible words.)

Modes of communication NOT permitted: talking, whispering, exaggerated mouthing

Your contribution to the cost of the trip:  $295.00


Includes: Two nights hotel accommodations, Disneyland ticket, transportation, and you may ask Dr. Bill an unlimited amount of ASL-related questions.


Accommodations: Hotel or motel, average of 4 persons to a room. 

Food: You are responsible for your own food.  I'll provide some snacks in the van, and we will stop every couple hours at a fast food place / gas station for restroom and chow breaks.  I recommend you bring some munchies for the trip down, and enough extra cash for meals throughout the trip.

Ticket:  One all-day passport to Disneyland

Transportation: We will ride together in a large passenger van

Point of departure: 8506 Everglade Dr. Sacramento CA 95826

Time of departure:  Tuesday morning 10 a.m.

Time of return:  Sometime Thursday.  Generally before midnight.  Best estimate is between 6 and 8 p.m.
More information:


“ASL Boot-camp”

American Sign Language Immersion, Summer 2007
College of Education / ASL Department / College of Continuing Education
California State University, Sacramento

Online (distance education) pre-study program: July 1, 2007, to August 3, 2006.
In-person Residency: Monday, August 6, 2007, – Friday, August 17, 2007.

A one-month online pre-study program followed by an intense two-week no-voice residency including morning-to-night instruction (9-hours daily, Monday - Friday) scheduled to be taught by three or more Deaf instructors.

Upon successful completion, students will receive 8 units of regionally accredited upper-division college credit:
EDS 153 American Sign Language 3 (4 Semester Credit Hours, California State University System)
EDS 15
4 American Sign Language 4 (4 Semester Credit Hours, California State University System)

Prerequisite: Students must have basic conversational signing ability equivalent to two-semesters of ASL classes.

Tuition: $1400 plus materials
Materials:  (
Ordering Information Students order their own materials using whatever source they like.  The ordering information below is provided as a courtesy and is subject to variation depending on the publisher.
     -  Signing Naturally Level 2 Student DVD and Workbook Price: $69.95 + S&H [Order now, on your own]
     -  Signing Naturally Level 3 Student DVD and Workbook Price: $79.95 + S&H [Order now, on your own] 
     -  ASLU Advanced Vocabulary Development Disk $19.95 + S&H  [Order.]

Your total cost will be:  $1400 (tuition), plus approximately $169.85 for materials (plus tax and shipping), plus whatever your travel costs are, your hotel or other lodging if not commuting from home, and food.

Registration Deadline:  June 1, 2007

Application process:  Students may apply to the CSUS ASL Immersion Program by submitting a $100 application fee and their contact information to the CSUS College of Continuing Education.  The application fee can be paid by check made payable to CSUS or by credit card:

1. In person at the College of Continuing Education located in Napa Hall, 3000 State University Drive East, Sacramento, CA 95819.

2. Phone-In using Visa, MasterCard or Discover (916) 278-6984  (or Toll Free 1-800-858-7743).

3. Mail-In by using the following form: 
Send to: Liz Lopez, College of Continuing Education, Napa Hall, 3000 State University Drive East, Sacramento, CA 95819

There is an application fee of $100.  This application fee is applied toward the total program cost. The application fee is required and  will hold your place in the program in case all the seats are filled. Students may apply and pay in full by June 1.  Please apply early, enrollment is limited.

Credits earned in this program count toward Sacramento State's ASL certificate program. This program covers Sacramento State course numbers:  EDS 152 and EDS 153 (ASL third and fourth semesters). 

For matters concerning billing, payment, housing, or registration you should contact Liz Lopez, Program Coordinator, at (916) 278-4813 or email at:


ASL Safari '07: "Grover Hot Springs"
An Advanced ASL Immersion Workshop Campout sponsored by

What:  A six-day ASL Immersion workshop / camping trip for interpreters and advanced students. 
Dates:  Monday June 25, 2007 through Saturday, June 30, 2007  (Monday afternoon, through Saturday morning)
Location:  Grover Hot Springs Camp Ground (Near Lake Tahoe, California)
It is situated in a small alpine valley of forest and meadows at 6000'. Best known for its hot pool that is fed by hot springs. A trout creek runs through the park and hiking trails lead into scenic Forest Service lands. The campground features both a hot pool and recreation pool.  Additional amenities include: Nature Trails, Hiking Trails, Fishing, Picnic Area, restrooms, showers (small fee).
Provided: Six workshops, food, and a place for you to set up your tent, (or we can arrange a shared tent for you).
Cost:  (No more than $225)
Parking:  $6 per night (Carpooling encouraged)
This workshop is not for beginners.  It for individuals who have completed four semesters or more of ASL courses or the equivalent.

Registration, Payment, and more information:


American Sign Language University ™ © William Vicars