ASL University | Bookstore | Catalog | Dictionary | Lessons | Resources | Syllabi | Library  |  Issue 48, July 2007  |  William G. Vicars Ed.D., Editor


Hello ASL Heroes!
Here's the latest edition of my newsletter.
I hope you are having a wonderful summer!
I've been having an excellent summer.  My only challenge is being faced with too many exciting projects on my to do list.  My current favorite project lately has been "experimenting with Adobe Flash technologies" for adding more video to my main website ( 
Recently, a friend of mine mentioned that she has about 15 students per class and she asked me how many students are typically in my "in-person" classes.  Last year's ASL class sizes at Sac State were around 33 (cut off at 30, plus signature adds). This year the dept. chair says she will cut off registration at 25.  Regardless where the cutoff is, there ends up a line of prospective students standing along the walls of each class literally begging to be let into the classes because they need their language credits to graduate.
Here at Sac State there is a budget crunch so the administration want our classes as full as possible. The teachers protested and so the administrative directors are striving to at least cut it off at 25.
I feel lucky though. Many of my friends teach at 2-year colleges where the class size is 40.  Yes folks you read that right--forty students in an ASL class.  Year after year.
So there you have it--everything is relative.  The man with no shoes complained until he met the man with no feet.  The man who taught 30 students complained until he met the man who taught 40, heh.
I've really enjoyed being at Sac State, trying new things, and building up my online curriculum.  I've been somewhat of a maverick and bucked the system under the banner of "academic freedom." I've made it clear that I'd rather quit and go somewhere else than be stuck teaching a non-student friendly text. I've been trying to help people around me adopt the attitude that we should be "standards based" not "book based."
I went on a bunch of family outings earlier this summer (Disneyland, Tahoe, Park City, Ogden, American River, etc.). The first half of summer was amazingly enjoyable. It amounted to a priceless set of experiences with my wife and kids. For example, each of my kids and I all went indoor "skydiving" in Ogden, Utah where there is a new sports center that has a vertical wind-tunnel that reaches speeds of 120 mph and up. It blows so hard straight up that we literally flew.  Lots of fun!
Well, gotta get back to my checking my emails. Three more have arrived since I started typing this one.
Take care,
--Bill V.

In a message dated 7/15/2007 6:43:36 A.M. Pacific Daylight Time, marykolasinski@ writes:

Dear Dr. V,

....  I’ve been teaching my 9-month-old son ASL, as fast as I can learn it.  I’ve run into a few stumbling blocks as far as vocabulary, and I’ve exhausted my searches of all the books and websites I can find.

 I’m looking for the ASL sign for “squash” (the food)... I don’t like to use “made up” signs, and my son’s getting old enough now that he seems confused by me signing generic “food” ...
Mary K.

There is no widely established sign for "squash."
Most adults would simply spell it quickly.  If needed, you can be describe it by using showing the shape and by explaining the colors.

After spelling "S-Q-U-A-S-H" I suppose your could close the drapes and squish a dominant hand FIST into a base hand PALM with a single, exaggerated movement.  It is important to pack a knapsack with fresh underwear prior to doing this because soon the ASL Police will show up at your door and cart you away for using a "made up sign."  Heh.

Actually this brings up a good point about the difference between "made up" signs and "home signs."

Certain signs are never meant to leave the home. While "home signs" are indeed made up, they are mainly used between family members to convey meaning within the walls of their own house (or in the car or hanging out with each other). Every Deaf person I know has a couple of signs in their head that "mom/dad/sister/brother" used but that nobody else does.

This is different from "signs" made up by Hearing educators of Deaf children. 
Certain teachers (and/or interpreters) instead of investing the time and effort to learn the real sign or real method of expressing a concept choose to simply make up a sign.  These are people who are being paid to do a job. That job centers around communicating with children of the Deaf community.  Learning the language of the Deaf community requires contact with the Deaf community.  This takes time and effort. But instead of investing the time and effort it takes to find a Deaf person and ask him or her how to sign "Pinocchio" they simply make up a sign and end up signing "p____" (male body part). (True story -- I assure you.)

I do get the feeling that you are very conscientious about the signs you use. And I respect you for that. You indicate that you've exhausted all of the books and websites that you can find.  If you are planning on continuing to learn ASL and teach your son, what you really need to find is a few regular Deaf events to attend so you can make Deaf friends who can tell you how they sign "squash" or any other words that aren't in the books or on the websites (yet).

Good luck in your ASL endeavors.
Dr. Bill 
p.s. I keep asking my Deaf friends and colleagues how they sign "squash" and they all get mischievous grins and sign "flatten."  Then they tell me they don't know of a sign and that they just spell it.

In a message dated 7/27/2007 3:11:17 A.M. Pacific Daylight Time, an instructor writes:
I have an abnormally loaded classroom this time: 10/15 nursing students!
I think it has something to do with the current adding of ASL to the
humanity requirement at Central Michigan U.  Of course I PREACH the
importance of the nursing profession to understand and use signing with
Deaf clients (since this is the one place most likely to NOT have family,
friends, nor interpreters with them at all times.  But it means the
prospects for retention for ASL 2 is dismal.  (Nursing program has so
many required classes and them mostly on rotation so it leaves little
time for taking "your choice" classes.)
Bit of brainstorming here:  You could set up your own "nursing signs certificate" for students who learn an additional 100 "nursing-related signs" and who complete the level 2 course.  Just videotape yourself doing the 100 signs and put it in your local school bookstore.   (I realize this idea may see a bit crazy, but play with it a bit and see what gels in your mind.)  I've often thought that ASL classes should consist of a 75:25 core signs to "field-of-study signs" per unit.
Meaning?  For each credit-hour (semester system) students should learn 75 core vocabulary signs and then choose 25 signs on their own that they want to learn that relate specifically to their chosen profession.  (Along with grammar, culture, conversation skills, history, current events, and terminology.)  -- I have to include  that parenthetical phrase and make it  bold -- since it seems there is always someone who thinks I'm pushing an old fashioned "vocabulary list" approach.  Not at all.  I'm simply boiling it down from "functions."  For example, if you decide that a student ought to be able to participate in scheduling of events and discussing past and future events ("scheduling" and "discussing" are "functions") then you will need to provide the student with the specific vocabulary (the tools: time signs) to do so.
Anyway, for a 4 credit hour class students would learn 300 core vocab concepts and 100 profession concepts related specifically to their profession.  How would an instructor "handle" thirty different sets of custom vocabulary?  I'm working on a technology delivered solution.  It won't be ready for a while, but a "modular" approach will be doable in the not so distant future.

In a message dated 7/23/2007 6:07:21 AM Pacific Daylight Time, writes:
I am Donna Thorne
22 Fisk Road
Cookeville, TN. 38501. 
I teach of 2-4 year olds music, movement and simple sign language. 
I purchased ASL software from the Institute for Disabilities Research and Training Center.  It's only pictures and so I check the demonstrations on your website and an ASL browser dictionary to make sure I'm doing it correctly. 
Since the kids are so young, we don't usually do fingerspelling. 
My question -- what is the sign language for "Mozart"? 
Thanks in advance for any help you can give.
I've taught ASL for well over 20 years.  I hold a doctorate in Deaf Education/Deaf Studies. 
I do not know of a sign for Mozart.
At the last ASL area group meeting at my college I asked my colleagues, both of whom hold PhDs and who have taught ASL for many years, if they knew of a sign for Mozart.  They looked at me as if I were crazy.  Heh.
So, I thought, let's contact Gallaudet University in D.C. and see if their Music Department might have an expert who knows a sign for Mozart.  A few searches of the website turned up no such thing as a "music department."  (Which really is not surprising considering it is a university focused on Deaf people.)
So, I believe it is safe to say that there is no widely established sign for "Mozart."
I did play around with some possibilities though and came up with something that feels pretty good on the hand:
Hold up an "M" and then change the handshape to a pinkie and draw a "z" in the air with the pinkie.
By golly, I've invented a sign!  I've created my very own protologism!!!
As of this moment, you and I are the only ones in the world who know the sign for Mozart.
Feel special?
I'll have to video that and put it on my website.  (Grin)  Will it catch on? Or will I become the target of ridicule from my colleagues?  Time will tell.
Dr. Bill
In a message dated 7/31/2007 4:18:01 AM Pacific Daylight Time, rebeccacichocki@ writes:
... I'm just beginning my study on my own.  I'm learning mostly because I love the language and want to learn, but there is also a deaf lady who is a regular customer at the store where I work.  I always sign "thank you" when her transaction is done, but I also want to be able to ask her, "did you find everything you need?" and tell her her total.  I've got a long way to go on learning my numbers before I can sign "twenty-two dollars and seventy-six cents," for example, but I'm going to keep working on it!
Rebecca Cichocki
Fort Wayne, IN
Each time she comes in, see if you can get her to teach you one new phrase. 
Write out the phrase ahead of time and then when she comes in show it to her and ask her how to sign it. If she seems delighted to teach you, then keep it up. If it seems like a "chore" to her, (which is unlikely but possible) then simply focus your efforts on self-study.  I suggest you keep a "sign" journal to keep track of the phrases you are learning. 
Dr. V
You are welcome to submit lists of phrases to me for eventual inclusion at the site. (But I can't promise a specific turnaround time though since I'm insanely busy--in addition to being crazy)

Looking for an ACCREDITED online ASL course?  How about one offered though the California State University system?
Check out:
For information, contact Elizabeth Lopez,  Program Coordinator California State University Sacramento College of Continuing Education, 3000 State University Drive East Sacramento, CA 95819-6103 T (916) 278-4813

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