ASLpah.com | 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.
In a message dated 7/15/2007 6:43:36 A.M. Pacific Daylight
Time, marykolasinski@ writes:
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” ......
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
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.
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
I think it has something to do with the current adding of
ASL to the
humanity requirement at Central Michigan U. Of course I
importance of the nursing profession to understand and use
Deaf clients (since this is the one place most likely to NOT
friends, nor interpreters with them at all times. But it
prospects for retention for ASL 2 is dismal. (Nursing
program has so
many required classes and them mostly on rotation so it
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, email@example.com writes:
I am Donna Thorne
22 Fisk Road
Cookeville, TN. 38501.
I teach of 2-4 year olds music, movement and simple sign
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
My question -- what is the sign language for
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 Gallaudet.edu website
turned up no such thing as a "music department." (Which really
is not surprising considering it is a university focused on Deaf
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
As of this moment, you and I are the only ones in the world who
know the sign for Mozart.
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.
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!
Fort Wayne, IN
Each time she comes in, see if you can get her to teach you one
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.
are welcome to submit lists of phrases to me
for eventual inclusion at the Lifeprint.com 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?
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 firstname.lastname@example.org