Thursday, October 25, 2007


For a while now I have been wanting to provide some simple lessons in American Sign Language (ASL) on this blog. My interest in doing this is to perhaps provide other educators, who may have an interest in teaching ASL to their students, with an easily accessible venue for sharing this information in their classrooms. I also hope that it may be helpful for hearing parents with a deaf or hard of hearing child. Many times hearing parents with deaf children are afraid to sign with their son/daughter because they are told not to do so because then their child will never learn to speak or they are too overwhelmed with the daunting task of undertaking another language. I say to you...please sign with your child. Any effort you put forth greatly matters to your child and to the relationship you are building together.

I knew that I wanted to enlist the services of my darling co-teacher Lauren in this project. Not only is she easy on the eyes but her signing is so clear and articulate that she is a great representation of ASL in action. But I was unsure how to best utilize my resources and how this whole project would unfold.

Yesterday I finally decided on a format. Lauren and I would introduce some basic signs associated with a specific topic. She would sign and I would voice. This would be followed by a brief signed conversation that would use the signs we just introduced in a meaningful context so that you could see it in action. The conversation is not captioned because a) that is more work than I can get into right now and b) it keeps the focus on the signs. My challenge to you is to look for the signs we introduced in the first clip while watching the second clip.

So here is the first snippet.

In American Sign Language gender is given a specific placement on the head of the signer. As you can see from the picture of the sign for 'boy', signs referencing males are made on the upper portion of the head. Many people remember 'boy' by thinking of scooping the hand down the bill of a baseball cap. Above you saw Lauren signing father, grandfather, brother and son using signs that originated from this area.

Signs indicating females are made near the mouth or chin. It is said that the sign for 'girl' is derived from the bonnet strings that were worn back in the day of Laura Ingalls. Lauren signed mother, grandmother, sister and daughter using signs that issue from this area.

Pictures are taken from A Word in the Hand: An Introduction to Sign Language (Book One) by Jane Kitterman and S. Harold Collins, published by Garlic Press in 1984.

The conversation in the second video (presented below) is as follows:

Gary: Who is in your family?
Lauren: I have a mother, father, 3 sisters, 2 grandmothers, and 1 grandfather.
Gary: Oh, I see. Nice.
Lauren: Who is in your family?
Gary: Mother, father, 2 brothers (but one is a twin brother), and 1 sister.
Lauren: Do you have grandparents?
Gary: No, they died. I don't have any.

I am sure that the format will change as we become more adept at this and to that end I welcome your feedback on both presentation and topics. We are thinking about school signs, those related with feelings and emotions and some basic actions and/or needs.


Joy said...

Oh that's terrific! I'm glad you got it up!

Mikey T said...

so wonderful of you to do this!! can't wait to learn some more!!

Reya Mellicker said...

This is fantastic! I'm glad I'm going to learn a little bit of sign. That language, as well as Spanish, are languages I could use every day. Galludet is only a few blocks north of Capitol Hill so we see Galudet students and faculty all the time here in restaurants and shops, conversing like crazy in sign. Thank you!

No offense to the content of the vids, but my favorite part is in the second one, where you start laughing. I miss you!

Florecita said...

See, you are my teacher now!!!!!!!! I did it!!!!!!!! You are my teacher, Im dancing of joy!!!!

Arielle said...

Very very cool. Thanks for sharing that!

Gary said...

Joy - Yes, finally. But I am not happy with the quality of the image. It looks a bit unclear and grainy and this is perplexing because the orignal (before I uploaded it to YouTube - and blogger)is very crisp. Hopefully the next batch will be better.

Mikey - Don't you know that you rate private lessons?

Reya - If you come across a signed conversation about families you are set :)

Lauren and I only did one 'take' of each. I kinda liked the idea of keeping in the unexpected so I was happy to see you comment on that. Those oops moments do make it a little more interesting I think.

Florecita - Now you need to teach me some Spanish so I can read your blog!

Areille - Thanks for watching. We will be doing more of these but maybe I'll wait until my funky new haircut grows out a bit.

marxsny said...

I'd love to know how to say "You didn't eat your din din" in sign language, cause you know how funny that would be. BTW Lauren=Fabulous

Ladron de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

Nice clips, Gary, if only to hear your laugh and your voice. (It was actually pretty close to what I'd imagined.) It's always interesting to see and hear a blogger buddy and see if it matches what you think they are like in motion.

Side note to Reya: I attended an international funders conference at Galludet a few years back, and I was impressed with their history and calibre of leadership.

Ladron de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

P.S. - I like the new haircut, and I have had similar problems of broadcast quality videos turning to mud on YouTube.

lettuce said...

really great. yes, i think i got them. Couldn't quite work out the sign for "twin" though.

But what I'd like to know now is what made you laugh?

Gary said...

Mark - I could show you how to sign the words but you have to include the proper Davis inflections and mannerisms yourself.

JT - I know, I wish that every blogger would include a short vid of themselves so I could match the words with a voice (other than author's 'voice' of course).

Lettuce - In retrospect I guess it was not so funny but Lauren meant to ask me who was in my family but started with "How Many?" and when she made a face it made me laugh. The fact that it was perfect when we quickly rehearsed it and then not so perfect when we were 'rolling' seemed funny to me. Just figures.

WAT said...

Oh my, she has a such a pleasant face/demeanor. I could watch her all day.

And frankly, I could watch u all day too. With that nice haircut and all...

MONA said...

That is very interesting & cool!

You really do a great service! I guess sign language is easy to learn!

kimy said...

wonderful, wonderful, wonderful.... loved the 'instruction' and seeing you! lauren isn't the only cutie in the dynamic teaching duo! I vote that you create another blissful blog that is devoted solely to providing us, your cyberhood, with lessons in ASL. up to now my only instruction in ASL has come from children books - first 25 yrs ago when my e was a wee lass and most recently with a few books of ms t. it's a beautiful language. thank you for helping us learn!

Pod said...

but how does one sign for 'dashing'?

Scot said...

I love the laugh too. It ilustrates the great relationship the two of you have, You've mentioned before, but great to see it. I figured she must have goofed- I guess even signing has a form a stutter. Certainly, brains can fart in any language (that's a much grosser image than I intended, but I like it anyway)
You're good people Gary.

Lynda said...

Read your Blog this evening!

You and Lauren were excellent together. Have you ever considered
doing a ASL Training Video together?

Just a recommendation from a Sales & Marketing person.

Salty Miss Jill said...

This was wonderful! Thanks so much for posting.

Both you and Lauren are too adorable for words. I'll bet there are a lot of teacher crushes in your classroom. ;)

Gary said...

Wat - I agree with you of course about Laruen. It was interesting for me to watch the video and focus on her. There were little expressions that I missed the first time - like when she put her hands up after I said my grandparents were no longer living. You could see she was totally invested in the conversation. I love that.

Thanks Mona. Like any language ASL will develop the more you use it. For me this visual/spacial language was easier to learn than spoken/auditory languages but that differs from person to person.

Kim - Another blog?? I am already invested in this one which demands quite a bit of my time even though I don't post every day. I think for now I shall put the lessons on here...but thanks for the support!

Pod - I actually checked this out and it seems that 'dashing' needs to be fingerspelled (with feeling, if possible).

Scot - Well stated. :) You are correct and I was happy that it wasn't me at that moment.

Lynda - Hmmmmm, interesting idea. Let's see where this leads.

Salty - Teacher crushes perhaps but I know that I have a crush on her for sure.


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