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Sign Me Up! Online Edition

William G. Vicars, Ph.D.

Note:  These are real chat logs with minimal editing. 

Opening "Chat Log:  #1"

DrVicars: Hello everybody we will be starting soon, just letting a few more sign on.  I'm currently helping a person link to the classroom. 

[Note: the screen names below have been changed to protect the privacy of the students. But these were real students from all over the U.S.]

Kloos:  Hello everybody! 
Jessie: Hi all 
Buzz: hi 
April: hello 
Kloos: I am from California.  How about anybody else? 
Kelly: CA 
Linda: TX 
Season: WA 
Nicola: IL 
April: AL 
Vegan: WI 
Buzz: NJ 
Decca: Fla. 
Daniel: VA 
Jessie: OH 

DrVicars: I'm here in Utah.  Okay.  What time y'all got?  Maybe we'd best get started. 

KC: 7pm 

April: 8pm central 

Kloos: About 6 pacific 

Daniel: 9  p.m. EST 

Jessie: 9 

DrVicars: You all here for the intro to ASL class right?  [Many yes responses] 

DrVicars: Okay good, let me go over the nine items on our agenda tonight.   

1.  Hello and welcome  
2.  Protocol  
3.  Special protocol for discussing signing via chat room  
4.  Why are you here?   
5.  Do you have any Deaf relatives?  
6.  The structure for the remaining 7 weeks  
8. Web site address for reference  
9.  Questions and Answers.

Sandy: Sorry I'm late - trying to get on line since 8:00 Eastern Standard 

DrVicars: First of all then, do we have any advanced signers? 

[Many "no" answers] 

Jessie: I took a beginner's class a few years back. 

Crazy: only abc's 

Nicola: I've also taken a beginner's class. 

DrVicars: Okay, let's talk about protocol.  If you have a question you might want to type a "?" 
Then after I see your "?" I will get to you as soon as I can.  Sometimes lots of you have questions at the same time. If I miss you then please forgive me and ask again. 

DrVicars: Let me tell you about a neat little trick that the deaf use on their TTYs... 

April: Huh? 

DrVicars: A TTY (or a TDD)  is a teletype or a telecommunication device for the Deaf.  You might even see the term TT (text telephone) in some government literature. 

April: Okay, got it. 

DrVicars: What we do is type "GA" when we mean "go ahead" and type SK when we mean "stop keying."  For example if I were having a conversation on a TTY and I typed GA it would mean it is your turn to talk.   If I typed "GA to SK"  it would mean "I'm ready to quit." If you typed back "SK SK,"  it would mean you are done.  Then we would both hang up.   We will be discussing TTY's later on during the course.  But in any case--don't worry--for now it's no big deal.  The reason I tell you all this is so that if you see me type, "GA" you'll know that it means "Go Ahead, it's your turn to type." 

DrVicars: Why are you all here?  What is your reason for taking a class? 

[Many typed the word "interest"] 

Kloos: I'm interested because I'm increasingly running into situations where some knowledge would be useful. 

Vegan: Just like to learn things. 

Sandy: I'm interested in being able to communicate with deaf and across rooms to others who sign. 

Nicola: I'm interested in languages. 

Buzz: I want to be able to communicate with more people 

Eugia: I have a deaf cousin who led me to become interested in sign language 

Daniel: I thought the subject sounded interesting. 

Shooter: I am disabled and my wife is in health-care. 

April: I have met several nonspeaking, non-hearing people online, and I want to be able to communicate with them when I meet them. 

Linda: Occasionally I have hearing-impaired students with their interpreter in my class. 

KC: I'm a disability rights organizer. 

Kloos: Interest.  It is becoming needed where I work from time to time. 

Sharp: I would like to learn a language that is intended to help others. 

Tigie: I work with developmentally disabled adults, many of whom are deaf. 

Season: interest and to use with my children 

DrVicars: Oh, I see. Fine. We have one or two who are disabled, any deaf or hard of hearing? 

[several "no" answers] 

Gwen: Increased hearing loss makes it important for me to begin learning

DrVicars: Let's talk about terminology for a minute.  Is it okay to use the word "Deaf?"  What you think? 

[Most answered yes] 

Linda: some might say it's not politically correct 

Shooter: Hearing impaired? 
DrVicars: It depends, as Linda pointed out, some people say the term "Deaf" is not PC.  For a while, politicians promoted the term "hearing impaired," but the Deaf community loves the word "Deaf."  You could say it "Deaf"  is "CC" --culturally correct. 

Eugia: In this situation [an internet based course] a lot easier to type. 

[Meaning--the word "deaf" is easier to type than the words "hearing-impaired."] 

Linda: Yeah! 

DrVicars: The important thing is Deaf see ourselves as a cultural group.  In Deaf related writings and articles some authors use a lower case "d" in the word deaf to mean physically deaf.  The uppercase "D" refers to those who are culturally Deaf.  You might also see a combination once in a while:  d/Deaf.  The combination can be used to mean physically and culturally Deaf.  You can be Deaf without being deaf.  For example:  hearing children of Deaf parents are oftentimes considered to be culturally Deaf.  The deaf children of hearing parents are only physically deaf until they start associating with the Deaf community and learn its norms, mores, and values.  Then they become culturally Deaf as well. 

Vince: When you are signing to someone, do you use the sign "deaf" instead of "hearing impaired? 

[NOTE:   These days I strive to educate legislators that the correct term is "Deaf."  There was a point when I was just a young whippersnapper that my opinion didn't mean much to a legislative group. As time goes on and I "stay in the game" my opinion carries a bit more weight. - Bill]

DrVicars: Yes, that is right.

There was a period in the late eighties and early nineties when many of us did use the term hearing impaired, especially when we spoke with members of the legislature.  But times change.  Now I use "Deaf and hard of hearing" because that seems to be what most members of the Deaf community want to be called.  You have to know how to play both the political correctness game and the culture correctness game if you want to have an influence.  But feel free to make mistakes in this classroom.  You don't need to worry about the terminology much with me.  I'm flexible. 

Kloos: Mistakes, good! 

DrVicars: As time goes on, more and more legislators are recognizing that "Deaf" is a positive term in the minds of Deaf people. 

KC: Dr. Vicars are you deaf? 

DrVicars: Physically, I am hard-of-hearing.  I have about a sixty decibel loss in my right ear and a forty-five decibel loss in my left. Culturally you could say I'm "bicultural" since I live in both worlds.

Sandy: I want to make sure I understand this Big "D" little "d" thing.  Are you saying that deaf cannot hear and Deaf can? 

DrVicars: Great question.  The answer:  "deaf" refers to those who cannot hear well enough to understand speech for everyday communication purposes.  "Deaf" (with a big "D")  refers to embracing the cultural norms, mores, and values of the Deaf Community.  You can be accepted into and a practitioner of  a culture without being physically born into that culture.  So, both hearing and deaf people can be culturally Deaf. Watch out for the word "deaf" at the beginning of a sentence when it is capitalized not because it refers to culture but because of English grammar rules. 

Sandy: Got it. 

DrVicars: Of course there are levels of acceptance in any particular culture, so a hearing person might never reach the innermost circle of acceptance in the Deaf Community, just as a "white" person might never reach the innermost circle of acceptance in certain other cultures.

DrVicars: Okay lets talk about the course structure. You will learn over a hundred signs in this course.  You will be introduced to quite a bit of culture and history.  You will learn about ASL grammar.   We will discuss the various sign systems in use out there.  You will get my opinion and some "facts."  The main resource for this course is my web site location for this course. Later tonight I'll give you the internet address for the web site.  That will be your homework--to find the site and explore it a bit.  Once you are there, you need to send me an email stating that you found the site and what you think of it. 

[Please, those of you reading this (book or website), you DON'T need to send me an email! And remember, the "DrVicars" screen name is not active at this time and email sent to it will likely not be read during this century. Also the screen names of the students used in this chat have been changed to protect the student's privacy.] 

DrVicars: Also you will want to review the fingerspelling and numbers sections to make sure you have them down.  Any questions? 

[Many "doing good" replies.] 

Sharp: So far so good! 

DrVicars: Okay, when you get to the site you will want to check and see if you can see the animations (special moving graphics) in some of the signs like boy and girl..., Vince, what are a few of the other animations? 

Vince: The first page - "welcome" is animated, also - orange, brother/sister, etc. 

Sandy: I was a little late, who's Vince? 

DrVicars: Allow me to introduce Vince. 

DrVicars: Vince O'Neil helps take care of the web site.  He does the magic behind the scenes.  I teach him sign.  He teaches me computer stuff.  Great team. [Note:  These days I do my own web design and such, but I'll always be grateful to Vince for getting me started.]

DrVicars: Okay the address is  You can get to the sign language "class" from there. 

Vince: The first link goes to an index of all pages - about 150 total.  You will want to print that out and keep track as you visit each page 

DrVicars: Those of you whom have no more questions are welcome to jam and go check it out. 

[Various discussion] 

Kloos: This is great! I'll think I will check out the web site.  Bye. 

Sharp: Should I type "SK" before going to your web site? 

DrVicars: Well...for a chat room it's not really necessary.  Most of the time it is just used between two people on TTYs. 

[Many "bye,"  "thank you," and "see ya next week" messages] 

Decca: So the "lecture" portion of this class is the website? 

DrVicars: The lecture and discussion portion is this chat room.  The website is the "text" portion of the course. 

Decca: And we meet here to ask questions? 

DrVicars: Yes. 

Connie: Do we submit the tests found on the website to you for correction?  Or is this only for practice? 

DrVicars: They are for practice. 

[Note:  On the side, Needja and Vince have been having a very strange conversation trying to figure each other out.  One of the other students typed "LOL"] 

Needja: just in case everyone is wondering....this is my VERY FIRST online class....  :) 

DrVicars: Wow I feel honored to have you here Needja :) 

Vince: Me too - what does "LOL" mean? 

Vegan: Laughing Out Loud. 

DrVicars: Okay any other questions? 

Crazy: When one hand is needed to do a sign, does it matter whether it is right or left hand? 

DrVicars: Which are you right or left handed? 

Crazy: I am a mixture. 

DrVicars: Then I recommend you choose a dominant hand and stick with it. 

Crazy: I used to be left handed, but my parents made me change to my right. 

DrVicars: Which hand do you sign checks with now? 

Crazy: I use both. 

DrVicars: Arrrgh! 

Crazy:   Okay, I'll pick one and stick with it. 

DrVicars: :)  good. 

Sharp: Should we be concerned about which hand we use right or left? 

DrVicars: You should use your dominant hand for all of the one handed signs. Are you right or left handed? 

Sharp: Yes. 

DrVicars: LOL,  Which hand you eat with? 

Sharp: Sorry, I'm right handed! 

DrVicars: Fine then--do your spelling and most signs right-handed.  In the signs that have just
one hand moving, it will almost always be the dominant hand.  Also you might notice that when
both hands move in a sign at the same time--the handshapes are almost always the same. 

Shooter: Very nice web page.  Good work--but a couple of small bugs. 

DrVicars: Please let us know exactly what we need to clean up. 

Shooter: Animal links 

DrVicars: The animal links don't work? 

Shooter: No prob.  I master a couple of web-pages.  The links are addressed wrong I believe. 

DrVicars: We will check it out thanks Shooter 

Shooter: Good way to debug,  but I love your work. 

Vince: On those pages that do NOT work, please drop down to the bottom and e-mail Vince O'Neil. 

DrVicars: Vince gets the credit on the layout and design. 

Shooter: general it's excellent 

Vince: and the hits for bugs! 

Monica: Some pages just take some time and patience to load up, I think. 

Vince: Monica is absolutely right, IMHO 

[I.M.H.O. stands for:  "In my humble opinion."] 

Crazy: So there is no difference in the signs he/she? 

DrVicars: Right, in ASL, HE/SHE use the same sign, you just point with an index finger.  There are some Signed English versions that use different forms, but ASL tends to just point.  ASL uses other methods to establish male/female status. For example I would say, "NOW-NIGHT, MY WIFE COME,"  which could mean, "My wife is coming tonight."  After establishing "WIFE" I could point to the same area in space again and again as many times as I need during the same conversation. 
This is called an absent referent.  The person I am talking to would remember that area in space refers to my wife.  It is really a simple system because I can set up other areas in space for other people using the same technique.  Just name them and point to an absent referent. One bit of caution though, don't overdo a good thing, and remember next week I can't just walk up to my friend, point into the air, and expect him to recall who I'm talking about.  You need to spell out the person's name or otherwise identify the person each time you start a new conversation.  It is the same way you use pronouns in English. 

Crazy: I see.  Okay, cool.  Another question for you, what is a "b" palm?  It doesn't relate to signing the letter "b" right? 

DrVicars: As used in this text, a "b" palm is like the letter "b" but you don't have to bend the thumb around onto the palm.  The thumb is just alongside the palm in a  natural position, with the fingers touching each other (side by side, extended).  Think of a traffic cop telling oncoming traffic to stop. 

Crazy: Okay that's what I guessed; just wanted to make sure. 

 [Actually, when most Deaf people fingerspell letters like "B, T , M, & N,"  they don't bend or wrap the fingers as tightly as the "ABC" alphabet charts tend to depict.  Tightly wrapping the fingers over and/or around each other takes too much time.  An artist has a long time to draw pretty handshapes,  so he can paint them carefully and in perfect form.  A Deaf person whips out a several letters per second because he is trying to get his message across rather than impress somebody with how pretty his handshapes are.] 

Sharp: In some of your previous writings, you mentioned  CD programs. Would you
recommend one over the other? 

DrVicars: Sharp, there's one by Martin Sternberg.  It is pretty good.  I haven't heard any bad comments about it.  Every few months a new sign language product comes out.  It is best to go to the library and borrow a whole stack of books or videos to get a feel for what's out  there before spending your hard earned cash.  But if you want a dictionary, I would just buy a paper one instead of a CD, (I recommend you get one of those "pocket sized" dictionaries that you can carry around in your pocket or purse.) 

Tigie: I was looking at some of the signs, but couldn't tell which way my hands should be facing. For example pizza-is the P facing me or the person I'm signing to, and the Z? 

DrVicars: The "P" is facing the person you are signing to.  The movement is similar to that used for the letter "Z."  In most sign language dictionaries, unless it says or shows otherwise, you can assume the sign points toward the listener. 

Tigie: OK, thanx. :-) 

Connie: What about programs other than CDs that you might recommend? For anyone
interested, an excellent program (LSIGN.ZIP) can be found via the AOL's keyword:  software search... 

DrVicars: Thanks Connie for the resource.   Later on in the course we will talk more about available programs and materials. 

Season: I have a question ... maybe you could direct me to somewhere?   I have a friend his sister is deaf she is from India and knows No sign language at all.  I told him there must be resources for her she is 50 . 

DrVicars: What state are you in?  (Besides the state of confusion I mean, heh, heh--sorry.) 

Season: :)  I am in WA but they live in MD.  She does not read either...   but she is very's not a learning problem.  I think the family has their own kind of 'sign language."  They live in Essex MD 

DrVicars: Maryland has many resources. 

Season: Yes... I have tried to find some on the web... so I could give the family at least some phone numbers or places to write. 

DrVicars: I recommend Gallaudet University.  Gallaudet has a huge library and hundreds of resources for you to pick and choose from. 

Season: Ok... thanks...   Where should I write? Or do they have a site on the web? 

DrVicars: Just use a search engine like yahoo, hotbot, or lycos to look up Gallaudet. 

Season: oh, ok... I will look for one then :) 

DrVicars: If you'll hold I might have it in my dayplanner... 

Season: ok..yes I will wait.. thank you 

DrVicars: I will have to find it and email you.  Oh, wait!  I have it here.  Can't trust it cause it is old, but worth a try:  1-800-627-6720 or try 651-5000.  I'm not sure on the area code, you'll need to check with information to see what it is for Washington D.C. 

Season: :) ok Thank you! 

DrVicars: Gallaudet is in the north-east corner of Washington D.C.  It is an "all-deaf" university, but they do have some programs for hearing people who are studying "d/Deaf" topics.  It is an awesome place.  I studied there for a summer.  

DrVicars: Oh Connie, on the topic of  resources...  We have a list of resources at the site.  Have you had a chance to order the Harris Communications catalog? 

Connie: Yes, indeed, ordered the Harris Communications catalog a short while ago :) 

[Here is that number to call to order the Harris Communications catalog: 1 800-825-6758.] 

DrVicars: Good, it has a wide variety of useful products, books, videos, etc.  Are there any signs you all want to learn that are not included at the site? 

Sandy: "Hello, how are you?" 

DrVicars: You wave hello normally, (using the standard gesture), then you sign "HOW YOU?" with a questioning facial expression, (Wh-question--eyebrows slightly furrowed, hold the last sign a bit longer, lean forward a bit.) 

DrVicars: To sign "YOU," is just point at the other person.  The word how takes both "c" hands touches them at the knuckles and rolls them forward till the palms are up. 

Sandy: It's a little awkward at first, isn't it? 

DrVicars: At first yes, then practice makes it easier :) 

Connie: What is the sign for "Archaeology"? 

DrVicars: There is an initialized sign used around these parts.  It is like the sign for
"INVESTIGATE" but uses an "A" hand.  Take the left "b" palm (thumb alongside), hold it out in front of you casually, then take the thumb of the right "a" hand and brush the thumb down the center of the left "b" palm a couple of times somewhat as if you were digging into it with your thumb nail.  But I must warn you that many Deaf won't recognize that sign out of context.  It is more of an "invented" sign used by some interpreters and/or teachers for related purposes. 

Connie: Thank you, I will remember to be careful when signing that particular word.... 

DrVicars: You're welcome.  Okay then let's wrap this up if no other questions? 

Vegan: No questions here. 

Gwen: no questions------good class 

Vegan: Yes, thanks DrV! 

[lots of "thanks" and "kudos"] 

DrVicars: You are all welcome.   No one seems to have any other questions, so we will call it a night and see you all next week at the appointed time.  Vince, I'm out of here, will contact you tomorrow. Have a nice night. 

Vince: night 

DrVicars: Bye all, GA to SK 

Closing "Chat Log 1" 

<Go to Chapter 2>