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

Dr. Bill replies:  What works for somebody else might not work for you at all. Every few months a new sign language product comes out. I suggest you go to your local library and borrow a whole stack of books, videos, CDs, or DVDs, and any other available sign language-related media to get a feel for what's out there before spending your hard earned cash.

If you want a dictionary, you might want to go retro and buy one of those pocket-dictionary paperback ones instead of a CD or DVD. You can carry a pocket dictionary of ASL around easily and study while waiting in line at the store, pumping gas, or any number of other "standing around" opportunities.  (Much less expensive than the latest internet capable cell phones eh?)

I do provide CDs for my distance education students that go with my curriculum.  If you are at a day job where you can use a CD on your desk computer in-between clients or phone calls, or if you carry a laptop around, then a CD or DVD might work better for you than a paper-based dictionary.  Of course, there are several great websites out there now with online dictionaries.  Most of them are actually quite good, but I still encourage you to check with local Deaf people to become familiar with any regional variations of signs that are popular in your area.

In a message dated 5/10/2006 2:32:52 P.M. Pacific Daylight Time, cydrina@ writes:
Dear Dr Bill,
I took your advice which was "Buy the biggest, most comprehensive ASL dictionary you can find and go through it systematically and expose yourself to every concept in it." I received it today, THE CANADIAN DICTIONARY of ASL. I guess I took you quite literally when you said the biggest, it contains 840 pages. 
I am impressed not only by the size of the book, but also the detailed information I found. It clearly defines not only the definitions of the words, but also the description of each signs. In some cases, as in BROWN, there are 4 different signs, and it clearly describes how to sign each one, as well as where they are from. Here in the Maritimes, the Deaf have what they call Maritime Sign Language (or ATLANTIC), just like Ontario has some signs, which in both cases, I am sure the signs are used all over. The sign for BROTHER (Right L-hand to the forehead then coming down on the Left L-hand). However in the Maritimes, one very common sign for BROTHER is the knuckles of both A hands rubbing together back and forth. I saw the senior Deaf at our church use that but I always thought it was the OLD sign for brother.
Now, I have to really go through it systematically. Thank you for your suggestions, particular this one. I believe it will be a great tool for me to use.
Cydrina's Early Development Centre

Hey, that's terrific that you got an unabridged ASL dictionary!
A friend of mine has that same dictionary and showed it to me.  It is a MONSTER!  :)
You'll learn so much!
It will be like constantly finding new gems to play with.  You'll hunt through 50 signs you already know and then bam you'll see something cool that you didn't know yet.
Dr. Bill

In a message dated 5/10/2003 11:09:24 PM Central Daylight Time, Verda  writes:

Dr. Bill
It's certainly a joy to be able to communicate with you.
My name is Verda James, living in the Caribbean Island of St Kitts.

I am hard of hearing and I do use a hearing aid to assist. However, I have no knowledge of sign language because my entire school years were fine. My hearing problem seemed to have developed since I began working.

I now have a keen interest in pursuing a degree in American Sign Language/Deaf Studies and would appreciate your very kind advise with regards to:-

(i) colleges/universities that offer same
(ii) whether you think it would be necessary to attend a Community College first
(iii) whether it is necessary to submit SAT/ACT scores for these colleges/universities
(iv) any other relevant information

I look forward to your soonest response.

Thanks in advance.


Hi Verda,
If you need a couple of private ASL tutors, just fly my wife and me out to the Caribbean and put us up up for a week or two and we will teach you all the ASL you would like.

A lot of the choices that need to be made are really based on your level of comfort.  There are a couple different ways you can learn sign language:  dive in and take the sink or swim approach or get your feet wet and wade in the shallow end until you've gotten your bearings.

The sink or swim approach would be to attend a signing campus such as Gallaudet University (see below) or NTID and take sign language classes.  It might seem as if you were dropped off in the middle of a foreign country (of whose language you've had no prior knowledge of).  This route, in my opinion, is a difficult route to take but it can be quite effective if you are cut out for it.

The getting your feet wet approach would be to take sign language classes at a community college.  Learn the language, meet deaf people, and become immersed into the deaf community.  It is slower and perhaps not as much of a culture shock.  It, however, does not have to be a community college.  If you have your heart set on ASL/Deaf studies, you can wade in a bit deeper and just dive right into the program such as one of the 4-year colleges listed below.  Some of these programs are typically on hearing campuses, so you will be part of both worlds - the deaf and hearing. 

Regardless of what you do, the absolutely critical part of learning (and retaining) sign language is meeting deaf people and getting involved in the community.  The deaf community is already on campus at universities such as Gallaudet.  At most other colleges, you'd actually have to go and hunt down the deaf community because they may not always be at the college you are attending. 

Large cities such as Los Angeles, New York, Boston, Washington, D.C. have larger concentrations of deaf people than most states and are ideal for meeting deaf people.  These cities tend to have a large number of organizations, services, clubs, and activities for the deaf.  For this purpose you might look into programs such as the Northeastern University/ASL program in Boston, Massachusetts or perhaps a smaller campus such as Ohlone College in Fremont, California.

I'll post below a very incomplete list of colleges and universities that offer American Sign Language programs.  Every state, I believe, has some form of sign language curriculum being taught at one of their universities, whether it is a sign language interpreting program, Deaf education, or ASL/Deaf studies program.

The application requirements for the colleges/universities vary.  If you are a nontraditional student (24 years old and older), you probably will not need to submit your SAT/ACT scores. If you are a traditional student, then chances are they will require you to submit your scores.  To be certain, contact the desired university and find out their entry requirements.

There are at least four (that I know of) that cater specifically to deaf students.  You could major in anything you wish and study sign language as well.  Below are some signing campuses where the majority of students are deaf.

Deaf Campuses/Universities:

Gallaudet University  (Washington, D.C.)
BA, MA, and Ph.D. levels

RIT National Technical Institute for the Deaf (Rochester, NY)
A technical college with a strong liberal arts program.  A wide variety of courses offered here.
AA, BA, MA, and Ph.D. levels

Southwest Collegiate Institute for the Deaf/Howard College - Big Spring, Texas   
Liberal Arts College - BA level

Ohlone College (Fremont, CA) (not a complete signing campus-but a large signing campus)
Liberal Arts College - BA level (Deaf Instructional Center) (ASL program)

General ASL/Deaf Studies/Deaf Education Programs:
(a handful listed here but there are many, many others)


California State University - Northridge  (Northridge, CA) 
Deaf Education Program (MA level)

California State University - Fresno
Deaf Education Program (MA level)

In a message dated 2/1/2006 3:37:54 PM Pacific Standard Time, writes:
I was reading info about college programs for D/HH and I know you are gathering more info about colleges and universities that have D/HH programs.   San Jose State University in San Jose, CA that offers a undergrad degree minoring in D/HH and a Master's Degree Program w/ a D/HH credential.   SJSU is a local college with a primarily hearing population.  San Jose is probably 45 min or so south of Freemont.   No, I don't have a degree in D//HH yet.  It is something I want to pursue
after I clear my credential.   I want to figure out some way to provide
services to kids who have Learning Disabilities in the D/HH world.

Sue Moss
(Special Ed Resource Teacher)


In a message dated 9/28/2005 6:41:27 P.M. Pacific Daylight Time, kfry@_____ writes:
Hi Bill, 
I wanted to let you know that Goshen College offers a 4 year degree in ASL Interpreting and also a minor in ASL.  Goshen College is located in North Central Indiana.  Here is a link if you are interested in checking it out. 
In a message dated 6/8/2006 10:36:10 AM Pacific Daylight Time, jstewart@ writes:
Hi, I just wanted to let you know of another excellent program in Indiana. The first two years are at Vincennes University ASL Program on the campus of the Indiana School for the Deaf in Indianapolis. After graduating from the program with an Associate's Degree, you can continue on to IUPUI for your Bachelor's Degree in American Sign Language Interpreting. The program at VU is taught by all Deaf teachers for the courses of ASL 1-4, Deaf Community, Deaf Culture, ASL Grammar, and ASL Linguistics.  This is an excellent program to be a part of.
-- Jessica Stewart
Hey, that is great to know.  Way back in 1985 I volunteered at that particular campus and was a teacher's assistant for a third grade teacher named Laura Gaalema.
--Dr. Bill
In a message dated 3/21/2008 2:51:44 P.M. Pacific Daylight Time, BHar944944 writes:
 I did not see Bethel College in Mishawaka, Indiana listed on your site and I believe they have a solid ASL major. Thanks, Bethany Hartman

 Northeastern University (Boston, MA) American Sign Language Program (BA level)


Ocean County College, Toms River, NJ offers a 2-year ITP program that grants an AAS Degree in Sign Language Interpreting.  My professor is the
head of the program:  Kathy Basilotto,

Gardner-Webb University in Boiling Springs, NC  offers a 4 year degree program in either ASL or Interpreting.  Claire Bailey, SCPI Coordinator at the South Carolina School for the Deaf and the Blind, says, "It seems to be the best (if not only) of it's kind in the South.  I have been very impressed with the skill and knowledge level of the students from that program."

* Kent State University: In a message dated 11/3/2009 3:37:42 P.M. Pacific Standard Time, rthoryk@ writes: Your website's Q page says that "If you are attending a college or program that offers an actual degree in ASL, please do let me know and I'll post it." Kent State University does -  6 students graduated with BA's in ASL in 2007; 8 in 2008. R. Thoryk

Cy-Fair Community College has a two year (four semester) degree program. Cy-Fair College is part of the North Harris Montgomery County Community College District. The campuses are located throughout the Northern parts of Harris and Southern Montgomery counties in Southeast Texas, USA. A student tells me the program is an excellent one, taught by deaf instructors. There are about 20 students per teacher each semester.

Lamar University (Beaumont, TX)
Deaf Studies/Deaf Education (MA and Ph.D. level)
Great program! 

Texas Central area:
In a message dated 11/4/2005 6:51:40 PM Pacific Standard Time:
...I'm a first semester ASL student at a small school in Waco, central Texas, McLennan
Community College (MCC). They have a full two year Interpreter Training, as
well as Studies in Deafness Certificate.
I also believe that Baylor University has a full Deaf Education program. I
need to get more information to understand exactly what they have available...
-- Tina Tillert

John Logan College's Interpreter Preparation Program:

In a message dated 8/15/2011 8:42:13 P.M. Pacific Daylight Time, yvonne.cortes@ writes:
 I wanted to let you know that the University of Houston (Houston, Texas) now offers a Bachelor of Arts degree in American Sign Language Interpreting.

West Virginia:

In a message dated 10/4/2007 5:19:40 P.M. Pacific Daylight Time, michelle_duckworth@ writes:
Fairmont State University in Fairmont WV has a 2 year associates degree program for ASL interpreting.  They also have a 1 year certificate program, but I noticed on your website that you were looking to post schools that offered the degree.  FSU is the only school in the state of WV that offers the program.  Very fast paced, but fun.
-- Michelle Duckworth

 If you are attending a college or program that offers an actual degree in ASL, please do let me know and I'll post it.

About this section: In the early days of the net it used to be the "thing to do" to have a "links" page.  There used to only be a few online ASL Dictionaries. At one time I actually kept a running list of all of them. Now there are so many it is silly to try to keep track. They come and go.  Now this list is more of a curiosity as to which ones stay in the game. I no longer add new sites to the list since people can find ASL sites and resources quite easily via an internet search.

Here are a few other resources for you, if these go out of date, feel free to let me know.

Online ASL dictionaries:

Specialized ASLDictionary: Indigenous sign for countries by region is now at   Matthew Moore (the same fellow who publishes Deaf Life Magazine see ) writes on August 6, 2009 that the interpreter's friend site is now at

ASL Dictionary 1  (Hasta la vista baby. Thanks Erin, for letting me know.)

ASL Dictionary 2   (Belly up. Thanks Anna, for letting me know.)
Note: Jolanta tells me that  much of the old dww site is now at her new site:

<<Hello Bill,
You have a wonderful resource and thanks for providing it to the communities online.
I was the founder of, and yes, it has been long gone since then. I noticed in your page at . Actually, the major part of DWW has been continued at that you might like to add to your ASL Dictionary list.
Keep up with your great work.
Best wishes,
Jolanta Lapiak
i8media artist @ HandSpeak / >>

ASL Dictionary 3

ASL Dictionary 4

ASL Dictionary 5

ASL Dictionary 6

ASL Dictionary, Technical:

ASL Dictionary, Religious:
ASL Dictionary, Religious:

ASL Dictionary, Technical:  SK8AIT (aviation and science signs)

ASL Dictionary, Animal Signs:
Also check out:  Koko teaching sign language:

ASL Dictionary, Medical Phrases:

Fingerspelling Sites 

Recommended site:

Fingerspelling 1:

Fingerspelling 2:   Dead as of 7/7/05

Fingerspelling 3:  (Out of there.  Thanks Savannah, for letting me know.)

Fingerspelling 4:

Fingerspelling 5:

Fingerspelling 6: ( History baby.  Thanks Savannah, for letting me know.)

Fingerspelling 7:

Fingerspelling 8:

Savannah writes:  A while back I found a fingerspelling site that I think is very useful. It has videos of different ppl fingerspelling words. Some of the videos are hard to see due to poor lighting, but I thought it was helpful to see different ppl signing, to get more used to trying to read fingerspelling. This is at if u want to check it out.

ASL Numbering System 

Numbering 1:  ASL number systems   Dead as of 6/17/2005  (Thanks Katie)

Recommended site:

Deaf Culture
(Witty, insightful commentary and information).
(A little buggy, but seems to provide good access to deaf-related stories).

ASL Literature

Various and Kids (Marta)


PBS Kids: Arthur Teaches Sign  No longer up, but has been replaced by:  Uh oh...another one gone.


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