? Frequently Asked Questions

Do I have to use these signs?

ASLCORE is a rich resource which offers sign vocabulary choices for difficult terminology. These signs are developed for conceptual accuracy. Please choose the ones that work for you! These signs are offered as suggestions, and not as an expectation that you must adopt them. Use what you will!

If some of the signs don’t work for you or you feel they should be modified, we are always open to feedback! Just fill out the feedback form at the bottom of any page and send it to us to consider. Language is an evolutionary process, with vocabulary items always coming into or falling out of usage. Our goal is to expand the choices signers have. The English language has thousands of lexical items and our aim is to expand what is available in ASL as well.

What if I have an idea for a new entry?

Suppose you encounter an English word in one of the classes you’re taking for your major and you’re desperate to have an ASL sign for it. You can fill out the ASLCORE feedback form and send it to us as a suggestion, and when our funding allows us to address it we’ll put it up for consideration. If you feel you have enough vocabulary that there should be a separate ASLCORE branch dedicated to it, again, please fill out the feedback form and we will respond with when that might be possible to provide.

While you’re looking around the website and you may come across a sign you don’t care for. Or you may wonder how the sign was created. Or perhaps you have seen other ideas for signs that you liked better for a concept, and you wonder why we created a new one (perhaps we were not aware there WAS another sign for it!) Please, fill out the feedback form and tell us about it! There may be another on-line resource you know of that we haven’t found out about yet, and we really want to know about it, so please tell us. We may be able to collaborate with them too!

Please know that we will respond to your feedback as fast as we can, but it might not be instantaneous! ASLCORE is funded by grant money, and the people involved with this project get together at certain times of the year to do the translation work, and do not meet year round. When the groups meet they will address all feedback which requires all of the members to be together and discuss it. We promise we will discuss every item brought to our attention. Complying with your request may not happen immediately, but we are eager to collect your ideas for signs, vocabulary, what you would like to see in the site, what you’re curious about, and what we can do to serve you and meet your needs.

So, come on!

What is the ASLCORE translation process?

You may be wondering about the translation process for the signs you see in the ASLCORE website. It all begins with deciding which content area needs to be addressed. Biology? Physics? Literature? Once that has been decided upon we invite a Deaf content expert to join us. Their first responsibility is to compile a list of terminology commonly found in academic settings over the course of students pursuing that particular course of study. Most of the time there are no official signs for the terms, or perhaps these terms already do have signs offered, but they are either not conceptually accurate or don’t function well for various reasons. Once this list is ready, a four-person, all-Deaf translation team is recruited, all of whom possess a strong, intuitive knowledge of ASL. There is always one member well-versed in ASL linguistics, and another who is considered a professional translator. The other two members represent various professions, interests, and fields, always Deaf and considered Master Signers. Sometimes we have more than one Deaf content expert as part of the team.

Now that the team has been built, it’s time to work! The content expert(s) will suggest a term, explain it to the translators, then there ensues in-depth discussion about the intended meaning and nuances of the term’s usage specific to that particular content area, and that content expert. The conversations can be lengthy, with questions asked for clarification, and a lot of analyzation put into each term before anyone begins the process of sign creation. There are times when one term may just require fifteen minutes of discussion and a sign is spontaneously created to everyone’s satisfaction. However, there are terms which require literally hours of discussion and teasing apart, with ideas suggested, discarded, visited, and revisited, always bearing in mind the values of maintaining the integrity of meaning proposed by the content expert, visual readability, and faithful adherence to ASL linguistic properties. After what sometimes feels like a prolonged struggle, a sign is formed!

Part of the team consists of two hearing interpreters who have provided services in classes in the subject being addressed that week. Because of the wealth of experience they possess, they have witnessed which terms students seem to struggle with the most, as well which existing signs seem to help the learning process and which ones hinder it. These two interpreters serve in an advisory capacity, and when they are solicited by the Deaf translation group to relay their experiences they may do so. However, it is important to note, they never weigh in on the actual sign creation or make suggestions as to how ideas should or could be signed differently. They perform a valuable function as windows into the world of the classroom as they have witnessed it over the years, to provide another channel of useful information for the group to consider as they go about the task at hand. Only the Deaf members of ASLCORE create the signs you see listed under each branch on the website.

The signs offered under each content branch are to be treated as suggestions, not pronouncements that they are the “right” or “correct” signs that must be adopted from now on. The fruits of our labors are ideas for you to consider and try out, to use, to modify, to discard if they don’t work for you. We hope you will take the time to send us feedback! Many signs, you will notice, have more than one version listed for you to experiment with.

We hope this clarifies the ASLCORE translation process!

Why are there different signs for the same word across different branches?

Perhaps you have noticed that across the various ASLCORE branches there are several words that are the same, yet they have different sign choices offered. Why might this be? Even though the words are spelled the same, the meanings vary depending on the content area where they are found. One great example of this is the English word DESIGN. This word can be found both in Art and Engineering fields, yet It carries a very different meaning. When used in the context of an Engineering discussion, DESIGN is about the process of conceptualizing and then building a physical product. The sign as it is produced to mean DESIGN for Art was formulated to reflect the process of taking various visual elements, arranging them, and presenting them by utilizing an artistic medium, with emphasis on the aesthetic of the final artwork.

This gives you an idea of the different usage of the same term.

Why do only some entries have expansion videos?

You may have noticed as you peruse the ASLCORE website that some concepts have a second video, an expansion video that helps to further clarify a signed concept and how it is used. Also, you may be asking yourself, because it is such a wonderful feature, why do some concepts have the expansions and some do not? In a perfect world with unlimited resources of human capital, time, and money, we would love to be able to provide this additional feature for ALL of the concepts, however, it just isn’t possible right now.

The translation team carefully considers to which terminology we should add expansions based on a couple of factors. First, consideration is given to terms that are complex and may cause confusion to students learning in the classroom. Second, interpreters are often receiving information very rapidly and cannot in simultaneous interpretation, provide adequate explanation or clarity in the moment the information is being interpreted. It is more ideal to have a Deaf-centered explanation of the complex terminology. Therefore, a list of terminology is made indicating which concepts are most difficult, and priority is given to those concepts when creating expansions.

Why do some signs have more than one version?

As you search for particular concepts on the ALSCORE website, there may be more than one signed version of that concept. As a translation team, we work very hard to provide an accurate translation. However, sometimes we just can’t decide on only one option. We want to give our users choices. You should never feel like you have to use what we provide. It is completely up to you how and when to use the terms, based on preferences and language use.

For example, there are three different signed versions for the concept PHILOSOPHY. The reason being, if you follow the field of Philosophy back to its ancient roots, we know that Philosophy is intertwined with wisdom, hence the sign for WISDOM can be used for the term Philosophy interchangeably. Many years later, specifically looking at communication systems like Signing Exact English (SEE), the emphasis is on making English visible. The SEE method stresses the importance of incorporating English in the signs. Therefore, we see the concept of philosophy manifested in the sign WISDOM but with a “P” handshape. And for many years, these signs have been the norm for many users of ASL. However, in recent years we have seen this sign evolve yet again where the initialized sign (the “P” handshape) is replaced with a different handshape and movement.

Again, it is not for us to say one sign is better or worse. We only offer them as options for all of you. It really is up to you and what you prefer.

Another great example is the concept of DOWNLOAD, as it applies to computers and technology. There has been one particular sign being used to represent the concept of DOWNLOAD since the inception of computers, but it reflects slower and more cumbersome technology. The newer sign we offer reflects how much faster and more efficient downloading has become! The translation group discussed creating a new sign to carry forth the technological changes we see in today’s world. If you compare how older and younger generations sign this concept, you will see many variations in sign location, production, and movement.

This is why ASLCORE may have multiple versions of a signed concept. The emphasis is on having a choice. One sign is not better than another. All signs are still used in the community. It’s all about what the user prefers and how they incorporate it into their own language use.

Why does ASLCORE have signs that are already common words?

Although there are signs for already common words, it’s important to remember that the way a word or phrase is used in everyday language may be very different from the meaning it has in a technical profession or academic environment. For example, in the field of Computer Science, a common word that is used is GATE. In ASL, it is true that there is a an already established sign for the concept of GATE, however, it is not the conceptually accurate sign when applied to Computer Science. In this technically specific field, the shape, location, and movement of the sign is completely different. Also, once we establish a conceptually accurate sign for GATE, there are other terms that may seem like common ordinary words (AND, OR) that already have established signs, however, to make them compatible to the field of Computer Science, they need to be modified. Computer Science does not use the terms AND or OR in the same way they are used as common conjunctions in conversation. The jargon and how it’s used is very specific to that domain. For example, the sentence “I need two ands and one or..” produced using the already established signs would be confusing and inaccurate. These signs must be domain specific, to ensure accuracy and conceptual equivalence.

Have a question that’s not on this list?