Vocab Lessons by Chris Shorne

Vocab Lessons

Session One: June 30th

ambulance (using the signs emergency and vehicle can also get the meaning across)

barking (as in dogs)



Notes: advantage of tactile sign language—

I can sign sorry into your back when your arms are wrapped around me.






Notes: sorry can be modified by varying size of movement (small or large circle), speed of movement (fast or slow), and intensity of facial expression.







Notes: ask native signer if I can avoid eye contact (breaking the rule) to emphasize meaning when signing sorry.


Core Vocabulary:



Notes: find out if this is really one sign or if there’s something I’m missing.


Session Two: July 1st–6th

awake/wake up (looks similar to surprise)



twitch/shake (from drugs, flashbacks, or nightmares)



Notes: is there a difference between the sign for forgiven and excused?


Modification of classifier in an ASL sentence

The following sentence, signed by a three-year-old, uses a single classifier.

Handshape: 3 CL (vehicle); index finger, middle finger, and thumb spread and extended.

Palm Orientation: index and middle finger pointed at face, thumb up.

Movement: move towards face, just before hitting face, fold in both fingers and thumb.


Notes: if the three-year-old had been voicing the above sentence, he would have said only: “Car crash me.” Because he was using ASL, he was able to tell us he saw it coming.


Core Vocabulary:




ASL Immersion Homestay: July 10th–31st



cast or body-cast (for a sighted person, fingerspell C-A-S-T and mark, on your own body, where the cast begins and ends; for a DeafBlind person, mark on the DeafBlind person’s body. For example: mark a line with your fingers across both thighs, then across chest.)


rash powder (for child, instead of fingerspelling R-A-S-H + powder, sign medicine + powder.)

dinosaur blanket

ILY balloon (put your thumb in your mouth and blow as though blowing up a balloon, popping up your pointer and pinky fingers. Release your hand — the balloon — and let it drift towards the person as the sign I love you. If the person is close by, put your hand on that person’s chest so you both can feel it.)


Notes: Try not to confuse adopt with take over. The hand motion (clenching) is the same, but movement changes meaning: to adopt is to take up, to take over takes down.


Core Vocabulary:

From now on


*Translation and gloss by author with aj granda and Ellie Savidge.


I love you


Chris Shorne holds an MFA from Antioch University Los Angeles and has recently published with Utne online, Portland Review, and Entropy. Shorne spent 2017 as an international human rights accompanier in Guatemala and formerly taught at Bent, a queer writing institute.


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