Welcome to the |
ALPHA version of the
ASL to English Dictionary
There are a growing number of ASL dictionaries available in print, CDROM and on the web. Each of these
efforts takes advantage of the growing technological capabilities in video, imaging and data processing, as well as
the growing availability of computers as well as the Internet itself.
However, most of these resources seem to be "hearing-centric", meaning they allow the reader to look up a word (usually English) and see the corresponding "sign" for that word. There are many discussions and debates on how accurate, appropriate and useful such tools are and a lot of the difference depends on where within the Deaf Community one falls. Several years ago, I attempted (with limited success) to learn ASL and realized even then that several of us were missing the point. The need for an English-to-ASL dictionary is there (and being met) but it seemed to me that a much greater (and obvious?) need was the reverse case: An ASL to English dictionary.
How, I asked myself, would a Deaf person, attempting to learn English, go about looking up a word? (It reminded me of how ridiculous I thought my parents were when I asked them how to spell a word and their reply was "Look it up in the dictionary." If I could do that, I wouldn't need to know how to spell it!) A serious chicken-and-egg problem there, but nothing compared to the idea of looking up a gesture-based concept. However, with the advent of new technology and a lot of help from people across the Internet, maybe we can change that.
This project presents a web-based, database-driven ASL dictionary that describes the starting and ending hand positions in common ASL signs and produces a list of corresponding English words, suitable for looking up in a dictionary or thesaurus. This is a prototype with very limited vocabulary but there are works in progress to allow for user registration and adding to the dictionary.