The ASL Video Predicament

  • August 21, 2014

We All Have to Start Somewhere

And that somewhere is often on video-sharing websites like YouTube, Vimeo, Vevo, etc. This is where many of us first saw Keith Wann performing “Ice Ice Baby” in ASL and started to think that we should apply for the Interpreter Training Program. This is where we study George Veditz’s famous speech. It’s also where ASL and interpreting students are increasingly asked to post their homework; it’s a cost effective and efficient tool for teaching ASL and monitoring student progress.

Here’s the Problem

In front of a tan background, A hefty 40-ish man with short, dark hair and stubble is seen from the shoulders up with his hands framing the upper portion of his face. He's looking upwards with his mouth agape in an expression of disbelief or awe.

Whether you’re in your first ASL class, a professional looking for esoteric vocabulary or news on a particular topic from the deaf* or interpreting community, or a member of the deaf* community, if you’re using using a video-sharing site, you’re going to have to wade through dozens of (often more) videos of new signers who may or may not be accurate in their sign production. If you’re fluent in ASL, this is an issue of time and hassle. There isn’t currently a filter that can be applied when searching videos to exclude certain content (please respond in the comments below if this is not the case). The fluent signer will click out of a video after a few seconds if it doesn’t suit our needs. For a new signer, video-sharing sites can be dangerous territory. This is where one student can unknowingly pick up poor signing habits from another student.

So What Can We Do?

While many ASL teachers are asking their students to post privately (so that a link is required to view the video and it’s hidden from searches), many new signers are still posting their assignments for the public to view, or signing that they do in their off-time out of class. This is a good way to get feedback on your work and maybe boost your confidence, but this type of post can clog the results for those who need/prefer fluent signing videos. Here are some ideas to better identify your videos:

  • Tag your video with “ASL Beginner”, “ASL Novice”, “Native ASL User”, etc.
  • Title your video with not only the content or topic, but also something to identify where you are on your path to fluency.
  • Ideally, the wonderful people at the ASL Teachers Association (ASLTA) can guide us and their students towards some titling/tagging conventions. Input from heavy users of video-sharing sites would be of value as well.
  • Support and better ideas are welcome! Comment below to let us know!

Image courtesy of Casey Fleser.

Share this article


Request Interpreter



Contact Us

Service Area

We provide interpreting services throughout Colorado, including Denver and the metro area, Boulder, Brighton, Castle Rock, Colorado Springs, Fort Collins, Greeley, Loveland, Monument, Pueblo and more.

Schedule a sign language interpreter