Video Examples of ASL

By Douglas Dunn, ASL Interpreter

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Copyright (c)2007,2008 Douglas Dunn / Word Wizards communications -- all rights reserved

I have prepared some video examples of performing in American Sign Language and interpreting, which I have uploaded to YouTube. Following are descriptions of each video with a link to the specific video.

Videos of interpreting from videos of Great Speeches

Interpreting Martin Luther King's Speech "I Have a Dream":
Martin Luther King Jr. gave many inspirational addresses throughout his too-short life.  While all merit remembrance, this is his most famous and possibly most eloquently, delivered to a massive outdoor assemblage in front of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963.

Interpreting Martin Luther King's Last Speech before being assassinated "I Have Been to the Mountaintop":
Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee.  The night before, speaking to an assembly of city workers in Memphis, he gave his last speech, in which he prophetically offers ominous foreshadowing of the tragedy that will occur the next day.

Interpreting Robert F. Kennedy's impromptu "from the heart" remarks on learning of Martin Luther King's death:
On April 4, 1968, in the course of his campaign for the Democratic nomination for President, Robert F. Kennedy arrived in a downtown urban area of Indianapolis, Indiana, and was informed that Martin Luther King, Jr., had just been shot and killed in Memphis, Tennessee.  The urban crowd, predominantly African American, had been waiting to see Kennedy and had not yet heard the sad news.  Riots quickly began to erupt in many major U.S. cities around the country, and Kennedy's advisors warned him that he should cancel the appearance.  Disregarding his now useless prepared speech notes, Kennedy showed courage and decisive leadership by telling his advisors that he owed it to his supporters to speak to them, and spoke impromptu, without using any notes, straight from his heart.  Despite the rampant violence that sad, terrible night, Indianapolis remained calm and peaceful.

Videos taken during actual interpreting situations

Interpreting for a College Science Class:
Interpreting for a college science class (Oceanography 101 at Mira Costa College, in Oceanside, California). This is an actual interpreting assignment, not a reenactment and without advance preparation or rehearsal, recorded with permission of the Deaf student(s), as well as the instructor, oceanographer, surfer and scuba diver Ray Rector. Deaf and hearing students are not shown to protect privacy.

While most interpreting situations involve confidential, private, personal situations of individuals and most public events never get recorded, this is an attempt to provide an example of interpreting in an academic setting.

Interpreting Service at Seaside Center for Spiritual Living:
Interpreting at Seaside Center for Spiritual Living in Encinitas, California. This is an actual assignment, without preparation or rehearsal. The message is being presented by Rev. Christian Sorensen. This is a regular assignment that I share with several other interpreters; I am usually there one or two Sundays each month.

Interpreting for Hillary Clinton campaign rally:
Interpreting for a Hillary Clinton rally February 1, 2008, just a few days before the Super Tuesday primary election.
Earlier in the year, I interpreted on stage with Hillary Clinton at the California State Democratic Convention, April 28, 2007 in San Diego. Later the same day, I also interpreted on stage for Barack Obama, Dennis Kucinich, Chris Dodd and other prominent state and national Democrats. Most of my work involves confidential, private situations for individuals, that of course cannot be made public, and many of the really thrilling assignments I've enjoyed over the years never got captured on anyone's camera.

Providing Narrative for silent home movie:
OK, this one is not actually an interpreting "job" and is certainly not current, but here I am "interpreting" to make up for not having any sound on these old home movies. This is me, back in 1963, at age 13, walking in Yellowstone National Park with my pet parakeet "Pixie" on my shoulder. I particularly like this short clip because it combines two important dimensions of my life: American Sign Language and love of birds, and shows that they both go way back to my childhood! This bird's wings are NOT CLIPPED, and he could fly away at any time, but never does. This is from an old 16mm home movie, back before home movies were digital or even included sound, so I narrate the scene in ASL. [For more on my "thing" about birds, click here.]

Songs in American Sign Language

NOTE: Just a general note about songs in sign language: Signing songs is for hearing people.  It motivates an interest in sign language, and is fun for hearing people to combine sound with the visual nature of ASL.  Many hearing people are surprised to learn that Deaf people are not especially excited about songs performed in ASL.  Please understand, Deaf people love the beauty of their language, but because they do not hear the music, they just aren't that impressed with the match of visual and audio modes.  If you want to understand how Deaf people feel, try watching with the sound turned off.  If you want to enjoy the performance, please do enjoy the combination of both sight and sound!

For each of these videos, there is a very brief introduction in sign language, and then the song begins.

Sunrise, Sunset (Fiddler on the Roof)
I was a single father. My first wife left when my daughter was a 3-MONTH old infant, and I raised her alone until remarrying during her teenage years.
This song is about how fast the days turn into years and time flies so quickly as our small children grow up right before our eyes. It has meaning to every parent, but I think especially to those parents who carried the burdens, and savored the joys, of loving their children and raising them alone
I dedicate this song to my daughter, who is now all grown up and Mom to my lovely granddaughter.

Imagine (John Lennon)
Try to imagine a world of peace, love and harmony. That is the challenge of this song.

Border Song (Elton John)
This is one of my personal favorites.  We often fear people who are "not my kind" and divide people based on artificial borders and superficial differences.  This song challenges us to break down barriers ("borders") that separate us needlessly from those who are "not my kind."  I especially love the dramatic finish.

I Can Show You the World (Allladin)
A challenge!  An interpreter rehearsing to sign for a stage production of the play that includes this song approached me to ask for some suggestions in how to approach the interpretation.  The song is fast, includes vocabulary not common to music, and has two characters whose parts overlap (so that's why we have TWO hands!).  So we discussed some possible approaches and I took it as a challenge to make this work.  This is my effort.  My biggest reservation is that, while all details and movements are very clear in the original high-quality Quicktime, the YouTube conversion is less precise, and some of the finer movements might drop out.  To minimize this, it is suggested that the song be replayed after it has been fully downloaded, as the first pass (while it is still downloading) might be more likely to miss some of the content.

Love At Home
My mother loved her family very much, and her greatest desire was to encourage a loving, harmonious family. This song, "Love at Home," was her favorite song. For her funeral, she had requested all of her seven children join in performing this song together. Some sang and some played musical instruments, and I interpreted into American Sign Language. I am presenting this song again in honor of my mother, Lois Dunn.
I first saw this song performed in sign language more than 30 years ago by Becky Judd, one of the first Deaf adults I got to know well when I was still a child. While I cannot match the grace and eloquence of Becky's beautiful ASL signs, she was a role model for influencing my approach to this song.

I Am A Child of God
In memory of my nephew Don Ostler and his five-year-old daughter Gwyndalyn, who were struck and killed by an 86-year old driver while crossing a street in a crosswalk, "hand in hand," while walking to school. My sister Nancy asked me to perform this song in sign language at the funeral of her son and granddaughter, which of course I did, though the actual performance was not recorded on video. In honor of Don and Gwyn, I am presenting this song again.

Our Father (The Lord's Prayer -- Musical)
I have interpreted in American Sign Language (ASL) for many 12-step meetings, which often conclude  with this prayer, which is meaningful to many in both religious and secular cultural traditions.  Here it is set to music in a lively rendition.

Christmas Favorites!

O Holy Night

O Come All Ye Faithful

Recommended Books or Videos
In addition to products of DeBee Communications or Dawn Sign Press, I would recommend any book by Lou Fant or by Tom Humphreys and Carol Padden. Fant and Humphreys/Padden focus on the true American Sign Language used in the Deaf culture and go beyond merely showing signs to showing how sign language grammar is properly applied. Additionally, material from DeBee Communications is strongly recommended. In contrast, it is crucial to avoid books that use "Signed English" or "SEE" ("Signed English Exactly"), which use adaptations of ASL signs in English word order. Many Deaf people find this offensive because it seeks to subjugate ASL, which is a natural language. Just imagine how a native speaker of the Spanish would react if they went into a high school Spanish class and found an instructor teaching variations of Spanish vocabulary adapted to fit into English grammatical structure....

Lou Fant has produced a number of books and videos over the years, most notably "The American Sign Language Phrase Book." Lou Fant, born to Deaf parents, was widely recognized as the greatest sign language interpreter ever, and was active in education for Deaf people and in training other interpreters. I had the privilege of working closely with him during the early 1970s and his encouragement and positive attitude was highly influential in drawing me to the field of professional interpreting. He passed away June 11, 2001 at the age of 69 and will be greatly missed. Lou Fant memorials online, including additional info about his books/videos, can be found at:

James DeBee, for DeBee Communications, has produced an excellent series of ASL instructional videos, called "ASL Video Series." This is a high-quality series from a well-known DEAF producer who has produced numerous videos for television, videos and is highly regarded as a consummate professional by hearing and Deaf alike. This series works at a number of levels: there is introductory material signed by Mr. DeBee; there are several vignettes in each lesson in the series, which are acted by Deaf actors in ASL; there is a "classroom" lesson in which a Deaf instructor explains the vignette; then Deaf sign models demonstrate every sign used in the vignettes, then after this has been done for each vignette, all of the vignettes on the tape are again shown, run together in a seamless story line. Then they are once again signed by other Deaf models showing the variety of signing styles, from perfectly-formed textbook signing, to everyday "street" signs as used by real Deaf people. Following that, a grammar lesson is presented by a Deaf expert, and a lesson in Deaf history and culture is presented. It is comprehensive, works at multiple levels so both beginners and advanced students can enjoy it, and utilizes extensive quality resources from the Deaf community and Deaf academia. Strongly recommended.
For more information check out the DeBee Communications website:

The husband/wife team of Tom Humphreys and Carol Padden has also written several books, including the book/video combo "Learning American Sign Language" which is widely used in college and high school sign languages classes. Humphreys and Padden are both Deaf, and hold doctorate degrees in fields related to Deafness and education.

Irene Duke has written an excellent book "The Everything Sign Language Book" (Adams Media, 2004), which is a concise but excellent overview of the history, structure and practice of sign language, including an introduction to beginning signs. Used in conjunction with a qualified course on ASL, this is an excellent introductory resource that gives a clear, easy-to-follow view of what sign language is, where it came from, how it works, and how you can be a part of it!

All of the books mentioned above are widely available in most book stores or online book sales such as -- I strongly recommend them.

Send an e-mail to Doug:

Tel: 760/ 781-1227

Post Office Box 300721
Escondido, California 92030-0721

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