In a message dated 1/15/2006 5:04:44 A.M. Pacific Standard Time, lwilt@
Hi, Bill - I haven't asked for your help in awhile, not that I don't
have questions but I don't want to bug you! Thank you for the help
you've given in the past. Now - my story - I originally became
involved in sign language because my 29 yr. old daughter has been
interested for years and signed up for ASL 1 at the local community
college - I took it with her so we could practice together - not
knowing that it would lead me to a wonderful, close friendship with
the deaf instructor. For the past year I have studied on my own,
reading about deaf culture, increasing vocabulary, watching videos,
so that I can communicate more fluently without Karen having to
always and only read my lips - and I've come a long way, we're
almost at a normal pace of conversation, yay! Not ASL, but our own
conversational style. Anyway, my daughter in interested in becoming
an interpreter, but the nearest school is Gallaudet, about 70 miles
from here. Since she works full time I thought of asking Karen to
give her private lessons until she can arrange to go to D.C. for
their Summer/Saturday program. I went on the internet looking to
find what a reasonable hourly rate would be to pay for private
lessons. It turned out that the answers I found were written by
YOU. Not the hourly rate, but your idea that it's not necessary to
go for credit classes as long as she can pass the certification
exam. So now I'm thinking she can do allot of the work right here,
with Karen, and become involved with some of the deaf population
here and maybe that will all work out. We don't have any certified terps
here, but we do have a handful of uncertified ones. Anyway, now my
question is - do you have a feel for what the hourly rate would be?
I don't want to underpay her. She has a masters degree in social
work with focus on ADA policy.... unfortunately there are no jobs
for her here unless she drives to D. C. and she has 2 babies now...
so teaching is perfect for her. I was thinking around $25/hr. but
gosh, the voice teachers around here get $30/half hour... Have you
had experience with private lessons?
Sorry this is so long...smile...take your time answering...
I hope you and your family are well...
Linda Beth Wilt
I can see how you are concerned that since you and Karen are
friends she might feel unduly influenced to say yes to a rate of
pay that is less than what she feels she is worth.
If it were me I'd simply approach your friend with a question:
"Karen, I'm looking for an ASL tutor for my daughter. I'm
wondering if you know anyone in the area and have any idea of
how much they might charge?"
Then if Karen were even remotely interested she would likely
volunteer herself and suggest a rate of pay with which she was
There are many factors that influence how much you should pay an
I'll list off some things to consider:
1. Does the tutor have to commute? If it takes the tutor a
half-hour to drive to your house then a so-called one-hour
tutoring session will take 2 and a half hours of the tutor's
time. (1/2 hour driving there, 1/2 hour driving back, few
minutes filling up gas, an hour of tutoring, a few minutes
getting dressed to go out side, 15 to 20 minutes preparing the
lesson, etc.) So, paying a commuting tutor $25 an hour is
actually only paying them $10 an hour since it takes two and a
half hours out of their day that they could be doing something
2. Who is prepping the curriculum? Have you bought a book for
yourself and one for the tutor. The tutor needs access to
whatever curriculum you are going to use. If you are relying on
the tutor to provide the curriculum that puts an additional time
burden on the tutor. Tutors that already have a curriculum
ready to go are more valuable than tutors who show up at your
door and ask you, "so, what do you want to know?"
3. Are you willing to commit to a series of sessions?
You should get a price break if you sign a contract for a bunch
of tutoring sessions instead of just piecemeal.
4. Are you willing to pay in advance?
Back when I did tutoring I required people to write me sign up
for multiple tutoring sessions and write me two checks. The
first check was for half the total cost of the tutoring and was
payable immediately. The second check was for the other half
of the payment and was postdated to the day of our last
scheduled tutoring session. Both checks were given to me prior
to my doing any tutoring.
5. Are you willing to forfeit the session if you are sick or
busy and can't make it?
What I used to do was set up a ten-session contract. I informed
the student that they could miss one session and I'd let them
reschedule it. If they missed any additional sessions, they
would forfeit (lose) that session and I would be paid the same.
If I missed one session we would simply add an additional
session to our schedule. If I missed more than one session I
would owe the student DOUBLE time to make up for each additional
session missed. That was fair. If the student flaked out more
than once, he lost money. If I flaked out more than once, I
lost time and effort. Such a policy helped to make sure
that both of us consistently showed up when we said we would.
6. Get creative. How about instead of hiring the person as a
tutor, you instead ask the ASL tutor to let you buy them a
series of regularly scheduled dinners (or breakfasts). For
example, I regularly host an ASL breakfast at the local Denny's.
(near Cal State Sacramento) I go there almost every-Saturday at
7:45 a.m. I chat with whatever students or Deaf people show
up. It gives students an opportunity pick my brain for
free. I've done this for well over a year now.
7. Find out what the interpreters in your area are charging for
a one-hour interpreting session. That is a terrific yardstick
for how much to pay an ASL tutor. If the terps charge $50 for
the first hour and $25 for each following hour of the same
assignment, that gives you an good starting point to consider
what to offer your tutor. Such a rate card would indicate to me
that $25 an hour is a fair amount to pay if the tutor doesn't
have to commute or only has to commute a very short distance.
8. Many ASL instructors earn between $25 and $100 an hour for
teaching ASL classes. Some of them teach many classes a week.
I remember back when I was young, wild, and crazy, I used to
teach 13 classes per week. After I got so busy teaching so many
classes, the thought of teaching a single individual was
ludicrous. Think about it. 20 people paying me $5 each to
participate in a "community ed" class totaled to $100 an hour.
Compare that with someone offering me $25 an hour to provide
Note: People look at the $100 an hour statement and think,
my heck, he must be rich! Hogwash. Not all classes had 20
people in them. Some only had a handful. Even so, 13 classes a
week, times a more realistic figure of $50 per class comes to
$650 a week -- but a third of that goes to pay business expenses
(advertising, office supplies, teaching supplies, gas to drive
to the teaching location, wear and tear on the car, nice clothes
to teach in, oh and let's not forget such items as medical
insurance. When you are an independent you foot the whole bill
yourself. Back when I lived in Layton, Utah I remember paying
over $1,000 a month for medical insurance. (Which was critical
considering one of my four kids is a "special needs child.")
Overhead expenses are why auto mechanics and plumbers charge so
much. It would be different if you were earning that much per
hour 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. But you are not. That's why
plumbers charge so much. If you look at any established
business person who provides personal, in-home services, he or
she charges $45 to $150 an hour or more (plus parts). If you
don't charge that much, you simply can't afford to stay in
business year after year and feed your family.
If you are teaching college classes, (adjunct -- which I was)
that helps quite a bit since the pay is pretty good and you
generally teach in blocks of time. Now I teach full-time and it
is so very much nicer.
9. Perhaps "semi-private" instruction would be a better way
to go than tutoring. If there are two or three other "wannabe"
interpreters in the area they might be interested in receiving
semi-private instruction. Four people contributing $10 each for
an hour of tutoring is much more financially rewarding for the
tutor than 1 person paying $25 an hour.
10. You mention that your friend has two babies and no local
job prospects. That would indicate to me that she would indeed
be grateful for the income. I'm sure the vast majority of people
would not be offended by being offered $25 an hour that they
would otherwise not have the opportunity to earn. She can
always turn it down or negotiate for a higher amount.
$250 for a ten hour contract over a period of five-weeks seems
reasonable considering the situation. But remember
this--whatever happens--do not let any aspect of the money or
the contract become a source of irritation that might harm your
friendship. Your friendship is worth more than gold. If Karen
flakes out or under performs, just kiss your money goodbye and
call it an "experiment" that didn't work out the way you planned
but one from which you learned a great deal.
I hope this has been helpful.
If you have other "tutor-related" questions, feel free to ask.
In a message dated 10/31/2001 12:19:39 PM Central Standard Time, a student writes:
Hello Dr. Vicars,
Do you have any suggestions on how I may narrow my search for tutorial services in San Francisco? Any help to guide me is greatly appreciated!
Thank you in advance for your assistance.
As far as finding a tutor, I suggest you track down an interpreter for the deaf. Then ask him or her where to find a deaf person who might be interested in tutoring you. The phone book might list interpreters in your area. Or you could call the state division of vocational rehabilitation services and ask them, (talk to a counselor who serves the deaf--the receptionist might have no clue.)
You might consider asking June Kailes for some advice on finding an ASL tutor. She is a Disability Consultant at the Independent Living Resource Center San Francisco, 70 10th Street, San Francisco, CA 94103
415-863-0581, TTY 415-863-1367.
A sort of off the wall approach might be to contact the U.C.S.F. Center on Deafness
-- a mental health facility.
Outpatient Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Address 3333 California Street, Suite 10, San Francisco, CA 94143-1208
Phone (415) 476-7600 (TTY)
476-4980 (V) Fax (415) 476-7113
Location Served San Francisco Bay area Hours 8:30-5 Mon-Thurs
Who knows, they might let you come in and visit with the deaf patients?
They might even have a patient who would be willing to tutor you for free.
Plus you might contact the local colleges. Ask to speak to the disability services director. Ask him or her if there are any college students (deaf) who are good signers who would like to earn a few bucks doing some tutoring on the side.
Good luck on your studies and take care.
In a message dated 5/1/2005
12:29:09 PM Pacific Daylight Time, asl.tutor@ writes:
<<I want to know how ASL teachers can inspire extremely shy students
to be confident when standing up to demonstrate ASL stories/etc.>>
Dear ASL Tutor,
The thing to understand here is how to deal with "exposure to public
For our discussion we will say that "exposure to public scrutiny" is
the process of being subjected to observation, examination, study,
or evaluation by a group.
This is a nerve wracking experience for most people due to the fact
that if they mess up, many people will become instantly aware of it.
The person being watched knows that he is more likely to mess up
because he is nervous about messing up. The more nervous he becomes,
the more sure he will mess up and thus the cycle continues until it
You've stated that your goal is to get a shy student to be able to
confidently stand up and sign a story (or perform some other task)
in front of a group.
Here are my thoughts on how to do that:
Start by having the student practice the task in the safest
environment possible and then work your way up.
The safest environment is likely to be their home, behind closed
doors where nobody will see them.
To help make this possible, provide study materials that are clear
and self-explanatory so that shy students can practice at home on
Assign topics ahead of time. Give plenty of notice. Remind the
student numerous times that eventually he or she will be using this
information in class.
Review the material just prior to asking the class to practice it.
Next, have the whole class, at the same time, practice the task.
They should all be facing forward and focused on their own progress
not that of their neighbor). They should be sitting down and be
given plenty of time.
Next, ask for volunteers to do the task in front of the group.
Next, assign everyone to work in pairs. Put a kind, patient,
friendly student with the shy student.
Switch partners frequently so no one is stuck with someone they
don't like for very long.
Next have them work in threesomes. Then as a group of five. Note: If
you put them in foursomes watch to make sure they don't break into
You don't have to do this all on the same day. It is good to spread
it out and let the shy student get used to working in small groups.
Insist that they all learn each other's names.
Next, have a few members from each group move to a new group. Using
tokens of some kind is helpful for this. For example you could hand
out poker-chips blue, red, yellow, and white. Then you can sign,
"ALL BLUE STAND-UP" "ALL WHITE STAND-UP" BLUE, WHITE, SWITCH."
Next have all the students sit in one big circle and play a game
where everyone is watching everyone else, but only momentarily. Make
sure students know that if they get stuck they can ask you for help.
Or assign them to partnerships so that as you go around the circle,
if one of them doesn't know the answer he can ask his partner.
Next, have five students come to the front and sit in chairs. They
are all sitting down, facing the "audience." You can call them
student 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. (This makes it a bit more anonymous.) Ask
each of the five students some sort of question and have them
respond. You might want to show them the sign for "pass" and let
them know they can "pass" if they would like.
On another day you have them do this same activity but standing up.
Later you call up three people. Then individuals.
What I'm explaining here is simply that you can use a progressive
approach to getting your students up in front of class.
In all my years of teaching (over seventeen years with around 10,000
in-person students) I have simply never had any problem regarding
"shy" students in class. By the second day of class I am usually
directing individuals to the front and interacting with them. I
read my student's body language and begin with those students who
are obviously fearless or actors. As class goes on, the shy students
realize they will eventually have to come to the front. They prepare
themselves for it and it ends up being a relief for them when it
finally happens. I have had maybe three students specifically ask to
be excused from "front of class" participation. These I dealt with
in ways that did not draw attention to them yet allowed them to
participate from their seat.
Here are a few more pointers:
Avoid embarrassing a student in front of his or her peers. NEVER
put down or "pick on" any student.
Focus on helping him to have a successful communication experience.
If he is not understanding you, gradually bring the communication
down to his level. Ask him something he can respond to. Let
him succeed and then send him back to his seat and call up the next
Communicate to your students that you appreciate their participation
and that you recognize standing up in front of class is easier for
some than others. Emphasize that it is good for them and that you
don't expect perfection but that this is a language class and that
as such, we will be communicating to each other and to groups.
message dated 5/1/2005 4:10:44 PM Pacific Daylight Time, an ASL
ASL tutor. I provide one-on-one tutoring to ASL students. I've had
problems in the past when students interact with me socially...
later on they don't take the teachings seriously. Suddenly they want
to be my best friends and drop the formality of teacher/student
roles. How do you remain friendly with your students while keeping
them on their toes with their studies in ASL?"
Response: You might want to consider doing what lawyers
do. They bill their clients for every minute spent on the client.
This includes on the phone, in-person, doing background research,
paper work, and leg work.
When you first get a new client, explain to him the concept of
billable time. Explain your rates and how much you charge for what
type of interaction. Here are some examples (adjust the amount to
what is worth your while).
lessons: $15 an hour
Conversation practice: $12 an hour
Video Phone practice: $12 an hour
Lunch Practice: $5 an hour up to two hours (Student provides
transportation and pays for lunch including tip.)
Email responses: $10 per 250 words (Hmmm, speaking of which, when
you get done reading this email send me $10.92 via Paypal!)
It doesn't matter if they drop the formality of the role
because the bill for your time will still show up in their
mailbox. If they show up out of the blue and start chatting with
you, track the time you spent chatting and charge them for it by
sending them a bill. To avoid hard feelings make sure this process
is explained up front in your initial contract.
the process a bit more professional: get a clipboard and type up a
"Sign In Sheet."
student shows up unannounced, hand him the clipboard and a pen so he
can sign in. That will immediately put the student on notice that
he is being clocked.
You might even choose to select a dark blue smock (poncho) that you
put on when you are "on the clock." This could serve as an obvious
signal that you are shifting into the role of a paid tutor.
message dated 10/3/2005 10:23:27 A.M. Pacific Daylight Time,
Do you have any suggestions for learning directions in ASL? I am a
beginning ASL student (very old one) and I am having difficulty with
directions. I keep rewinding the "Signing Naturally" video that
comes with our workbook, but to no avail. We have a large class and
I cannot slow down the whole group because of my slowness. Any
advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for taking the time to
help so many of us... Maureen Jacobsen
Maureen, Let me tell you this: You are not alone. I get emails
from all over the world from students with the same frustration.
Your best bet would be to write on a corner of the board...Tutor
wanted, contact Maureen Jacobsen at (your email).
Or you might write: Would one of you youngsters be willing to help
out an old woman? I need a study partner who understands this
Or you might simply pick a time that you think will work for lots of
people and set up a study group. Your library likely has rooms
available to reserve for this purpose. Then, when you get the
tutor, ask her to sit by your side and show you how to do the
directions. Seeing the directions from someone sitting by your side
is much easier than someone sitting in front of you. Then later you
can have the person sit in front of you and try it that way. You
might be able to sit at the front of the classroom off to the side
where you could pivot your chair or desk so that you are facing
almost the same direction as your instructor. Then follow his
movements that way. Bill
In a message dated 6/29/2004
2:24:23 PM Pacific Daylight Time, email@example.com writes:
I am a 48yr.
old who is going deaf due to meineres syndrome. i have already lost
the hearing in my left ear and i recentely found out that the
disease has gone to my right side. My family and i have decided to
learn sign. but there is a problem, i cant find any resourses here
in oklahoma city where i live. what would you suggest. we are a
large mixed group of 6to12 people some of them kids under the age of
12. we would like to do this as a group. please help us. thank
the lessons at my website: Lifeprint.com
materials from your library.
state's division of rehabilitation services and ask them for
state's division of services to the deaf and hard of hearing.
the newspaper for an ASL tutor to come to your house and teach you
ASL. You can use lifeprint.com as the curriculum for your tutor to
local "community education" or "night school" departments of your
school district and ask about ASL classes.
[Editors note: The typical
spelling is: "Meniere's Disease"]
In a message dated 3/10/2004
2:28:58 PM Pacific Standard Time, >firstname.lastname@example.org writes:
>Hello again Dr. Vicars, >Would you happen to know anyone who could
help me like over a webcam? College >classes arent available right
now so i was hoping i could get practice this >way.. thanks so much,
>From: BillVicars@aol.com >To:
email@example.com >Subject: Re: Hi there! >Date: Wed, 10 Mar
2004 18:44:25 EST > >How much are you willing to spend? >I don't
know of any free webcam services...but maybe a tutoring service
could be set up. Bill
In a message dated 3/10/2004
8:14:23 PM Pacific Standard Time, firstname.lastname@example.org writes:
i don't want to underestimate.. or overestimate as a matter of fact
but i think i could afford around 50-60 $$ a week? just let me know
the price range.. I really need someone fun to work with. I look
forward to hearing from you!!
This concept is really fascinating to me. The idea of hooking up
private ASL tutors and students via webcam. I looked into the idea
of teaching point to multipoint via the web previously and it wasn't
feasible. But point to point certainly is. The trick would be to set
up a system whereby a profit could be made. The hard part is finding
qualified tutors and arranging the time. I will ask my newsletter
audience to see who might be available for such an endeavor.
Using ASL to
improve English literacy
In a message dated 12/6/2004
1:53:47 PM Pacific Standard Time, kormsby@Lee.Edu writes:
Hi Bill hope
everything is good for you J I have an off the wall question: Before
the question I need to set up my situation for you; I am a certified
interpreter at our local community college my students range in
skill level in English and sign, (that may sound surprising but is
so true), anyway I have noticed those with higher sign skills do
much better at learning the ins and outs of English. As I am asked
to tutor many of my students for English class I want to boost their
ASL skills in order to help with their English skills. Okay here is
the question: is adding to their sign vocabulary enough? Are there
other things I might do and if so what?
I do have to
focus on the class I am being asked to tutor for, but in order to
explain how things are set up in English I first show them how the
concept is signed then what the English words look like for that
concept. Maybe the more important question is am I on the right
track? Am I out in left field? Please advise J
I think you are
on the right track.
What you are
doing is known as a bilingual/bicultural approach to literacy.
This same approach also applies to interpreting in general.
interpreters to supply the appropriate cultural and
linguistic information that accompanies the "words" or "signs"
involved in the interpretation. This is not adding to or changing
the meaning, but rather providing a "full" and appropriate
interpretation. Some Deaf prefer and/or can benefit from minimal
interpretation because they already understand English and Hearing
culture. These people are bilingual and bicultural and simply
cannot hear. Other Deaf people need expanded interpretation because
in addition to not being able to hear spoken English, they also do
not have the cultural background necessary for spoken words to make
sense if simply changed into signs. The same is true of Hearing
people. Some "Hearing" people have been around Deaf people enough
to not need an explanation/interpretation that the puff in a Deaf
person's cheek as he signs Deaf means "and proud of it" or that a
"Deaf School" is considered more along the lines of being a
prestigious boarding school rather than some sort of "institution."
For other Hearing people though, you are going to need to include
that information in your interpretation else wise "something" has
been lost in "translation."
message dated 9/27/2005 5:51:36 P.M. Pacific Daylight Time,
Hi Dr. Vicars,
First, let me apologize if this information is
in your FAQ. If it is, I couldn't find it.
I am an ASL student; however, the fall class (ASL
3) at my local college was cancelled due to lack of enrollment. I
am quickly losing my signing skills since the last class, ASL 2,
ended in May. You know the old adage--use it or lose it! I'd like
to keep up my skills by chatting live via webcam in ASL with other
ASL users. Do you know of any sites like this?
Secondly, our college has organized an
Interpreter Training Program Advisory Board of which I am a member.
When they began offering ASL in the fall of 2004, no research had
been done as to the feasibility of an ITP in our community, the need
in the community for more interpreters, or the interest in students
enrolling in an ITP. Needless to say, the program was poorly run
and students did not enroll for fall 2005 but rather went to other
colleges. (The closest college that offers an ITP is a little over
an hour away from me.) The Advisory Board has to research all of
these issues. Can you tell me the best places to begin researching
the needs of the Deaf Community so that we get true numbers as to
how many people would use certified interpreters (vs. family
members) if they knew the service was available? Where is the best
place to find out how many people in a geographical area are deaf?
We can get some information from one of our school districts who has
a large Deaf Community.
Thanks for you help!
Hello. Sorry for the delay in responding.
I've chained myself to this keyboard for most of the day and have my
email list down to 62 left. Heh. I won't get them all tonight...but
maybe a few more.
You asked about the best places for researching
the Deaf Community.
I recommend you check with the Center for
Assessment and Demographic Studies at Gallaudet University.
Here's a pertinent link:
Note: They will confirm what you've already
found out...it is very difficult to obtain reliable data pertaining
to this subject.
I also suggest you consider contacting:
Center for the Preparation of Educational
Interpreters NTID at RIT, LBJ-1234
Lomb Memorial Drive, Rochester, NY 14623-5604
Also, do a google for: ASL Program Proposal
and: Interpeter for the Deaf program Proposal
You will come across numerous examples of
program proposals that you can glean ideas from regarding what they
If you haven't checked with your state's school
for the deaf, I suggest you do so: http://www.msdb.k12.mi.us/msd/
Now, about live video chat...I don't know of a
"go and chat" place for hearies who want to practice their ASL
skills. But I suggest you visit http://www.sorensonvrs.com and
www.hovrs.com to get a feel for the technology that is out there.
Here is a site that I know of for "chat" but I don't know if they
use video yet: http://chat.deaf.com/
I know of an ASL tutor who will chat via video
for a fee. But I know of no "free" sites for that sort of thing.
Also, you might enjoy my fingerspelling site:
Best wishes for your success.
If you want
to know about ASL classes at your college, I suggest you contact
their office of services to students with disabilities. The people
in that office will likely know about any ASL classes at their
school. They might even be able to put you in touch with a Deaf
college student who could tutor you and your family in ASL. It is