The Joy of Signing (Second Edition)
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42 of 42 people found the following review helpful
on November 20, 1999
I am a beginner to sign language, but I have found the Joy of Signing to be the most useful book of all the ones I've seen. The pictures are very well drawn (much better than my dictionary or the other teaching books I own). I like the division by catetory rather than the dictionary format, because it is often easier to learn related words together. The index in the back makes finding the word you want very simple. Remembering new signs is easier because the origin of almost every sign is listed, and these work as memory aids. I have been learning sign language for a year, and although I have never taken a class and am therefore not very good, nearly every word I do know has come from this book. I highly recommend it.
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38 of 40 people found the following review helpful
The Joy of Signing was in use in 1990 at the University of Pittsburgh when I started my studies there. When I was told I had to take a foreign language, and I started laughing because I am totally deaf...the advisors/university 'allowed' me to take ASL to fulfill those requirements. This book continued to be used until the mid '90s, because it was accessible to everyone and had the best drawings of any book on the market. As with most dictionaries of a 3-dimensional language, this one is inadequate in that it cannot give a full representation of the sign. It was also insufficient in that it based its format on that of the English dictionary, which is a totally different language than ASL. Rather than basing it on the structural components of ASL, the dictionary brought up words in alphabetical order. Since so many words have multiple meanings and so many signs are used for multiple words, this format is very difficult to look through to find an accurate sign. It is also not as useful as other books for Deaf people who are looking for specific English words to their signs.
The use of videos and video streaming photography on the computer has allowed the introduction of ASL as a 3-D language. Even though other books (usually with videos) have replaced The Joy of Signing at Pitt and I am sure at other universities, the book holds a fond place in my heart and on my shelves. The authors are commended for the introduction of ASL to a generation of people and for helping in promoting ASL as a true language in its own right. Karen Sadler, Science Education, University of Pittsburgh
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
This was the text I used in my first sign language class. When I first took sign language, it was beeing taught as Siglish (Signed English) and this was the perfect text for beginners. Lottie Riekehof has done an excellent job of assembling the best signs for beginners and each lesson contains enough variety to keep students engaged.
This text should not be used to teach yourself sign language, however. While I consult this book for a refresher and a reference, I can't imagine how I'd be signing if I hadn't had a real human instructor explain the idiosynchrocies of signing. Signing is much more than the hands, the entire face and body are needed in expressing not only emotion, but meaning... the signs for "shy" and "prostitute," for example, are very similar looking and could not be properly distinguished by a text alone.
If you're starting a study group or a class, or even if you're taking a class and using a different text, this is a great book to have on your reference shelf.
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38 of 43 people found the following review helpful
on July 27, 2002
Sorry folks...but save your money and buy a different book. The Joy of Signing was first written waaaaay back in the late seventies (around 25 years ago), and there's been better books that have come along since then, along with a far better approach to learning how to sign. (Signing Naturally, Learning American Sign Language, etc.) The people who continue to use this book are likely those who have never taken a recent training course on teaching ASL, but who are using the fact they know sign language as their qualifying criteria. There's more to teaching sign language or ASL than just being Deaf or knowing the language. This book might teach you SIGNS, but it won't teach you HOW to sign, and it definitely won't help you when it comes time to actually try and communicate with a culturally Deaf person. Instructors of sign language today are taking a more linguistical approach, that teaches ASL as a language in its own right - not just a manual-visual form of English. This book doesn't teach you the language, it merely teaches you the vocabulary. If you just want to learn a couple of signs to communicate with your Deaf neighbor or co-worker, then fine...get this book. But if you are truly desiring to learn to communicate effectively with the Deaf Community, work with Deaf people, become an interpreter, or the like...there are better books out there that may cost more money, but in the long run, be more effective for your purpose. I'm Deaf, a graduate of Gallaudet, and nationally Certifed Deaf Interpreter (CDI) and certified Sign Language Instructor who works in an Interpreter Training Program. I haven't used this book in years, and I have yet to find an Interpreter Training Program that does!
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on November 15, 2000
The Joy of Signing is a fine book for starting to learn the signs used in the Deaf community. But, one must realize that there are a number of signs presented that are not used in ASL (the language of the Deaf community). If you are looking to learn Signed English, then you'll do fine; but if you want to learn ASL, you may just want to go to another book since this one is based on English, not ASL. If you're interested in ASL, consider "A Basic Course in American Sign Language" (O'Rourke). If you just want to learn some signs to get by, "The Joy of Signing" will be okay.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on February 20, 2006
I'll start with what you've already read: this book is so English. As an interpreter and involved member of the Deaf community, I can assure that this is no compliment. Don't get me wrong, I love English; it's my first language... but it is very different from ASL.

The only good thing I can say about this book is that it is organized by categories (family, food, emotions, etc.), instead of the usual organization (by most-common English gloss).

If you're looking for a book to help you remember the ASL vocabulary you learn in a sign language class, this is not what you are looking for. Your teacher will likely give you a funny look if you use many of the signs in this book, and you'll end up having to un-learn them. This is especially true if you are learning to sign in the midwest and west. No matter where you live, don't waste your time and brainpower on this.

By the way, most Deaf adults do not use English sign systems; I know maybe 3 or 4 who do, and their language skills are not held in high esteem by their peers. It's true that Deaf children often use English sign systems, but when they are old enough to choose, their choice is usually ASL. You are better off focusing on that if you want to be able to converse with Deaf people. I've found that they are generally very accomodating when it comes to communication: they will likely understand you even if your signs are Englishy. I'd be surprised if anyone mentioned your mistakes, but you'd be silently screaming "I'M HEARING AND CLUELESS!"

I recommend the ASL Handshape Dictionary for beginning ASL students. The Clayton Valli dictionary published by Gallaudet is also quite good. If you're not already using them in your ASL program, the "Signing Naturally" series, from DawnSign Press, is excellent. For more advanced students, go for the Green Books, especially the teacher's edition. Good luck in your studies.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on March 5, 2003
This book was used in my first asl class, which was offered by a community college. It's easy and I loved it. However, when I got into more advanced, for-credit classes, I realized that much of what I had learned was obsolete or just plain unusual. I had to stop using it as a refrence because I was doing poorly on tests and my new teacher (who was deaf) had trouble understanding me. Even the number signs in this book are not the common ones used. I was frustrated that I had spent so much time memorizing these signs, and now had to not only learn new ones, but unlearn the old ones. I actually had a harder time in 101 than people who had never signed. I showed the book to my deaf teacher and she signed back "Not deaf culture." Enough said.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on October 15, 2001
This book has many accurate signs, and I recommend it to anyone who is currently taking a Sign Language course. However, if you plan to just buy the book and hope to be fluent, it won't work. The signs are there, but the grammar is not. Sign Language does not follow English grammar, it has a sophisticated grammar of it's own, and you must also learn that to be understood. If you are interested in communicating with the Deaf, take a class, if you are in a class and want to enhance your vocabulary...the book is great!
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
I am a graduate of Deaf Studies,I have many Deaf friends, and co-ordinate a Deaf Club/Social. While attending college I would use signs from this book with my Deaf friends and they would look at me as if I had three heads. I would have to fingerspell to them which in turn they would correct my previous sign and ask from where did I learned it. When I told them, ALL informed me to throw the book out. They are OUT-DATE signs!
When learning sign, buy DawnSign Press, Vista, Signing Naturally (both video and workbook). These are the best and extremely accurate (a few signs are California dialect). Another book that's great is Sign Language Made Simple. Don't forget either, that the BEST way to learn the language (outside of schooling) is becoming involved in the Deaf commnuity!!!! Learn from the masters!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on May 30, 2001
I have studied American Sign Language for three years now, and I would not recommend this book. This book lists individual signs, many of which are SEE signs or outdated. Like many beginners, this was my first book...a lot of bookstores sell it at the top of their lists--I'm not sure why. If you are interested in signing a song to a hearing audience (these signs strung together wouldn't make any sense in American Sign Language) this book may be for you. But if you are looking at interpreting or real communication with a Deaf person, look elsewhere! Here are some recommended books, all of which are here at Amazon: Signing Naturally (this is my favorite), Learning American Sign Language, The American Sign Language Phrase Book
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