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Signing With Babies And Children: Signing in Bilingual Homes: ASL is the Common Bond
Friday, May 1, 2009
Posted by etel @ SignShine®
Are you fortunate enough to know more than one language? Feeling a little confused about how to teach your child your native language? Do you slip back into English because you fear your little one won’t understand you otherwise? Do you struggle between the desire to give your child the gift of a second language and the concern that your personal communication and connection will suffer? Well, you’re not alone. I hear over and over again from bilingual parents that it’s easier just to speak English with their kids because that’s the “norm” among other parents and the kids’ friends. But what a gift they would be missing out on.
Our home happens to be quad lingual. You’re probably wondering how we get through the day! We have figured out how to make it work for us. My first language is Hebrew, while my husband and children are Americans and the extended family knows about one word in Hebrew – Shalom. Our wonderful nanny is a native Spanish speaker and we have always encouraged her to share her language with us. I knew early in my first pregnancy that I wanted my children to benefit from all these languages, but until I discovered signing, I wasn’t sure how to integrate so many different vocabularies without causing confusion in our home.
Signing became a common language for everyone in our household. Whether my husband was offering our daughter some milk or her nanny handed her a cup of leche or I poured her chalav, we all used the same ASL sign to describe it. In this way, it was easy for my kids to learn new words in all the languages, because the sign was always the same and it became the common bond.
Signing as a multiple-language tool is a wonderful way to demonstrate to our children the similarities among people and races all over the world. In this way, signing encourages tolerance. Signing is a way to make the unknown familiar, and teaches our kids the most important skills in the world: understanding and compassion.
Regardless of how many languages are spoken in your home, teaching your child ASL is a proven way to begin to hardwire yet another skill – the ability to learn other languages. We have long known that it is easier to learn a second language as a small child, while the pathways of the brain are still being mapped. Studies now suggest that a child who has learned a second language (including sign language) early in life has an easier time learning additional languages as they age, because their brains already understands the process. Signing can be your child’s “gateway” second language. It’s the gift that’s bound to enrich your child’s life tremendously!
Let the Sign Shine!
Etel Leit, M.S.
Founder & Owner http://www.signshine.com/