ASL (American Sign Language) as a Second Language???

Why am I teaching my son a second language?

More and more colleges and universities are accepting ASL in fulfillment of foreign language requirements. The University of California system (all campuses) will soon accept ASL in fulfillment of foreign language entrance and graduation requirements. Harvard and Yale are among some of the schools which are investigating similar action. Recently, we have witnessed tremendous activity by state legislatures to support the teaching and acceptance of ASL as a foreign language. Many states now recognize ASL as a foreign language for the purpose of meeting high school graduation requirements.

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Besides college, which is a long way off, there are a lot of benefits to learning a second language. Any language.

Bilingualism of any languages (whether signed or spoken) is a great booster for brains. It enriches and enhances your cognitive processes: higher abstract and creative thinking, better problem-solving, greater cognitive flexibility, better listening skills, greater academic achievement, and more! It also promotes cultural awareness, literacy, and other intellectual benefits.

Not just bilingualism, but also why not bimodalism too? Bimodal, that is using visual-spatial medium, expands your visual-perceptual skills: spatial awareness, mental rotation skill, visual sensitivity, and more!

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Is ASL even really a language?

Yes it is, actually.

“Because of its signed modality, people often assume that ASL is fundamentally different from spoken languages, or that it is merely a contrived representation of English. In reality, ASL is a fully developed, natural language. It is not a derivative of English; ASL contains structures and processes that English does not (Klima & Bellugi, 1979). ASL is a complete language with its own unique grammar (Fromkin, 1988). It is a true human language, with all the features of other human languages. An abstract concept can be expressed in ASL as easily as in English, Spanish, Navajo, or any other spoken language.”

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It is important to realize that just like most other languages, when you translate the syntax is different. The order is different sometimes and you can speak faster because there are signs for concepts and phrases. It is interesting to note that there are even different “dialects” and “accents”.

When looking into sign language as a foreign language credit, it is important to know that there is a difference between learning signs in an English word order and learning American Sign Language.

American Sign Language, or ASL, is a unique language with its own set of grammatical rules. It is not universal, and it is very different from English and other international signed languages!

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Why did I pick ASL?

I learned some as a teen and really took a liking to it. I learned some Italian once and tried to teach myself French once upon a time. I can’t remember the French and a tiny amount of Italian. The signs I learned as a teen I can still remember.

Everyone kept telling me to teach him signs as a baby but he was such an early talker I didn’t bother with it. The more I see about it the more interested I am.

It can help teach your toddler to learn to read. Toddler sign language helps a child connect the word gestures with printed letters. Signs help preschool children increase their vocabulary. Because the word is spoken while signing, phonetic sounds are taught.

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Early benefits to signing with a child include stimulation of speech and language development, as well as earlier communication and decreased behavioral problems.

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Sign language reinforces auditory skills by adding visual and kinesthetic input. Signing also stimulates connections in the brain and provides a secondary avenue for conceptual understanding to occur.

Sign language also improves spatial skills that are important for solid reasoning. There are so many cognitive benefits to learning sign language!

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Also I figured I’d have to learn with him. You know how people are always saying if a child is going to master a language they need to learn it as early as possible? Not a problem with sign language. I learned Away in a Manger this morning.

Okay, but your child is a hearing child…

Studies have shown that hearing children who are taught sign language as a part of their reading instruction score higher on standardized reading tests

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It doesn’t matter if your child can hear or not. The career choices are nearly endless.

Respect for and understanding of Deaf culture should be cultivated in the classroom. Some of the Deaf cultural mores and behaviors that can be taught include introductions, leave-taking, conversational turn-taking, language code-switching, criteria for acceptance or non-acceptance in the culture, folklore, group norms, identity, and so forth.

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How are we learning it?

We started watching “Signing Time” on Netflix. It’s amazing. I learned a lot from it even though it’s a kid show. They show you signs and then immediately put them into a song and conversation. Warning: The song will get stuck in your head. Guaranteed. LOL. is very helpful.

I will post links as time goes on and when we learn Away in a Manger we will post video.

I’d love to hear from you. Are your kids bilingual?