Category

ASL

Semilingualism and Monolingualism

By ASL, Bilingual, Early ASL Acquisition, Early Language Development, Information, Language Deprivation, Research

colourful bubbles with different languages

What does monolingualism mean?

Being monolingual means knowing one language. Many people who grow up in Canada may be monolingual and know only English or French. In contrast, many Deaf Canadians may be bilingual because they use two or more languages, for instance, they might use ASL and the written form of English.

What does semilingualism mean?

In order to become fluently bilingual, with strong language skills in two languages, a child must have early access to a first language or “mother tongue”, preferably from birth. When children are given late, infrequent or inadequate exposure to two or more languages, they may become semilingual rather than bilingual. When a child is semilingual they seem to not have a full grasp of any language, and tend to mix the vocabulary, grammar and structure of the two languages together so that the child may not be fully able to express themselves in any language. In order to reap the benefits of being bilingual, a child must be given the opportunity to develop a strong first language.

What does semilingualism mean for Deaf children?

Since more than 90% of Deaf children are born into hearing families who may not know ASL, it is crucial for parents to make the extra effort so that Deaf children are exposed to a signed language (ASL) as early as possible in order to have a strong first language that is visual and 100% accessible. By being given frequent and consistent exposure to ASL through communication with family members, videos, and socializing with other Deaf children, a first language can develop which is the first step to developing strong language and critical thinking skills. By having ASL as a first language, it will be easier to acquire English because the child already has knowledge of language structure and has the ability to connect ideas. Without frequent exposure to ASL and with only limited access to English (since the child does not have full access to spoken English), the child is in danger of never fully acquiring either ASL or English and becoming semilingual. By making the effort to expose your child to ASL as frequently and as early as possible, your child can thrive and learn how to communicate in two languages- ASL and English.

References:

  1. Cummins, J. (1979). Linguistic Interdependence and the Educational Development of Bilingual Children. Review of Educational Research, 49(2), 222-251.
  2. Grosjean, F. (1992). The Bilingual & the Bicultural Person In the Hearing & in the Deaf World. Sign Language Studies 77, 307-320.
Literacy vs Language: What's the Difference?

Language vs. Literacy: What’s the difference?

By ASL, Early Intervention, Information

Language is a natural system of communication that a group of people use to express thoughts, feelings, ideas – to talk about themselves and the world. Language can be spoken, like English, or signed, like American Sign Language (ASL).

Literacy is usually thought of as the ability to read and write. However, there is more to it than that. To be literate means, “to be educated or cultured” and literacy is “having or showing extensive knowledge, experience or culture”. A literate person is able to participate fully in society – more than simply being able to read and write, a literate person can fulfill social, civic, and economic roles.

Researchers have identified three levels of literacy: functional literacy, cultural literacy, and critical literacy.

Functional literacy: this refers to the ability to understand and use printed information in everyday life. A functionally literate person can use their reading and writing skills to achieve their goals. For example, job applications and medical forms can be understood and filled out.

Cultural literacy: this refers to the shared knowledge and information that members of a culture share. It includes knowledge about literature and history – even jokes – and it allows people to participate in the cultural and political life of their communities. For example, a culturally literate Canadian likely understands references to Anne of Green Gables, Terry Fox, and Victoria Day.

Critical literacy: this refers to the ability to think critically about messages, whether they are spoken, written, or signed. A critically literate person can understand the not-so-obvious perspectives and messages that books, movies, newspapers, and other media contain. A critically literate person can analyze, question, reflect on, and disagree with these perspectives and messages, and can respond with their own ideas. For example, a person with critical literacy can question why a movie portrays a female character as weak, a black character as violent, or a Deaf character as stupid.

Literacy in ASL and English: For Deaf children, literacy in ASL and English involves all three levels so that they are able to:

literacytriangle

Deaf children develop healthy self-esteem and a positive attitude towards literature and reading when they see themselves in stories, as in Deaf heritage literature – written in English, with Deaf characters and experiences.ASL literature includes stories, poems, legends, riddles, and humour told in ASL. It is based on the thoughts, emotions, and lived experiences of Deaf people. Because ASL is an unwritten language, its literary tradition is similar to that of oral cultures from all over the world, passed down from one generation to another. Now, ASL literature can be found recorded on DVDs, film, and the Internet.

While children can develop language skills naturally and easily if they are regularly exposed to accessible communication – for Deaf children, signed language is the only language fully accessible to them – literacy skills require time, effort, and encouragement to develop. The rewards, though, make the effort worth it: literate children become independent adults capable of thinking about themselves and their world.

The Benefits of Bilingualism

By ASL, Bilingual, Bilingual Education, Deaf Culture, Early ASL Acquisition, Early Intervention, Early Language Development, Information, Research

Red and blue interconnected speech bubbles that say "Bilingual"

The Benefits of Bilingualism: Impacts on Language and Cognitive Development:

Bilingualism can be briefly defined as someone who regularly uses two languages. According to researcher Franḉois Grosjean (who studies American Sign Language cognitive processing), bilingualism is the norm throughout most of the world. The proficiency levels between the two languages can vary throughout someone’s lifetime based on how much they use the language.

Many Deaf people are fluent in a signed language as well as a spoken or written form of a spoken language; because of this, it is probable that bilingualism is more common with Deaf individuals than hearing individuals. Proficiency in the two languages depends on the level of proficiency needed for the context (for example, is the language used solely at home or solely at school? This will result in different vocabulary). Proficiency will also depend on when the language was acquired.

Learning two languages is a very natural process for children, and it does not result in or cause cognitive or linguistic delays. A child learning two languages is able to achieve all the same milestones as a child who is learning only one language – everything from babbling to acquiring grammatical structures. This includes children who are learning American Sign Language (ASL) and English.

The most obvious benefit of being bilingual is the ability to communicate in two languages. It is beneficial to learn these two languages as early as possible in your life. Vocabulary is acquired easier and more quickly in both languages for people who are bilingual. In addition, managing two languages has cognitive benefits such as a better ability to pay attention, better control of impulses, better conflict resolution skills, and increased working memory.

Deaf children can greatly benefit from going to a bilingual school because if they have high proficiency in ASL, they may also have high proficiency in English and improved academic achievement. By exposing Deaf children to ASL, they are able to develop skills such as critical thinking and complex reasoning which can help their second language literacy development.

It is beneficial to use ASL when your Deaf child is present, not only when you are directly communicating with them. This means exposure to different types of conversations such as arguments, small talk, and communication between different age groups. Using English with your Deaf child by reading books and translating them into ASL shows that communication can be in both languages and helps them to understand how both languages work.

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ASL Babysitters

By ASL, Deaf Community, Deaf Role Models, Early ASL Acquisition, Early Language Development, Information

As a positive ASL role model, a Deaf babysitter can be a wonderful addition to your child’s language acquisition plan. The babysitter will bring to your home a rich ASL environment that includes but is not limited to storytelling, fun activities, turn-taking conversation, and so forth on.

By helping them to learn how to interact in ASL, the babysitter will help your child and their siblings to develop confidence in their language skills. It is imperative that parents seek out qualified ASL babysitters who will truly enhance their children’s ASL and literacy skills. This will result in more effective and enjoyable family communication.

A Deaf child who is exposed to the language-rich environment provided by their ASL babysitter will develop a better understanding of storytelling features, including phonology, and syllable awareness. The child will be able to observe natural language use by a fluent ASL user (who may also be closer in age to them than an adult).

ASL babysitters will make great language models for your Deaf child and their siblings.

 

A checklist outlining benefits of an ASL babysitter

Assessing ASL use in “Mouse Trap” Video

By ASL, Early ASL Acquisition, Early Intervention, Early Language Development, Information

This video clip was submitted to IHP ASL Services who assessed two Deaf children’s use of ASL in a conversation about trapped mice. IHP ASL Consultants use a battery of ASL assessment tools while monitoring Deaf and Hard of Hearing children’s ASL language development.

Qualified IHP ASL consultants facilitate, motivate, and empower families to provide a language-rich environment for their child to acquire ASL. IHP ASL consultants also monitor the child and family’s ASL language learning progress using standardized outcome-based metrics. The language learning goals of the family are to be developed, revised, and updated regularly to meet the outcomes of the family’s Communication Development Plan. The provision of IHP ASL services is family-centered and coordinated with the rest of the Ontario Infant Hearing Program team.

Common Errors by Young Children Acquiring a Signed Language

By ASL, Bilingual, Bilingual Education, Early ASL Acquisition, Early Language Development, Information, Research

Adam Stone explains that no matter what language a child is learning, be it spoken or signed, they will make mistakes. Here, Adam goes into detail about three common mistakes children make while learning a signed language, and rest assured, these are all part of the normal language acquisition process.

 

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