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Research

Semilingualism and Monolingualism

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

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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.

The Benefits of Bilingualism

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

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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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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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Tracing the Roots of Deafness to a Gene that Maybe Prevented Disease

By Deaf History, Information, Research No Comments

Dr. Braun is currently reconstructing the genealogy of the connexin 26 gene, which causes much of the congenital deafness in the American deaf community. The overall goal of this project is to answer some fundamental questions about why and how the large number of current connexin 26 mutations first appeared, and what these mutations and their histories can tell us about human evolution. There is some fascinating evidence that connexin 26 mutations might make deaf individuals resistant to diarrheal diseases such as dysentery and cholera, a major cause of death over the past 2,000 years.

Derek Braun is a professor and geneticist at Gallaudet University’s Department of Science, Technology and Mathematics. Gallaudet is the world’s only liberal arts university for deaf and hard-of-hearing students. He oversees the Molecular Genetics Laboratory, where deaf undergraduate students perform research alongside deaf faculty. Research interests include mutations in the connexin 26 gene, which are responsible for up to half of congenital deafness in many world populations.

This talk was given at a local TEDx event, produced independently of the TED Conferences.

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Language Deprivation Syndrome Lecture

By Bilingual, Bilingual Education, Cultural & Medical Perspectives, Early ASL Acquisition, Early Intervention, Early Language Development, Information, Language Deprivation, Research

The single greatest risk faced by Deaf people is inadequate exposure to a usable first language. Dr. Gulati reviews recent research which validates the anatomical basis and time course of the critical period for first language acquisition, and which shows the risks to the development of empathetic abilities among children who are language-deprived.

How Early Intervention Can Make a Difference: Research and Trends

By ASL, Bilingual, Bilingual Education, Cultural & Medical Perspectives, Early ASL Acquisition, Early Intervention, Early Language Development, Information, Research No Comments

Can early intervention really make a difference? Join Dr. Beth Benedict for a webinar on what research is telling us about the importance of early intervention. She will share ways in which the field is evolving and explain what professionals in the field can do to make a difference in areas related to:

  • Visual language and learning
  • English language performance
  • Social-emotional, cognition, and communication development
  • Family involvement and deaf role models
  • Setting high expectations

About the Presenter:

Benedict is a professor in the Department of Communication Studies at Gallaudet University. She is also the coordinator of Gallaudet’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing Infants, Toddlers, and Families: Collaboration and Leadership Interdisciplinary Graduate Certificate Program. She has published numerous articles and is a widely sought-after lecturer on diverse topics, including early intervention, early language acquisition, and family involvement.

Benedict is currently the chair of the Joint Committee on Infant Hearing and a representative on the Council on Education of the Deaf. She is currently serving as president of the American Society for Deaf Children, the oldest organization of, by, and for parents of deaf and hard of hearing children (www.deafchildren.org). In 2010, she received the prestigious Antonia Brancia Maxon Award for EHDI Excellence at the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Conference in Chicago, along with numerous awards. Benedict holds a doctorate in education from Gallaudet, a master’s degree in educational counseling from New York University, and a bachelor’s degree from Gallaudet in psychology. She is also the proud mother of two deaf daughters.

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