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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.

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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Growing Together: Creating Language-Rich Environments

By ASL, Bilingual, Bilingual Education, Early Intervention, Early Language Development, Identity, Information, Programs

Established as a National Science Foundation Science of Learning Center in 2006, Visual Language and Visual Learning (VL2) seeks to advance understanding of the behavioral and brain mechanisms of learning.

Through collaborative research, the Center works to answer fundamental science questions about higher cognition and how humans learn, especially learning through the eyes. We investigate the effect of visual processes, visual language, and visual learning and social experiences on the development of cognition and language, reading, and literacy. With a particular focus on deaf individuals and sign language, we study learning processes in monolinguals and bilinguals across the life span in order to promote the meaningful translation of science for the benefit of education and society.

VL2 has created a set of visually appealing and accessible materials about VL2’s research on the advantages of early visual language and ASL-English bilingualism and what this means for deaf and hard of hearing children’s language acquisition and literacy.

“Growing Together: Creating Language-Rich Environments” is a series of interviews with parents, researchers, and scientists.

GO TO VL2 WEBSITE