We strongly advocate teaching babies American Sign Language (ASL) and all the
signs presented in the My Baby Can TalkTM video series are ASL signs. ASL is the
fourth most common language in the US and this language has been used in
America for more than 150 years. America has one of the most complete and
expressive sign languages in the world.
For the most part, ASL is a natural or iconic language. This means that many of
the signs look like distinctive parts of the object or action that these signs
represent. American Sign Language (ASL) is a visual language and it is an underlying
pillar of language development. When used in combination with spoken English, it becomes
simple for babies to learn sign language. This makes ASL easy to learn and remember - the
hand shape of an
airplane flying for the sign airplane and outlining the whiskers of a cat for
the sign cat. This also makes ASL the perfect first language for your baby
since your baby can more easily make a connection between the sign and the
object or action it represents.
If you use ASL with your baby, you will have access to a vast array of
resources such as ASL printed and online dictionaries. You are more likely to
be consistent in the way that you sign and make use of a greater number of
signs that are clearly distinct. By using ASL, you will be able to communicate
with other parents and babies who use sign language before their babies can
speak as well as a large community of deaf people.
Some supporters of signing with babies have suggested that you should make-up
your own signs or simplify standard ASL signs. Just as you would not consider
creating a new spoken language to teach your baby - so too is it unrealistic to
consider creating a new tactile and visual language. The most common problem
with inventing your own signs is that you are likely to forget signs that you
invented days, weeks or months before. In addition, you are not likely to
create enough distinct signs to label all the words that you would like to
teach to your baby. Further, by learning the standard ASL signs, your child is
gaining access to an entire community of speakers who are normally not
available to us.
Your baby will approximate the signs that she learns whether the signs are
based on ASL or invented by you. There is no need to simplify the signs that
you teach your baby. Your baby will do this for you and as your baby gains more
control over her hands, her signs will become closer to the formal ASL sign.
Like any language, there are, in some cases, multiple signs for a single object
or action in the world just as there are synonyms in spoken language. Whenever
there was a choice of signs for a given word we chose the sign that was easiest
for your baby. ASL is a living language just as spoken English is and continues
to grow and change over time.