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The sound of signing

April 22nd, 2005 · No Comments

For six weeks this spring, the girls and I took a sign language course and it changed us more than I had imagined. I had been trying to teach my daughters a few signs, using a book, so I was eager to enroll them in a class taught by someone fluent in ASL. Abigail and Michaela were the official students but I believe my two year old Elisabeth benefitted as much as they did. She and I sat in the back of the room, learning along with her older sisters. The teacher showed the class how to sign songs, such as Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and the alphabet. Elisabeth has taken her time learning to talk but suddenly she started singing songs and signing too. Sentences followed. Before we took the course, she may have tried to put two or three words together but now she can string together long sentences and pieces of songs. Coincidence? Perhaps, but the instructor confirmed that sign language can help open the door for other communication.

I learned I liked sign language. I liked our teacher. Unlike English, ASL required the face and body as well as the word. Happy is accompanied by a smile and surprise by a drop of the jaw. Our teacher’s eyes and facial expression changed with the shape of her hands. ASL involves more drama and acting than other languages I have studied, because body language counts as much as the words/signs themselves. Since I like to gesture and speak with my hands, using my body when I talk, sign language feels natural to me. I want to study more ASL somehow.

Through Amba’s post A Town of Sight and Silence (on the excellent Ambivablog) I read an abstract of an Italian study that concluded: These results suggest that learning a sign language may lead to a cognitive advancement in hearing children. Not surprising! Amba also mentioned a community on Martha’s Vineyard where nearly everyone spoke sign language and a town planned in North Dakota for the deaf. I agree that ASL University looks like a wonderful link to fill my desire to continue studying.

Sign language is a way to share stories that speak through silence. However, since we started studying ASL, our house is not as quiet as it once was.

Tags: homeschool

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