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Sign Language for Babies

Sign Language for Babies

Recent trends have seen a move towards the use of sign language with babies and more and more parents are embracing this practice as an opportunity to develop communication and interaction with their baby.

The following article presents some key facts related to the practice of baby sign language:

What is Baby Sign Language?

Baby sign language is the practice of signing with babies prior to the acquisition of verbal speech. As an example, a young baby would be unable to verbally generate the relevant language to tell you that he/she was hungry and as such, the parent would need to interpret a series of cries and protestations to arrive at this realisation. However, a baby who as acquired the use of baby sign language would be able to make a simple sign relating to hunger which is easily interpreted and understood by the parent.

What is Baby Sign Language derived from?

Baby sign language is based on British Sign Language (BSL).

BSL is the second most widely used language in the UK and the first language of approximately 70,000 people. It is a visual-gestural language which makes use of three dimensional space and the movement of hands (and other parts of the body) to convey meaning and it has its own vocabulary and syntax.

The key signs used in BSL are easily transferred to both hearing and non hearing babies alike.

What are the Origins of using BSL with babies?

Prior to the popular uptake of sign language with babies, it became clear that the Deaf babies acquired language (i.e. BSL) far more quickly than their hearing peers. This observation was the key driver for trialling BSL with babies.

What are the Benefits of using BSL with Babies?

Firstly, babies who learn BSL in early life are more likely to exhibit the following characteristics (when compared to their hearing peers who did not learn BSL) when older:

  • Greater confidence with language
  • Broader vocabulary range

Are there any Negative Effects in respect to using BSL with Babies?

No, there are no negatives effects in respect to using BSL with babies. Many individuals are under the impression that learning sign language could impede the acquisition of normal verbal speech. However, this is not the case and in reality, the baby actually gains a far richer vocabulary in respect to the spoken language as opposed to his / her hearing counterparts who have not learned BSL.

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