Sporadic Happiness (in Japan!)

(formerly) updated every Wednesday

#39 My favorite ASL Resources – Baby Signing

So I posted an entry a long time ago about how I became interested in sign language through a TV show called Switched at Birth:

Switched at Birth: Volume One

Since then I have become much more serious about studying American Sign Language, and have compiled a few resources that I like to use. This is the first of 2 posts I will make on the subject.

The very first videos I used to learn sign language I found on youtube, but they have a website called My Smart Hands

The lady who explains the videos is very down to earth and explains what the signs mean when she does them. She then cuts to a video of her daughter signing the same word she just introduced.

I first found these videos through a much-watched clip showcasing her daughter at a young age demonstrating the signs she knows. I was suitably impressed:

The website has a very small dictionary. It’s geared mainly towards teaching your baby signs, so that it can communicate with you. It’s a proven phenomenon that babies can communicate with their hands and bodies before they can speak, so teaching your baby some basic signs (like eat, more, milk, cookie, diaper, up, down, potty, etc) can enable them to tell you what they are wanting without having to resort to pointing (which you may not follow completely) or crying.

I think it’s awesome to teach babies sign language because it eliminates frustration for both you and your baby. I’m definitely teaching ASL to any kids I might have in the future, and I encourage others to do the same! The above resource is a fabulous one for learning the most basic of signs.

Sometimes I also like to watch youtube videos from a TV show called Baby Signing Time

Though to be honest, the host annoys me a bit. She’s unnervingly and unnaturally perky.

She also wears these ridiculous bands on her fingers which makes her hand looks so unnatural. I realize she’s trying to do it so you can see her fingers more clearly (her thumb and pointer are labeled with blue, while the rest of her fingers are labeled with red bands.) However, I find it more distracting than useful. But then again, the show is intended for babies and children, not adults, so maybe the extra visual does help them.

I put up with her incessant perkiness because it’s one of the better teaching resources I’ve found online so far. She signs new words a few times each, and explains what it’s supposed to represent (like with “Spring,” it’s flowers coming out of the ground). I find that extra explanation (more than just the visual) is useful to commit the sign to memory. Then she’ll show some footage of toddlers and young kids signing the same sign, which is also a good reinforcer. Sometimes though she’ll throw in a self-written song at the end which usually is not my cup of tea, but she will sign the words again while singing it and it’s helpful to see things multiple times (repetition!).

She sells tons of DVDs and educational packages. I don’t personally own any, as I’ve just been cruising the clips I can find on You Tube. If I ever have a baby some day, I’d seriously consider buying some though. They’re pretty good, all things considered. Here’s one you may be interested in to get started.

Signing Time Volume 1: My First Signs DVD

There’s even some youtube videos talking about a set of parents who found out their little girl had way above average reading skills, and they attribute some of this to her early exposure to ASL with Baby Signing Time. They argue that being exposed to sign language gives babies extra visual cues to stimulate them and prepare them for reading. For Baby Signing Time, the written word is shown along with a picture of it, at the same time that a sign is introduced. That can definitely reinforce word recognition from an early age. I have often heard that signing to babies improves their language skills in general, whether or not reading is included. I certainly think teaching them can’t hurt!

Though when they explained that both the parents of this gifted child are Speech Pathologists, I go “well duh” – anyone who works with speech as their field is going to make sure to reinforce language skills in their child. Still, I do believe that ASL has a lot of benefits for babies to learn (and adults too – learning a language is a great way to stimulate the brain).

So here’s my suggestion for you. Go out and teach your babies sign language!

But first, teach yourself.

Good luck!

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#32 The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games seems to be one of those things that is intimately tying itself into American culture and the American psyche, and is hard to ignore unless you’re really trying.

When I was younger, I preferred to be counter-culture, ignoring, say, Harry Potter for as long as I could, just because everyone else seemed to be into it.  I eventually gave in and read all 7 books when I was dating a guy who loved them and had read each book several times over.

Now the current book phenomenon is The Hunger Games, which I admit I hadn’t heard of until the movie was released.  Once I heard about it though, I watched the trailer of the movie on youtube, as well as Nostalgia Chick’s spoiler-free review of it.

Here in rural Japan I live really far from a movie theatre, so unfortunately I couldn’t go see it.  Also it’s not out on DVD yet, but it is on amazon for pre-order.

The Hunger Games [2-Disc DVD + Digital Copy]

So, instead I decided to read the books, since I have a lot of time to kill in my evenings here.

I’m really quite pleased with the books.  When I was younger, notably during my high school years, I LOVED dystopia books.  My favorite book of all time is The Giver, which I first read in, I believe, 6th grade.  I also was a huge fan of Brave New World, Fahrenheit 451, 1984, and The Fountainhead.

So, I was pleasantly surprised when I learned that The Hunger Games is a dystopia as well, since I haven’t read a new one in quite a long time.  I had thought it would be something more along the lines of an adventure story or something considering the underlying premise of kids battling each other.

In any case, I recommend getting at least the first book and digging right into it!  If you haven’t already, that is.

You can buy the entire trilogy at very reasonable prices; the Kindle edition is only $18.99 for all 3 books:

Hunger Games Trilogy

Or you can buy a nice box set for $29.99

The Hunger Games Trilogy Boxed Set

At the writing of this post (July 2nd, 2012), the 1st book of Hunger Games is currently the #8th best seller in books on amazon.com, with Book 2 being #9 and Book 3 being #7 on the charts.

I’m currently in the middle of Book 3, and this series has been really interesting.  After reading just book 1 I wasn’t sure how they would keep the series going, but have been pleasantly surprised about what books 2 and 3 have turned out to be.  I highly recommend them.

Also, I’m glad I don’t have access to the movie yet because I don’t want it to color the way I envision the characters as I’m reading, (well, apart from what little I’ve seen from the trailer) but as soon as I go back to the US and the DVD comes out, it’s high on my priority list to see.

Happy Hunger Games!

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