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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#13 ASL (Alphabet) – Switched at Birth

Living in Japan I often like to spend my evenings watching American TV shows.  It gives me that feeling of “home” and is the best way to relax after a long day of constantly hearing and interacting in Japanese.

A TV show I’ve gotten interested in and have been watching recently is called Switched at Birth.

Switched at Birth: Volume One

Now this concept is nothing new.  In fact I had started watching a Korean Drama long ago with the same concept.  Actually in trying to research just now what the name of that drama is (I forgot), I found there are MANY Korean dramas with this concept.  And probably many shows worldwide – it’s a common “TV trope.”

Usually this trope has one kid coming from a rich background, and one from a poor background, and at some point the kids (or the families) find out the two kids in question (often girls) had been switched at the hospital when they were born, and ended up being raised in a different family.  Of course once they find out about this “mistake,” the kids (usually teenagers or young adults) want to get to know their biological parents, as well as try to figure out what life would have been like if they’d been raised by their biological parents.  This often brings up questions of opportunity (wealth and many opportunities vs. not having access to as much) as well as other culture and identity issues.

Now the TV show I’ve been watching has these aspects, but it also has another interesting twist.  One of the girls (in her switched family) contracted meningitis at the age of 3 and nearly went deaf.  She has minor hearing, but she relies on reading lips and sign language.

As a lover of languages in general, watching this show is making me more interested in ASL (American Sign Language).  Although the one hard of hearing girl can talk, there are other completely deaf characters on the show who can’t or don’t want to speak and use sign language pretty exclusively.  Of course there are English subtitles to follow what they are saying.

In any case, I’ve found it interesting enough to try and pick up a little bit myself, and my first baby step has been to learn the ASL alphabet.

Here’s a neat video with a song that, for me anyway, is pleasant enough to listen a few times through that teaches the hand signs for each letter at a slow enough speed:

Once I master the alphabet I intend to try and learn more signs; in our internet day and age there seem to be plenty of sites out there.  If anyone has any recommendations though, don’t hesitate to let me know!

Besides the signing aspect and slice of life tidbits in terms of deaf culture, the Switched at Birth show has another thing going for it.

It’s full of beautiful people!  Maybe this sounds vain, but c’mon, who DOESN’T like vicariously watching the lives of gorgeous people?

Plus there’s multicultural aspects to the show, such as one of the moms being Hispanic and one of the biological dads being some Italian/French guy who is pretty adorable:

He also reminds me of a friend back home (Mita-kun that’s you!).

Also side note, I recently found out that Portland Community College (PCC) has ASL classes!  As I will be moving to Portland in September I think I want to try one out. I’m excited for that.

But in the mean time, there is still Japan to explore, and many wonderful internet goodies to enjoy!

Check out this TV show if you get a chance.

A DVD (Volume 1) has now been released. I highly recommend it!
Switched at Birth: Volume One

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