Did you know?
It is possible to teach sign language to babies and children between the age of 6 - 36 months. Irrespective of whether they are speech impaired or hearing impaired, sign language helps your child by increasing her/his vocabulary, spelling proficiency, self-image, and her/his ability to express emotions.
People are generally under the misapprehension that sign language is used for, and primarily by, those who are hearing-impaired or speech impaired. Everyone of us, now and then, use signs instead of spoken or written words to communicate with our friends, colleagues and family members. Babies use their faces and hands, and of course voice, to communicate their needs. Teaching sign language to your 6-month old will establish a 2-way communication bridge between you and your child. If you think this will burden your baby, then be aware that each baby creates his or her own sign language to communicate hunger, thirst, etc., that only its parents can understand.
Teaching Sign Language to Kids
More than 100 sign languages are used by people all over the world. British sign language (BSL) is different from ASL, which incorporates hand, arm, head movements and body posture to express meaning. ASL is used in the North American continent. It is the second or third most popularly used language. ASL can perform as a sign language for kids. As with any other language, it has distinct grammar and rules for semantics. Fingers of the right hand are used to convey numbers and ASL alphabets. Following are the tables giving sign images and a short description for each of them.
American Sign Language: Signs for Numbers (0 - 10)
The fingers are bent down halfway to the palm. The thumb and index finger are made to touch at their tips. The sign for 'Zero' is presented with the edge of the hand towards the observer.
The little, ring and middle fingers are folded into the palm and thumb is placed across the middle and ring finger. Index finger is held erect to complete the sign for the number '1'.
The little and ring fingers are folded into the palm and the thumb is placed across them. Middle and index fingers are held straight and separated to flash the sign for the number '2'.
The little and ring fingers are bent into the palm and the rest of the fingers are held separated and erect to denote '3'.
The thumb is flattened across the palm and the rest of the fingers are held straight and separated to denote the number '4'.
All the fingers are held separated and erect to flash the number '5'. A really easy sign to read.
Little finger is folded and the tip of the thumb is placed across the palm, covering the nail of the little finger. Rest of the fingers are held straight to communicate the sign for the number '6'.
The thumb and ring finger are folded with the thumb tip resting over the first joint of the ring finger. Rest of the fingers are held erect to signal number '7'.
Middle finger is folded down to the palm and the thumb tip comes to rest on its tip. Rest of the fingers are held straight and separated to signal '8'.
The little, ring and middle fingers are held erect. Index finger and thumb are bent down to bring their tips in contact to denote number '9'.
A fist made, with the thumb bent and rested on the first joint of the index finger. This sign for '10' is presented, knuckle first to the observer.
American Sign Language: Signs for Alphabets (A - Z)
It is a sign that used is to communicate the alphabet 'A'. The sign takes the form of a bunched fist with all the fingers, except the thumb, clenched into the palm. The thumb is maintained straight by the side of the index finger such that its tip sticks out of the fist.
One of the easiest signs to make and understand for the communicator and observer, respectively. To complete the sign for 'B', the fingers of the right hand are held straight and the thumb is folded across the palm which can be easily seen by an observer.
Fingers are half-folded to make a shape like 'C' which is mainly formed with the use of the thumb and the index finger. The sign is presented to the observer by twisting the hand to his left such that the index finger and the thumb is towards the observer.
This sign is made by touching the thumb and the middle finger at the tips and by holding the index finger straight. The rest of the fingers are folded close to the palm. The hand is turned to make the thumb face the observer. As you can guess, this conveys 'd', rather than 'D'.
The Palm of the right hand is presented to the observer. To communicate'E', the thumb is folded across the palm without touching it. The rest of the fingers are folded such that their tips touch the part of the thumb between the knuckle and the tip.
The alphabet 'F' is signaled by touching the tips of the thumb and the index finger. All other fingers are held straight and are a little distant from each other. The hand is turned to bring the little finger and the edge of the right palm towards the observer.
To signal 'G', the little, ring and middle fingers are bent into the palm, the thumb is moved in close to these, and held erect to tower over them. The index finger is held straight and parallel to the thumb. The hand is twisted to the observer's left and is bent at an angle of 45 degrees at the wrist, to make the thumb face him.
The little and ring fingers are folded into the palm and the thumb is bent to rest on these. The middle and index fingers are held close and straight. To complete the sign for 'H', the hand is twisted to the left and the fingers are held parallel to the ground. The Index and middle fingers points to the left of the observer.
The palm of the right hand is presented to the observer. The ring, middle and index fingers are folded into the palm and the thumb is bent to drape over these three fingers. The alphabet 'I' is conveyed fully by sticking the little finger straight in the air.
The ring, middle and index fingers are bent into the palm and thumb is draped across them. The little finger is held straight and is used to signal the alphabet 'J'. The wrist is dropped and the tip of little finger is moved downward and then shifted to the right of the observer to draw the shape of 'J'.
The sign for 'K' starts by bending the ring and little fingers into the palm. Middle and index finders are held unbent and apart to make a 'v'. The thumb is moved and is made to point towards the middle finger. If you remember the position of the thumb, you won't confuse this sign with that for the alphabet 'V'.
The alphabet 'L' is signaled, mainly, with the use of the thumb and the index finger. The little, ring and middle fingers are folded into the palm. The thumb and index finger are left straight with the thumb extending out to the side. They are held at an angle of 90 degrees and literally indicate the alphabet 'L'.
The little finger is bent into the palm and the thumb is bent across to touch it in the middle. The sign for the alphabet 'M' is completed with the help of the rest of the fingers. The ring, middle and index fingers are bent down to drape over the thumb.
The ring and little fingers are bent toward the palm. The thumb is folded and moved such that it rests on the folded ones. The remaining fingers i.e. middle and index fingers are bent down to drape over All the fingers are bent halfway to the thumb to signal 'N'.
All the fingers are bent halfway to the palm and the tips of thumb and index finger are touched to make 'O'. The sign is flashed by slightly turning the hand to maintain the edge of palm away from the observer.
The ring and the little fingers are folded and the index finger is held straight, pointing up. The middle finger is bent halfway such that it extends in front of the palm and is parallel to the ground. The thumb is then folded to touch middle finger with its tip at the mid-point to form the sign for 'P'. The hand is then turned to point the middle finger to the ground and index finger to the left of the observer.
The ring and little finger is bent across the palm. The thumb and index finger are held straight, parallel and pointing up. Thumb is not jutting out, rather, it is moved in front of index finger and close to the folded fingers. Middle finger is folded and made to go across to the right of the thumb. The sign for 'Q' is flashed by turning the hand to bring the index finger and thumb in front and to point them at the ground.
The little and ring fingers are folded and the thumb is made to rest on these fingers. The index finger and the middle finger are crossed.
All the fingers are bent down to the palm to make a fist. The thumb is folded and draped across the middle and index fingers to communicate the alphabet 'S'.
The little, ring and middle fingers are bent down to the palm. Thumb is folded and placed across the middle finger. Index finger is bent down over the thumb to flash the sign for 'T'.
The little and ring fingers are bent down into the palm with the thumb draped over them. The rest of the fingers i.e. the middle and index fingers are held erect and close together.
The alphabet 'V' is communicated by folding the little and the ring fingers and holding them down by draping the thumb over them. Middle and index fingers are held erect and at an angle to make the 'V' sign.
The thumb and little finger are bent and held with their tips touching. The rest of the fingers i.e. the ring, middle and index fingers are held erect and a little bit separated from each other to flash the alphabet 'W'.
The little, ring and middle fingers are bent into the palm with the thumb folded over these fingers. Index finger sticks up, bent at both the joints. As you can see, communicating the sign for the alphabet 'X' is easy.
The index, middle and ring fingers are bent. The extreme digits i.e. the little finger and thumb are spanned out, with lot of space between them, to flash the alphabet 'Y'.
The little, ring and middle fingers are folded with the thumb draped over the middle and ring fingers. The index finger is held straight and used to denote 'Z' by pointing it to the right of the observer and moving to his left, then, left to right (forward) and right to the left.
Learning a Sign Language
Sign language classes
The proper way to learn a sign language is to learn it from a trained teacher. A professional teacher can put you on the right track from day one. The teacher can also give you feedback and correct your technique in time.
In the United States, many colleges and universities are conducting classes where ASL is taught to interested candidates. A sign language class offers you an opportunity to interact with other participants of the class and teamwork could put all of you on the fast track. The summer program at Gallaudet University (Washington DC), conducted between mid-June and mid-August, is considered to be the best.
There are many resources, such as visual sign language dictionary on the Internet, that offers you on-line help.
Applications for Sign language
There are number of applications that can be used with the help of computer or android based smartphones or hand-held devices such as iPhone/iPod touch. In fact, some applications are incorporating sign language mode in story books for children as can be seen from 'Danny the Dragon Meets Jimmy'.
Sign Language Dictionary
Using this resource, you could support and speed up your personal efforts in learning ASL and acquire many ASL signs. A sign language dictionary could also help you translate English to ASL and ASL to English.
The fact, that children who know sign language can learn to read before going to school, was known since the 17th century. The interpretation of words into sign language, was first noticed among a few hearing-impaired parents who were found teaching their children to spell the printed words, using their fingers (finger writing). Sign language aware children are better placed than the rest when they eventually go to the school for proper education. Hearing-impaired children who know how to express themselves using this language have better chances of adapting to changes in his or her lifestyle and being a productive part of the society.