Monday, September 3, 2012

Baby Sign Language: A Boon to Multilingual Classrooms

Last week I wrote about how children being raised in bilingual households benefit from having signs added to the mix. As I pointed out, the logic is simple: When the baby, as an example, hears “leche” from Mom and “milk” from Dad and both parents pair the word they say with the MILK sign, the parents are making the job of understanding the equivalence of the two words much easier. Far from increasing a child’s confusion, it decreases confusion, thereby making the child’s task of conquering the individual languages easier.

Of course, signing has another advantage in multilingual settings, especially in child care classrooms where teachers and families speak different languages: The signs provide a common language so that toddlers who are learning the family language can still make themselves understood. Just such a situation exists at the Center for Child and Family Studies at the University of California, Davis, where graduate students from all over the world routinely enroll their infants and toddlers. In the 22 years since the Baby Signs® Program was first introduced, teachers and parents alike have been amazed at how much more smoothly daily life in the classroom proceeds. The signs have enable children who speak different languages to communicate with their teachers and each other. In one case, for example, a toddler from Israel and a toddler from Taiwan were observed reading a picture book together—with the first girl turning the pages and pointing at objects while the second girl made the appropriate signs!

Bottom line? Signing is clearly a boon to children facing the challenge of hearing multiple languages—an increasingly common occurrence these days—whether at home or in the classroom.

Visit for more information about Baby Signs® resources to help you and your baby enjoy all the benefits that signing can bring.

Happy Signing (and don’t forget to visit us on Facebook)!


Linda Acredolo, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus, UC Davis
Co-Founder, The Baby Signs® Program

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