Sunday, 21 April 2013

Baby Sign Language

Sera Signs 'Eat'

Being English mothertongue in Italy means having people comment on how lucky you are to be bilingual.  I am lucky, I learnt Italian pretty quickly from just spending time here and it's a lovely language. I can't imagine having not have learnt it.

I was a bit worried however in how to hangle Sera's bilingualism.  Obviously, being exposed to me on a daily basis meant that she would learn English first, but what would happen with Italian? Some specialists say that the household should be completely bilingual with each parent speaking their own language, but that wasn't going to work for us.  Fabri and I had always spoken English with one another because I met him back when my Italian was barely comprehensible, let alone fluent.  It wouldn't have been natural for him to speak English to me and Italian to her.  And we certainly couldn't start speaking exclusively Italian at hoe because I'm already difficult enough to understand in my own language!  So we opted for English-only at home and Italian when out with friends. Exactly as we did before baby.

I read a few articles on the subject and they all said that Sera would be a late talker. They said that because she would be confused about which language to use she wouldn't say anything at all until age three or later and that I should be too worried because it would probably be because she was bilingual. When we met with friends and the subject would come up they would ask how we were going to 'handle' it as if it was going to be some sort of a problem.... So I started to think it might be (there's my insecurity again!).

Anyhow, being proactive, I decided to look into baby-sign language for a bit of a language-skills booster shot and I'm so glad that I did! Not only is Sera currently making full sentences in both English and Italian, she knows the sign language versions of 20 or so songs!  She started communicating her needs and wants very early because thought eh language centres of her brain weren't yet developed to form words she could sign for what she wanted.

This is down to the fact that early on, at around 6 months we introduced the sign language and at 9 months when she first started signing she developed a passion for communicating. Sometimes bilingual babies arrive at frustration before they have enough tools to communicate and it stunts the development for another year or so, and then they prefer to listen and keep their little lips shut.

Here are some resources that I used and recommend:

Sing and Sign -We bought both DVDs and still sing the songs today
Baby Sign Language Site  - Really nice site to get you started off
Sign About Books - We have My First Signs and the Going Out books and they're wonderful! In fact, they're currently Sera's favorites because now she can read them to us by looking at the signs the kids in the drawings are making!

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