Raising a bilingual-bimodal child ASL and English

Bilingual-bimodal language acquisition in ASL and English has two different levels of bilingualism in family: one native ASL-speaking family who doesn't speak English at all but is fluent or also native in written English.

And the other type is a child (a.k.a. CODA or KODA) who grows up speaking both native ASL (or another language) and English (or another).

Psycholinguist Dr. Francois Grosjean explains that "more than half of the world's population uses two or more languages (or dialects) in everyday life."

Bilingualism or plurilingualism is no strange in our Deaf world. But, a signed language is usually our first language and modality.

Each culture in the eyeing world (which we sometimes fun-lovingly call it "Eyeth" along with the hearing world on Earth) has its own language -- Auslan in Australia, Ameslan/ASL in Canada and the U.S., BSL in England, Japanslan in Japan, Polishlan in Poland, and so on. Right, sign language is not universal, no different from speech language.

Most of my relatives and family members who grow up in a signlan environment are bilingual (or multilingual to some degree). It is no doubt that my child will be another part of the generations of children who grow up bilingual -- more likely plurilingual.

Studies show that both sign language and speech language follow the same predetermined stages of language development from babbling to prelinguistic development to full-fledged language.

Studies also show that bilingualism has cognitive benefits, such as multitasking, wider perspectives, more creative thinking skills, better literacy skills, and more. These benefits occur in bilingualism in any two languages, including ASL and English.

A cognitive neuroscientist Ellen Bialystok explains that bilingualism is something one has to use both languages all the time. Occasional use of a second language doesn't make one bilingual.

Patricia Ryan: Don't insist on English!

The ability to communicate with everyone across cultures worldwide to share thoughts and different perspectives is a wonderful thing. "Globalized" English may help break the barrier.

But, it's also a barrier. Globalization of one language is a disadvantage in that a thought in one language cannot see what another can see a perspective in its other language. Its scale can be anything from as simple as a daily family affair to a large scale like a scientific breakthrough.

If it weren't for Deaf scholars, contributors and people in general, thus without full-fledged development of sign language, the world would miss many significant scientific breakthroughs and answers to some linguistic theories, diversity, and perspectives.

How can we have access to communication and knowledge across cultures globally without losing any languages? A feasible solution is bilingualism and pluralingualism. It benefits both individuals and societies.

It is also true for signlan (modality) and its languages (ASL/Ameslan, Auslan, JSL/Japanslan, etc.). Signlan linguistics has helped break through some struggles in linguistic theories as well as it has provided many new perspectives about human language, cognition, and such.

It's a deadly mistake to practice linguistic eugenics on deaf babies by depriving them from a language that they can access to the fullest, using their healthy, normal eyes. Through eyes and hands, these babies can acquire language to the fullest on a normal timeline. Brain functions the very same in either signed or spoken language.

Today there are many excellent Deaf bilinguals along with hearing like-minded allies who have made significant contributions to the world in research and education. Their invaluable works help overcome phonocentric blindness.

Related posts

language not central to speech, according to the brain.

Clearing up common myths about bilingualism.

This documentation project follows a baby's language acquisition, literacy development, and phonological acquisition in sign language, specifically ASL, week by week from gazing at birth to manual babbling, to first words just before the first birthday in a natural native-ASL environment and visual culture.

The second-year and third-year documentation continues to follow the same child's language and phonological acquisition and literacy development in ASL on a weekly basis from the one-word stage to two-word and multiple utterances.

The documentary continues to follow the same child's ASL language and literacy development on a regular basis from age three to four. It surveys ASL phonological acquisition and more complex utterances.

These posts on ASL-English bilingualism, language acquisition, and bilingual education may be of an interest for parents who raise a bilingual-bimodal child in ASL (or another signed language) and English (or another written and/or spoken language of its respective) as well as informative and educational for ASL specialists, educators, and professionals.