This documentation shows a natural process of the ASL-speaking bilingual child "Juli" as a case study in how the child spoke ASL as a first language from birth and learned English as a second language prior to the kindergarten and eventually learned how to write in English.
Deaf people including myself, who don't vocally speak nor hear, have encountered one or few moments where a hearing person asked, "How do you read and write so fluently when you don't (vocally) speak and hear?" Generally speaking, language is amodal, which means that language is brain-based and it's not central to speech.
Note: All conversations between the kid and myself always took in American Sign Language (ASL or Ameslan) 24/7 since birth. Any English quotes in my posts are the translation from ASL.
The bilingual ASL-speaking preschooler Juli (age 3;10) began practicing her handwriting skill at her preschool. She learned how to handwrite her first name as well as she expressed her interest in writing my name, her father's name, and grandmother's name.
Since that time, she also had developed an interest in learning how to type. She would occasionally (later frequently) came to me and sit on my lap. She requested in ASL (American Sign Language), ix-me want-to type ix-this. I opened the wordpad and enlarged the font size.
Typically, first she asked me to help her type her personal name. I'd fingerspell letter by letter and she typed the letters and checked the screen. When done, she asked me, what your name?. I fingerspelled my name letter by letter while she typed letter by letter.
Then, this task was hard working. She'd relax by "babble-typing" which she would press the key long and watch the letter repeating it non-stop.
A month later at age 3;11, Juli went beyond her personal name. She typed D-O-L-L by herself. I asked her what-do that? ("What's that?"). She produced the signed loan #doll. Earlier that same day, she was reading a word "doll" written on the preschool's daily note. I signed to her #doll.
Another time, she typed "hor" by herself and asked me for help, what horse name?. I helped fingerspell for her, fs-horse letter by letter as she typed letter by letter.
In my observation of her language acquistion, an interesting phenomenon is that she was able to sign ASL words and even fingerspelled loans (as ASL signs, not fingerspelled words) such as #all but fingerspelling a word is the same challenge as writing a word.
For example, a while ago I observed that Juli produced an ASL word/sign #dog but faced a difficult task in fingerspelling D-O-G (somehow the same process as writing a word letter by letter.
Juli (age 4;4) wrote her first written sentence in English, "Mom Julianna u love." That is, "I love you, Mom."
The preschooler wrote by herself in the summer (age 4;6).
She often wrote "U" for "you" based on the sound. The letter O in LOVE was missing and the lower case letter E was reversed.
As soon as she wrote the sentence with correct grammar, I taught her to how to spell "you" and explained her in ASL how spoken English may sound a bit different from written English. She eventually wrote "you" correctly.
Now that she learned how to write in English, I introduced her to ASL writing and showed her how to write a sentence in ASL, "IX-ME LOVE YOU."
Alphabetical letters. Age 4;7.
A month before going to her kindergarten school, she wrote the alphabetical letters by herself. Note that this alphabet is a hearing culture that I rarely taught her the alphabet myself. It came from various sources from ipad to preschool.
At age 4 and half, she sometimes wanted to text her father occasionally on my textphone (cellphone). She typed by herself but sometimes asked me how to spell a certain English word. She even knew the difference between ASL grammar and English grammar.
How I found out was that one day she asked me to spell English words in a sentence while she typed in my textphone to send a message to her father. I fingerspelled letter by letter for each word.
When it came to the "are" part, I decided to skip it and moved to the next word. Juli protested, fingerspelling vaguely like "ASE". What? She repeated a few times before I realized what she fingerspelled. I asked, quickly fingerspelling "ARE?". She nodded.
Fantastic! I was excited about learning that she knew the difference between ASL grammar and English grammar. I fingerspelled, A-R-E, for her.
This post shows how the bilingual kid (age 4-5) acquired two languages (ASL and English) and developed her writing skills in English during her kindergarten year.
The year before, Juli (age 3) expressed her interest in learning how to type on my laptop in addition to writing. She asked me by signing the ASL sign how to spell an English word. She'd play with letters on the screen sometimes.
The Kinder's first written question.
Juli (age 4;9) drew and wrote something. Then she showed me the image above. Wondering about the last sentence (a question, I suspected), I asked about "R". After she explained, I asked in ASL, "Are you asking the question, 'do you love me?'". She nodded to confirm that she asked the question in writing.
Like "U" that she used for "YOU" in her earliest sentence, "I love you". She used "R" for "ARE" (unlike the recent time when she fingerspelled three blurred letters for ARE above). She related her sound to writing (English influence that she picked up outside my domain).
Not a single time, I've never taught her spoken English grammar nor vocal English prior to the emergence of her writing. I speak ASL solely with her and teach her how to spell English words sometimes.
The kinder's another written sentence. Age 4;9.
Now that she began to write more different sentences. One day, she independently worked on her paper. She asked me how to spell CANNOT (signed ASL). I spelt for her, C-A-N-N-O-T. Then she did the rest of work by herself. Then she signed, WHAT SPELLING AND?. I spelled A-N-D.
Prior to her emerging writing skills, I had no idea what her spoken English had been like. From here on, her writing was unveiling.
For her homework from her kindergarten, she was learning how to write English words that start with H.
The Kinder's another written sentence. Age 5;0.
As she turned five, she finally, she wrote something new beyond the usual loving, sweet sentence "I love you, mom" after a long months. She handed me another surprise. A note with "YOU R BAS MOM". I fingerspelled "BAS" and asked her in ASL, (translated as) "What's that?" She replied in ASL, "BEST!" Oh! So it's "You are the best mom."
I showed her the right fingerspelling "BEST". Next day or two, she drew and wrote another card with the right spelling! (At this time of writing, a note is misplaced." At other times, she wrote "bast" for "best".
The kingergarten Juli's wrote her first English sentence "I love you" age age 4 and she had been writing it for a long time since then. Occasionally, she'd written something else.
The Kinder's another written sentence. Age 5;1.
In February, the kid wrote "Happy Valentine" all by herself, producing it as "hape valtam" without asking any of my help. Another time, she wrote the very same and again. Trice, she wrote the same spellings. Adorable.
Enjoying her numerous handmade cards and "I love you" expressions, these are my best moments of the years. I knew this was the beginning time that she was about to go beyond love.
The Kinder writing a story. Age 5;1.
Again in February, the kid surprised me another thing. She wrote a short story all by herself, called the "Bear Family". She asked me to read aloud in ASL and then corrected me because I told a different story. For example, the word "hi" should be "he".
All right, I pointed to each word and asked her what it was. Then I wrote down the correct English words for her. As we went through, I learned that the right side is the first page and the left side the second page, not the way around. Unfortunately, she forgot what the last few words of the first page (right side) were so we made guesses.
Here is the translation of her writing: "One day, a little bear wants (to) go for a walk [w pets]. He loves to play. He loves his family." It is easy to read the second page (left side): "hi love to pla. hi love hie famie."
The kid (age 5;5) wrote an invitation card for a friend by herself one day during the summer.
One day during the summer at home, the kid (age 5;7) drew an abstract picture and wrote a sentence "I make many pictures" by herself.
This post shows how the five-year-old bilingual kid acquires two languages (ASL and English) and develops her writing skills in English during the year in grade one.
Toward the end of the first month of grade one, as I cleaned up, I discovered many papers that the bilingual kid had left around on the coffee table that she used it as her desk in our living room. I noticed a bloom in her English writing skill.
It's fun to read five years old kids' written messages. They are fun and adorable. Sometimes a misspelled word can make the whole sentence out of context or changes a meaning and it's hilarious.
By the end of September, the kid (age 5;8) left me a note on my desk (below). I was amazed by how far she could write something all by herself. And, the note made me smile; even though, she wasn't pleased in her tone.
One day, Juli and I played a game (dots and boxes). Because she made handwritten dots that were not equal in length and width, the dots and boxes could be sometimes vague. And, I let her win. But, when I made a box, she insisted, "No, you made a double box." I explained that it was clearly a regular single box but she believed it was a double box. Okaay. As the game ended, she wrote the note.
Funny and perhaps contradictory because if I were to ask her to play again, her ears would prick up, ready to play.
One October day, she wrote a few messages, one for adults, one for babies, one for girls and another for boys.
As I read the paper for babies, I asked Juli about the word "pike". My first thought was "puke" and it didn't make sense. You are welcome to puke a candy?? She answered, "pick". Aah.
"I like your costume!", "Love it. You're nice to me.", "Happy Halloween! Boo to you."
I noticed that the plural words have an apostrophe. She recently learned a few words with the contractions such as "can't" and "don't" in her weekly spelling lessons at school. It might be an influence. Interesting, she made the correct contraction "you re", but she put an apostrophe in the wrong space. On the other hand, she wrote "yo'r" for "your". She will eventually understand the difference between contraction and plural, I thought.
That same day I scanned and uploaded the image above, at bedtime Juli picked a book, "Badger's Christmas." It was a perfect opportunity, I thought. I pointed to the "'s" (apostrophe and 's') in the title of the book and asked her what it meant. She replied that "I don't remember, probably 'many'".
I explained the difference between "'s" as in possessive and 's' as in plural, of course, in ASL. Remember that ASL is its own language, not a form of signed English as contrary to many hearing people assume.
Next day after school, she wrote several on her desk. As I walked by, I noticed that she wrote the right plural words. Also shortly around the time, she used the possessive apostrophe correctly.
This is an example of how bilingual children, who speak native ASL, Spanish, French or another language in an English-speaking region, learn English and other school subjects efficiently. Deaf children, having a strong foundation of language (ASL) via eye from birth, acquire English at ease.
In March, she set up a doll house and wrote a welcome letter for a leprechaun. She left the letter on the little house for the night, in hope to find him in the morning.
More to come this year and it's only the first month of the grade one. I can imagine a lot of surprises and joys to come in the next long months.
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 documentation continues to follow the same one-year-old 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 third year documentation continues to follow the same child's ASL language and literacy development on a regular basis from age two to three. It surveys ASL phonological acquisition and more complex utterances.
The fourth year documentation 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.
This five-year documentation and project follows the bilingual child's natural language acquisition in sign language from newborn to age five.