At 12 months old, the baby Juli was first "formally" introduced to some random manual alphabetical letters. From there, I'd casually expose her to some alphabetical letters from time to time.
During a few weeks at 13 months old, Juli pointed to the alphabetical letters in a picture book as if these letters were the pictures themselves. I'd show her the ASL alphabetical letters.
One day at 14 months old, I asked Juli for the first time, "Where is the J"? She pointed to the correct letter in the book. She had been learning to recognize the letters.
Since then, gradually I introduced a few alphabetical letters from time to time. Lately, the alphabetical letters seemed to become more comfortably recognizable.Then at 21 months old, Juli identified most of the alphabetical letters by pointing at them when I fingerspelled an alphabetical letter.
Beside the alphabetical letters, Juli recognized the fingerspelled loans I had used for a long while. E.g. #dog, #art, #mango, etc. Less than 12 months old, Juli recognized the fingerspelled loan #foot and pointed to her foot.
The 21 months old (1;9;4) Juli recognized most of the alphabetical letters by pointing at them when I asked. At this stage, she also was able to form the handshape "R" non-linguistically, that is crossing the two fingers.
For the first time, I thought perhaps I should point at the letter R and ask Juli, "What's this?" I hadn't thought of this earlier. Sure enough, Juli replied R!
Next I pointed at the magnetic letter "A" and asked what it was. Juli readily replied A. These two letters were formed perfectly.
Next letter one by one I asked Juli who replied each. Understandably, most of the alphabetical letters were not phonologically developed ready for her age, even though she could perceive them well. For example, she could perceive the letter U and produced it but her manual development wasn't on par with her perception.
Juli was able to produce some letters which were not formed correctly yet. For example, she could produce the letter J with the index finger instead of the pinkie.
Juli's ability to form the letter R before the letters U or V somehow made sense to me that crossing the fingers helped pull and hold the fingers together in shape. Because, Juli couldn't hold the pinkie and the ring finger close while forming the letters U and V.
Though, Juli practiced forming the letter "U". She helped herself closing the index and middle fingers.
At 22 months, the toddler Juli learned to manipulate her fingers more. She also picked up some new signed words.
The alphabetical letter B was the easiest to work on as she learned to close her four fingers together and her thumb inside. As she attempted to form the letter B, her index and middle finger sometimes crossed.
Juli also produced the letter O as easy as the letter B, but probably a bit easier than the letter B.
Then in the following week (1;10,3), Juli formed the alphabetical letter D correctly, but sometimes she formed it like the index finger.
She indeed recognized the alphabetical letters and their corresponding alphabetical handshapes, but her physical development wasn't developing fully for the more complex handshapes especially the ones that involved a thumb control at this age.
Another week later (1;10,4), Juli was able to name the alphabetical letter "X" with the ASL handshape X.
In a new context, Juli recognized a close-up frame of the criss-crossed wood in the video and produced X.
However, the handshape X hadn't been incorporated into ASL words, such as "apple".
In addition, these days Juli (1;9;4) had been absorbed in playing with water in the sink. One night she turned to me and uttered water (with the usual 20-handshape). I replied with the correct production, yes, water.
To my surprise, she repied back with the open, bent handshape which was close to the W handshape.
I had been waiting for the day when Juli could tell me what happened or what her day was. One evening I came back home from work. I found her in diaper and I found the pants that was very wet, somehow soaked.
No need to ask her father. I showed Juli the wet pants and she told me water. I asked what happened? How did it happen? She pointed straight at the kitchen sink.
Another day Juli had her foot or ankle hurt that I noticed she couldn't stand. Or it was painful to stand. I asked her where hurt?. She pointed at the left foot. I asked again to double check and she pointed at the same foot.
I took her to her father who checked her foot. The father checked the right foot, suspecting it was the right foot. I asked Juli "Where is it hurt?" in ASL. She pointed at the left foot. It was wonderful to be able to know and to have her ability to communicate.
The following referential words and phrases that Juli used this week: horse, baby movie (making a request for the documentary movie), baby boy, dog eat, some more shown in the video above, and other ASL words mentioned in the past months.
Got a story to tell your experience and share it with others? Send an email to Handspeak. I'd love to hear about it, too.
You may be also interested in identifying colors in sign language.
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.