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baby sign language in trilingual household

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 

Hi everyone, so we use 3 languages in our household, Arabic, English and French - I've read and heard that this could slow a baby' language development and we should sign to prevent that. 


Any success/disaster stories? Did you use a specific program? Did you use the same sign for every spoken language?


Thanks in advance!

post #2 of 10

no advice, but I'm curious about this myself :)

post #3 of 10

we didn't use baby sign language. I tried it, but I kept forgetting to use the signs consistently enough.

It's important to remember that your child being trilingual will NOT slow his development, per se. It will just divide his vocabulary into three languages, which might make it harder for him to gather enough together in any one language to ask for things. But children are extremely clever and resourceful and they will figure out ways to make you understand them and even if you don't use sign language, you will learn their signs. For example, we;re raising our son with 3 languages and when he was little we EC'd him, so from a very young age he would do this dance when he needed to poop and it was impossible to mistake. Lately he doesnn't do the dance as frequently and he's started to say "I need to poop" more instead, but he might dance still. So not official sign language, but it's just what he does.


So don't worry if you don't do sign language. It might be helpful to give them another  non-verbal way to communicate, but it's not necessary by any means.

post #4 of 10

We speak two languages at home and tried to do sign with our son from the age of about 6 months, but he never took to it. He MIGHT do the sign for 'more' once in a while, and he reacts to 'all done' but nothing else. He's not much of a talker either, in fact we have a speech therapist coming for Early Intervention starting this month (he's 15 months old.) I don't know that sign helped or hurt, really. 

post #5 of 10

Success story here :)


We're a trilingual household and used signing with older daughter.  We're now doing the same with the little one.  She was past one when she started signing back to us.  I only focused on few signs at first, nurse, eat, more, all done and potty if I remember correctly. It was very easy to make them a part of the routine. It took me a while to remember to be consistent with it.  Once she started learning to sign it was really easy for her to expand her vocabulary.


She didnt start speaking until she was 2 so doing the sign language was time well spent for us. I didnt spend any money on a program, just googled and then went with the juiciest link.  There are some that will show you a small video of how to do the sign.  I found it pretty pointless to teach her colours, animals etc so our signing vocabulary never went beyond 20 or so signs. She managed to communicate well enough with those. Once she started speaking more she stopped signing bit by bit. I dont think that the signing slowed her down (of course I dont know what it would have been without), I think it allowed her to start communicating earlier than otherwise. I think the three languages in her household may have done more to slow her speech.

post #6 of 10

We are bilingual over here and I think that signing has GREATLY improved my daughters vocabulary in both language. Signing is the 'common' language between the two, so she will sign and say the word in either language. It's been pretty amazing to watch her comprehension unfold and how it all mixes. For example, in Acoli (her other language) "edagi" (pronounced eeh-doggy), means "I don't wan't"- so if she really doesn't want something she says "edagi" and emphatically does the sign for "dog". While she knows that what a 'dog' is in English and will do the sign for it, she also has made the connection between the sounds and uses the sign to bring her point home.

Love it.

post #7 of 10
Thread Starter 

thanks all!

post #8 of 10

@zangua too cute!

post #9 of 10
Strictly speaking signed languages are independent languages. Teaching "sign language" wouldn't really make things easier in the short term for your kiddo, it will probably make things more difficult. But he/she will probably be smarter in the end.

But you probably dont already know a signed language, so youll have to learn too. you might start incorporating ASL (Americsn Sign Language) alone or with English words. You could try signing ASL signs and speaking French words or you could add in a 5th language: French Sign Language!

Of course you could always just learn and then teach some gestures to accompany all three languages you're already teaching. Those gestures could be based on ASL or any other signed language or you could just make up your own signs (just keep them consistent). This could work quite well to enhance language acquisition. Just don't describe it as though you're "teaching sign language" because some ASL linguists will be offended wink1.gif
post #10 of 10

That's so cute!!


It's good to hear some success stories...we've been using a handful of signs with our DD for a few months now (she's 8 months old), and she's not yet attempted to sign anything to us, though she clearly understands and responds to two of the signs ("milk" and "all done").   But that is semi-cheating because we almost always say "milk" in Marathi and "all done" in English.  The words she clearly understands in both languages are few and far between...mostly stuff like "look at that".  I was hoping stuff she's really interested in ("cat" :) ) would provide a bridge between the two languages, but it hasn't happened yet!

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