" We love Bizzy Bee Signing classes because we enjoy singing and signing as well as making music and dancing with other kids and their mums. At the same time the signing classes are educational and fun time well spent on language and musical..."

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FAQs

Tristan signing 'cold'

1. What is a good age to start signing with my child?
2. Which sign language system does Bizzy Bee Signing use and why?
3. Why is it important to use standard rather than made up/simplified signs?
4. Is it too late to start signing with my 18 month-old?
5. Will learning to sign slow my child’s speech development?
6. When will my child start signing back?
7. Do I need to be fluent in American Sign Language (ASL) in order to teach my child?
8. Our child is already exposed to two languages at home. Will our child be able to cope with sign language as a third language?
9. What long term benefits are associated with signing?
10. Is sign language international?

1. What is a good age to start signing with my child?

We feel that a good time to start is when your child is between 6 and 9 months of age, as this is often a time when babies usually start to make attempts to communicate and make hand movements such as waving hello and goodbye. Your baby will also most likely start to sit unaided around this time, which may make things easier.

But there is no reason not to start even earlier. As the visual cortex (i.e. the part of the brain responsible for processing visual information) develops faster than the its auditory cortex (i.e. the part responsible for processing sounds), using sign language from a very early age allows you to take advantage of this additional communication channel. As a result, your baby will be able to understand you earlier than if you only used spoken language, e.g. if you make the sign for nappy change each time before changing his/her nappy, your baby will soon know what to expect.

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2. Which sign language system does Bizzy Bee Signing use and why?

Bizzy Bee Signing uses American Sign Language (ASL). Read more about the reasons why we have chosen ASL rather than another sign language system.

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3. Why is it important to use standard rather than made up/simplified signs?

Although there is some debate as to whether it’s better to use a standard system such as ASL, or simplified made-up signs, we feel that there are some key advantages to using a standard system. Standard ASL signs offer consistency, are easy to learn, and are widely understood. Read more about the reasons why we feel it is important to use standard rather than made up/simplified signs.

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4. Is it too late to start signing with my 18 month-old?

Learning a second language will always be beneficial, so even if your child is already starting to communicate well with spoken language, introducing sign language can only heighten their communication skills. Our classes are currently aimed at children up to the age of 2½ years.

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5. Will learning to sign slow my child’s speech development?

No, using sign language with your child will not affect his/her speech development. 

When signing with hearing children, sign language is not meant to replace spoken language, but rather to support and complement it (which is why it is key to always say the words as you sign them). You will find that this works in several different ways:

  • When you include signs when you communicate with your child, you naturally tend to say the corresponding spoken words slowly, to emphasise the sign. This gives your child a double opportunity to understand the message that is being conveyed, and may even make it easier for the child to remember the spoken word(s).
  • When incorporating signs in your day-to-day routine, you will find that you automatically single out words you want to teach the sign for (e.g. milk, eat, sleep) and will ensure your child is comfortable with those signs before concentrating on new ones.
  • When teaching your child the signs you will typically use the sign and word before, during and after the activity (e.g. I’m making you something to eat; you are eating really well; now you are finished eating). This repetition also facilitates the language development process.

In fact, in both the short and long term, exposure to sign language from an early age seems to offer many advantages in terms of wealth of vocabulary and literacy skills in general.

However, you should remember that there will always be a number of children with a language or speech delay (whether or not they are exposed to sign language). For example, statistics show that:

  • in England, approximately 7% of five year olds entering primary school have significant difficulties with speech and/or language (Bercow Report, July 2008); and
  • in the United States, approximately 5% of children have noticeable communication disorders (National Institutes of Health).

Should your child fall into this category, sign language can bring considerable benefits by letting him/her communicate his/her needs, opinions and desires in a non-verbal way and reduce the level of frustration at not being able to express him/herself using spoken language.

As a last point, don’t forget that no two children are the same, and that some, whether they learn one, two or several languages (signed or spoken), will start speaking later than others.

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6. When will my child start signing back?

This depends on a variety of factors, such as:

  • how old the child is when he/she is first exposed to signing
  • how regularly and consistently the child is exposed to signing (e.g. does the main caregiver make an effort to sign whenever possible, or is the child in day care where the caregivers don't sign with the children)
  • how motivated the child is to communicate (just like adults, not all children are as eager to communicate as others)

However, experience shows that when a child realises that signing gets a desired result (e.g. making the sign for milk means that he/she will get milk), he/she will soon add signs to communicate wants and needs. Once the child knows some signs, he/she will also start to communicate about things he/she can see or hear (dog, airplane, and flower).

Children who are exposed to signing from the ages between 8 to 12 months will generally start signing back between two to 12 weeks later.

Children who are between 14 and 24 months when they are first exposed to signing might start signing back within a few days.

These are just some statistical guidelines; every child is different and should be allowed to develop at his/her own pace. It is important not to pressure a child but to keep signing fun.

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7. Do I need to be fluent in American Sign Language (ASL) in order to teach my child?

No, at Bizzy Bee Signing we teach vocabulary that is relevant to children. The respective signs are used to emphasise this key vocabulary keeping to the grammar of the respective spoken language. Therefore, you don’t need any prior experience in signing. We will provide you with everything you need to build up your sign vocabulary.

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8. Our child is already exposed to two languages at home. Will our child be able to cope with sign language as a third language?

Of course. Sign language can even help in bilingual or multilingual environment by forming a bridge between the spoken languages. For example, when both parents use standard signs (e.g. ASL signs) consistently, the child can understand via the gesture even if he/she doesn’t yet know the spoken word in that language.

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9. What long term benefits are associated with signing?

There are several long term benefits which are associated with signing, including increased, greater self esteem and interest in learning. Read more about the benefits of learning sign language.

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10. Is sign language international?

No, most countries have their own sign language. Furthermore, there isn’t a one-to-one correlation between spoken languages and sign languages. For example, there isn’t one sign-language used in all Spanish-speaking countries, or all English-speaking countries etc.

Even within one system of sign languages there are regional differences, comparable to dialects in spoken language. Read more about the sign language system Bizzy Bee Signing uses

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