Teaching a baby to sign will not make your baby bilingual. It has been argued by some that baby sign is like a second language. However, as we discuss in the online course the rules to teaching baby sign language do not even come close to the complexity of learning sign language. Sign language involves so many different things such as sentence grammar, punctuation and syntax, or sentence order. For example, take the sentence “Look, red bird!” Now imagine signing each word in the sentence. Can you imagine what the outcome might be? You’re right, if you signed the word LOOK, then the rest of your sentence would go unnoticed since you’ve directed someone to look away! Instead, you would sign “Red bird, look” to avoid having them look away before getting the full message. Said another way, speaking English, using correct grammar and performing ASL at the same time, following all the rules for each language, is entirely impossible.
This is actually a blessing for signing parents, because it means that we can ignore the finer rules of ASL to our advantage. So for our needs we won’t be worried about grammar, punctuation or syntax! I’ve just mentioned this for your own knowledge should your interest in signing and ALS progress further than your immediate needs with your baby.
Think of baby sign language as a tool that you will use to interact with your baby. While you might learn 30, 60, or even 100 signs or more, you probably won’t excel to the point where you can communicate in sign one-hundred-percent. The neat thing though, is that baby sign language is an excellent foundation for actually learning a real living language used by many other people. This means that baby sign language has more practical uses beyond just signing with baby…should you wish to pursue it.