Some of the most frequently asked questions
Q. Won't teaching Baby Sign Language delay my baby's speech?
A. On the contrary. Studies have proven the opposite to be true. You are never using the sign on it's own, it is always accompanied by the spoken word. Signs actually aid in the acquisition of language as it requires using a physical movement in connection with a word - this helps 'cement' the word in the baby's memory until he/she has mastered all the skills necessary to produce speech.
Q. Why bother teaching Baby Sign Language if my baby will talk eventually anyway?
A. Just think of what you are missing out on! The fact that your baby is able to understand so much more that we give them credit for and it is only the complexities of spoken language that is holding them back. Babies have so much they want to say and using signs gives them the opportunity.
Q. My baby is only 12 months and talks already, so is there any point in introducing signs?
A. Although babies start forming words at this age and younger, it will be a long time before they are fully conversant - perhaps not until they are 2 ½ or older. That's a long time to deal with both their and your frustration! Introducing signs for the words they cannot say will reduce this. If there are some words that they are having difficulty with, e.g. crocodile, elephant or toilet, then you can introduce the signs. Just because your baby can't say these words, doesn't mean that they don't want to tell you about them. Using this approach also provides them with a larger vocabulary.
Q. Isn't sign language difficult to learn?
A. Baby Talk Baby Sign Language is a collection of easy to remember, simplified signs, based on New Zealand Sign Language. Where possible each sign resembles some characteristic of the object involved e.g. touching fingertips to lips for eat and patting the top of the head for hat.
Q. Won't my baby become frustrated when signing to people who don't know sign language?
A. Babies tend to use their signs mostly with the people who have been encouraging the signing process. We have kept the signs as 'iconic' as possible which ensures that they are easily recognised by the majority of non-signers. Babies are also quick to learn who responds to their use of signs and who does not.
Q. Do I have to keep signing once my baby is using a particular sign on a regular basis?
A. We recommend that you keep signing as it reinforces to your baby the ongoing importance of communication. However, once your baby is able to say the word in place of the sign, you in turn can stop using the sign. The only exception to this is if you wish to continue with sign language as a second language for your baby.
New Zealand Sign Language is the Country's third official Language. Courses are held throughout New Zealand and details can be found through the New Zealand Sign Language Teachers Assn website.
If you have a question that is not covered here please contact Robyn.