One of the biggest trends in parenting right now is early bilingual education in the home. This used to be common primarily in homes where two languages were already spoken by parents, but it’s increasingly common in single-language households now.
What’s the appeal? Well, we already know that children of all ages can benefit mightily from exposure to other languages and to other cultures, simply in terms of broadening the mind. We’ve also known for a number of years that to learn a second language is to use parts of the brain that might otherwise remain dormant. Language learning works both the left side of the brain, which enhances creativity and brainstorming, while the absorption and observation of patterns in grammar and inflection inform the right side of the brain, which often results in improved math and literacy comprehension.
So, teaching your child a second language can have real cognitive benefits that last into your child’s adult life. People who are already bi or trilingual have massive advantages when picking up additional languages, and they have an advantage in the career sphere as well, especially given how increasingly globalized the market has become.
Early language learning, especially through ASL sign language, has another additional benefit. Whether you’re teaching your child a spoken language such as Spanish or a gesture-based language like ASL, you’re giving them a broader range of words and phrases they can use to communicate their needs and express themselves. Children who have more words to draw upon have been shown to end up in frustrated breakdowns less frequently, simply because they can get what they need more easily.
When you teach a sign language to your child, you may find that you are able to start communicating clearly much earlier. Children master basic motor skills faster than fine verbal control, so many families that start early with sign will be able to teach infants basic dialog like “I’m hungry” or “I need a nap” where other parents have to rely on their instincts and guess what their child needs from their wailing.
There’s really no downside to adding a second language to your household, and the benefits are both well-demonstrated and wide-reaching. We encourage all readers to introduce a parent’s second language, or to go on a language journey together with your child. You will find many preparatory sign language courses available to expecting parents, and these are an excellent way to give yourself a firm foundation before you start teaching sign to your child.