"Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive." Anaïs Nin

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Monday, November 28, 2011

"Hi, Friend, Play?"

I've often heard the sentiment that music is the universal language. I've also heard that love is the universal language.  Language is a funny thing because even within each culture, we have many different dialects. Language can divide us, or bring us together. Communication is at the very core of each and every one of us as people. God designed us to be communicators, to be companions with Him and with each other.

I love watching young children discovering that everything has a word associated with it. You can see the excitement on their faces when they figure that out, and more so when they know that you understand exactly what they are talking about. It begins naturally with pointing to the object and gurgling. Mom or dad are usually quick to pick up on this and put a word to the object. Once the child figures out the sound mom and dad make each time they point to the object, they learn to associate the word they hear with that object.

It is the same with signing. The wonderful thing about signing is that children can do it more easily at an early age before they can speak. It only takes a few tries and they have the hang of it. Research is now showing us that children who learn to sign early in life learn to read sooner and develop verbal language skills more quickly than children who don't.

Many daycare centers and preschools have discovered that children who learn American Sign Language (ASL) together communicate more easily with one another. There are fewer tantrums, fewer miscommunications and more good manners between the children. They are not struggling to understand what each other is saying. They are all "speaking" the same language together, and they are getting along together better.

There is a wonderful program designed by Two Little Hands Production called "Signing Time". If you aren't familiar with it, check it out. They are on PBS early in the mornings. That was where I first discovered them when my son came along. Most libraries carry the series if you can't find it in your local tv listing.

Signing Time not only comes with English spoken and written, it also now comes with spoken and written Spanish, though the signs are still the same. The exciting thing about this program is that it is being taught to children around the world. Children in Japan, South America and other places are learning ASL through the Signing Time series, DVDs or Signing Time Academy instructors.

This presents an interesting question. Will there someday be a universal language? Could American Sign Language be the very language that breaks the communication barrier between the rest of the world? Could the children learning ASL today be the generation to even make that possible? American Sign Language is a recognized language. Many students now need a second language in order to graduate. ASL is accepted and credited to meet that requirement.

Today, children learning ASL in preschool and early elementary school may well find themselves in a sandbox at a park on the other side of the world with another child who has learned ASL. Just three little words are all they need to know to start a friendship. "Hi, Friend. Play?"

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