Quasi-Lingual

Over the past few weeks, Jacob’s really taken to signing. Like they say, I was doing it for a long time (only sometimes feeling ridiculous) before I saw him begin to respond. Now we have proof of how much he’s taken in. He started to say “thank you” last week. The motion is a little bit more violent than it should be, but it’s super cool to see it, all the same.

 

When I tell people how old Jacob is, they often ask whether he’s walking, talking, or both. Walking is an affirmative, and he often gets compliments at the park for how good of a walker he is. Do they make a bumper sticker for that, maybe in the style of those “My student is on the honor roll” ones? Because I’d get one, even though we don’t have a car. Or a bike. Anyway.

 

When I tell folks that he’s pretty much just using “da” to verbalize, but he’s signing, I’ve been pleasantly surprised with people’s interest and encouragement. In learning about signing, I’ve read that some people don’t esteem it very highly. Some people are concerned that because signing kids speak later, they won’t speak as well. Really, their language acquisition is often better in the long run. I think it’s because they avoid some of the frustration of not being able to communicate.

 

Well, sometimes.

 

The great thing about signing is how much of what Jacob wants to say John and I can understand. The other day, Jacob was uncomfortable because he was too warm. He made his sign for “hot” and (eventually) we figured out that we needed to take a layer off of him. Happy baby, happy parents.

 

The tough thing is when Jacob is around people who don’t know ASL or the signs he’s created. “Help” has ironically been the most problematic sign thus far.

 

The sign for “help” is a fist seated on an open hand, moved up and down together, as if you’re offering a helping hand. Jacob’s modification is one hand in a fist and the other hand wrapped around it, moved up and down together. John and I recognize any variation on the up-and-down movement as a request for help.  Others, of course, don’t.

 

A few weeks ago, our Italian friends thought he was just being really dramatic and pleading for something they had.  Over Thanksgiving, John’s Chinese mother thought Jacob was making the sign her culture uses to offer congratulations. I don’t think she knew what she was being congratulated for, but she thought it was really cool that Jacob could speak Chinese (especially when John and I can’t . . .)

 

What a shame to be only fourteen months old, and already so misunderstood.

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