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Signing and Makaton

When Grouting became proto-verbal, we belatedly started signing with her. Belatedly because she'd been spending so much time in our arms and it takes two hands to do much communication by hand. Also, because from the start it was learn as we go.

I started thoughtlessly, with a friend's recommendation of catchy song videos with signs on YouTube. Only Baby Sign Time is an American show and, as it occurred to me only a few weeks later, I'd just signed up for a baby signing class in the UK. Grouting still signs "more" and "boat" the ASL way.

Take two. I download a fantastic British Sign Language video dictionary app, free, from the University of Bristol. It's still my default go-to reference when I want a sign to use with Grouting.

Take three. The class begins. I'd signed up for the only one locally available... and it turns out it's teaching Makaton, not BSL. Mostly there's not too much conflict; but thinking we were learning the rudiments of a language was one of the appeals of taking a class.

I am deeply ambivalent about Makaton. It's a commercial product, a language learning framework, with English (not BSL) grammar, simplified signs, standardized, and is (at least in the UK) derived from BSL. There are no free dictionaries. Everything is for sale. It's aimed at children with physical communication difficulties to surmount which have nothing to do with hearing. Down's syndrome. Babies.

Part of the appeal of this project was the idea that I'd learn a bit of another language. The other part was that we'd communicate more easily with Grouting. The communication bit is absolutely a success. Her signs are a fusion of those first few ASL ones, lots of BSL, some Makaton ones, and, occasionally, ones Grouting has figured out or made up herself (keys, fireworks). So it's not a consistent vocabulary since I never introduced it as one. I do still pick and choose signs sometimes on the basis of how easily Grouting could distinguish them from other signs.

Today in class, we were given a sign for Christmas. The North American in me rebels at using a sign based on "putting a turkey on the table" for Christmas. Especially in the same week that we celebrated an early Thanksgiving. BSL recommends a quick bit of beard stroking to achieve the same concept. One ASL version involves outlining a wreath. Either way, I prefer the options given to me by the full-fledged languages to that from the commercial language product.


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 21st, 2013 01:47 am (UTC)
Heh. Of course there are signs for Christmas - but I'm rather at a loss trying to figure out how you'd teach a baby the concept of Christmas, to which the sign(s) could then be applied? It's such a confused and complex cultural artefact, where "more" and "boat" are right there to be seized (also, more boat is an excellent thing).
Nov. 21st, 2013 05:40 am (UTC)
I may be an atheist, but am rather surprised that none of the signs for Christmas involve some sort of combination of 'baby' and 'god'. Otherwise why not just use 'holiday + winter'?
Nov. 25th, 2013 12:58 am (UTC)
A very fine question.
Nov. 22nd, 2013 01:52 pm (UTC)
I deliberately chose classes that used BSL as I knew it would annoy me otherwise (Tiny Talk - they were really good). I can remember Owen signing 'Christmas tree'!
Nov. 25th, 2013 12:58 am (UTC)
Tiny Talk's local franchise expired a couple of years ago. We signed up for the only available local sign language class.
Nov. 25th, 2013 08:39 am (UTC)
Yep, it is a matter of luck as to what you have near you.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )