Baby Signs
February 14, 2007 7:59 PM   Subscribe

I'm working on some basic sign language with my 14 month old, and now that the weather's warming up, he has a real need to communicate the word "outside" when he wants to go out and play (he'll go over to the door and babble, but it would be great if he could come to me and tell me what he wants). Can someone explain (or link to a site with picture/video) the sign for "outside," "outdoors," or something similar? Bonus if the gesture is fairly simple so that my son can catch on quickly.
posted by roundrock to Writing & Language (9 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: This is the very top result when you google sign language outside.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 8:06 PM on February 14, 2007

Best answer: Here's a video from MSU's ASL Browser.
posted by The Tensor at 8:27 PM on February 14, 2007

Response by poster: thanks ... I did google this, but I think I made it more complicated than it needed to be. These are PERFECT!! You've made a 14 month old's life a little easier (and his mommy's, too)....
posted by roundrock at 8:36 PM on February 14, 2007

FYI - MSU's browser has a number of unusual signs and doesn't disambiguate homonyms (present (gift), present (here), present (introduce)).

I also use this reference which has clearer video, but also has some signs that aren't exactly standard.

ASL is also checkered by regionalisms. You'll find signs that are totally different across several references. I've found it simplest to embrace what works for you and be as consistent as you can. An example is "Happy Birthday", which is often given as happy followed by the very graphic sign for birth then the sign for day, whereas I've also seen it as happy followed by tugging your earlobe between thumb and forefinger of your dominant hand, as well as happy followed by making your dominant hand look like a conical birthday hat and putting it on your head. We use the last one, because it's easy to sign and easy to explain. Aslpro has a sign for birthday which I've never seen, which is probably English and not American (I'm told that Aslpro has many English signs instead of American signs).

So take what you see without context with a grain of salt.

Something in mind: think about your main goal. If it's simply communication, as long as you're consistent, it's no big deal if you use a home sign for something. For example, we were taught a home sign for yogurt which is not quite the real one. Works for us. If your goal is to see that your child is truly bilingual, then you want to think about using ASL vs using SEE (Signed Exact English), vs using PSE (Pidgin Signed English).

PSE is the easiest and what happens is the sign becomes a kinesthetic highlighter of your speech. It works out quite well, especially transitioning away from sign later on. ASL has different syntactic ordering than English in order to make the language pragmatic. The classic example would be "Look at the red car". In SEE or PSE the first word instructs the receiver to look away, which makes the rest of the sentence useless. The ASL word order is more like "car red there."

As far as a continuing resource, look into Signing Time. I am deeply indebted to this group for enabling my daughter to communicate. In addition to their main product (very engaging videos geared towards kids that teach sign language), they also have a bulletin board with a section on "How do you sign..." which is routinely patrolled by people who are fluent.

One final thing to consider is that the Deaf community has people in it that react strongly to the current fad of baby signs. I can't represent that community and won't try other than to say that you should be aware of it and there is a thing about name signs. Traditionally, a person doesn't have a name sign until they're given one from a Deaf person. We respect that tradition, but it conflicts with our ability to communicate with our daughter, so I gave her a home name sign early on that was fairly innocuous and tried to follow the general approach. Similarly my daughter routinely names the important people in her life so she can talk to them and talk about them (some of them are hilarious, too). Again, practicality and communication wins over tradition. Where this can go wrong is that in her school, her teachers created name signs for themselves and their aides (first name initial signed by forehead for a teacher, or signed by mouth for speech therapist), which was all well and good except for Susan, whose name sign was one common sign for 'stupid'. Oops.

Wow. That was long.
posted by plinth at 7:06 AM on February 15, 2007 [3 favorites]

Roundrock, we tried getting our 15-month old to sign, to no avail yet. How did you go about teaching him? Email in my profile.
posted by cahlers at 7:48 AM on February 15, 2007

Cahlers, if I may bud in....
We found the SigningTime videos to be very useful in teaching our child (now 2y.o. but 12-15 months at the time) some basic sign. He still enjoys watching them but only resorts to sign if he does not think we understand what he is expressing verbally.
posted by evilelf at 10:55 AM on February 15, 2007

does it really matter if it's real ASL? as long as you all know what the sign means, it will serve its purpose of allowing the baby to communicate. why not just invent something?

(forgive me if this is a seriously taboo or gauche suggestion, but i genuinely imagine the point of this is for the baby to be able to communicate with its caregivers without frustration, not communicate with random strangers who speak an established language. correct me if i'm wrong, but be nice, please- i don't mean any disrespect!)
posted by twistofrhyme at 8:12 PM on February 15, 2007

Not gauche at all - and this is really the origin of home signs. In fact, most pre-verbal kids do this anyway (ie, lifting up arms when they want to be picked up). The practicality of standardizing on ASL signs is that there is a greater portability of them. For example, my daughter has a nanny. We had to switch to a new nanny when the old one was moving out of state. We made it a requirement of the job posting that the applicant know ASL. We got several that did and, boy howdy, was it an easy transition. Furthermore, when she transitioned to preschool, the teachers leapt on the MSU browser to open communication. A year later a new student in her class also uses sign, and guess who could communicate with her on day one?

ASL on its own can be challenging for the very young because it demands fine motor control that just isn't there. Some groups put a focus on "baby sign" which simplifies a lot of the motions to accomodate. We didn't do this. We tried to always present the correct sign and let her mimic as best as she could. For a while, context was the only way to tell the difference between 'mommy', 'eat/food', 'water', 'dirty', 'pig', 'color', 'grass' and a few others, but that's the same with a newly verbal child as well. There has been quite the evolution of sign with my daughter. Even though she learned strawberry early on, she's signed it incorrectly until very recently. It took a year for her to get the coordination for 'yogurt'.

On top of that ASL often puts qualifiers on things (and I want to stress that I am in no way an expert on this). As an example, while there is a sign for lion and tiger, there is no signle sign for panther. You set it up by signing "black wild cat big p-a-n-t-h-e-r" and fingerspell it from then on. I can tell you right now, that just won't fly for the very young.

So you balance global communication with local communication and be consistent. We couldn't find a sign for "binky" so we made one up (it's pretty much the same as mouth/teeth, but context tells us which one). Generally speaking, we choose ASL because someone's already done the work for us. Other times it's practicality. It's always about communication.
posted by plinth at 7:06 AM on February 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

plinth, what a thorough answer and thanks for being so nice- i appreciate it!
posted by twistofrhyme at 5:00 PM on February 16, 2007

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