Bilingual-Multicultural

Despite more widespread awareness about bilingualism,

many parents still worry that exposing their child

at an early age to two languages will be confusing and

cause linguistic and cognitive delays (Fish & Morford, 2012).


Again, you might be concerned about how your child will learn bilingual (two languages, ASL and English). You can start with ASL and it will blossom the language part of the brain. Eventually, your child will start developing bilingual with secondary language (English). This part of the website will share different information of bilingual language development.

What ASL/English Bilingual Early Education can look like?

California School for the Deaf, Fremont showed one of their early childhood education doing different activities to support their ASL and English.

What the Eyes Reveal About the Brain?

Gallaudet University BL2 in 2014 researched the auditory tissue development and learned that learning sign language do not have impact on shrinking the auditory tissue as many believed. Many thought auditory tissue only learning language through hearing. The discovery was that tissue is looking for patterns in either hearing or visual to support language development.

History of ASL/English Bilingualism

It is recently that studying of the bilingualism of deaf people has started. The ASL/English bilingualism currently in the deaf community is a system of minority language bilingualism. The community members learn and use both the minority language (sign language) and the majority language in its written form. They also might learn the spoken aspect.

The discussion of ASL/English bilingual instruction for deaf students has been presented in the 1970s. However, it has not started until the late 1980s and early 1990s that schools began implementing this type of instruction, and researchers began examining the relationship between the two languages.

Many deaf children in the world still do not receive a bilingual upbring from their earliest years on (Grosjean, 2010). Many Deaf adults grew up without having been given a chance to master both ASL and English. It is so vital for deaf children to be able to grow up mastering both ASL and English.

Summary of the hypothesis by Cummins (1978) and why Deaf children can be success in bilingual (ASL and English).


Language Policy

In recent years, research has shown that American Sign Language benefits all children regardless of hearing level and, in fact, is promoted as a tool for hearing babies to help them develop language (Hoecker, 2016). Evidence has proved from neuroimaging studies that reveal that a baby’s brain “does not discriminate between the signed languages and the spoken languages. People discriminate, but not our biological human brain” (Petitto, 2013).

Deaf children who are more likely to acquire age-appropriate language skills and have academic success have early access to language from parents who use American Sign Language. In the home environment with children who use sign language at birth shown the same language developmental milestones as perform on par or exceed their hearing peers academically. The relationship between ability with ASL and English language (in its written form) has been demonstrated throughout the years (Mayberry, 1993; Strong & Prinz, 1997).

Professionals need to discuss with parents the critical period of language acquisition for their child’s language development. As studies show, the human brain has an optimal period for language acquisition and that optimal period is between the ages of 0-3.

Rights for the Deaf Children and Families

  • Deaf children are born with the ability to acquire language as any other children. The access to the acquiring of the language should be the same chance.

  • Deaf children have the right to be educated, graduated high school, and further as they want.

  • All families of deaf children have the right to early intervention services. These families have the right to accurate information, including access to state resources to help their deaf children reach their full potential.

  • Deaf children have the right to acquire both American Sign Language and English. They can learn both of these languages simultaneously.

  • Deaf children have the right to receive professionals proficient in developing the child’s language acquisition through the early intervention and school years.

  • Deaf children have the right to succeed to the fullest capability the children want to be.

Children acquire two languages as easily as one, become more aware of how language works through learning two languages, and profit in non-linguistic domains as well (vl2.gallaudet.edu, 2012).

Visual Language & Visual Learning (VL2) wrote research brief in June, 2012

"The Benefits of Bilingualism: Impacts on Language and Cognitive Development"

Solution for Bilingual-Multicultural

  • The bilingual approach helps parents, caregivers, and professionals to maintain their focus on deaf children’s language development, not just their speech development, and provides maximal language exposure through both spoken and signed languages during critical periods of deaf children’s language development (Humphries, Kushalnagar, Mathur, Napoli, Padden, Rathmann, Smith, 2014).

  • Using a bilingualism-multicultural approach for Deaf children is the safest method to ensure that those Deaf children. Regardless of status, they are provided with the best opportunity for maximal language development—consequently, the optimal chance for adequate cognitive development, academic success, and psychosocial well-being.

  • Organization/association should change their statement and encourage using a bilingualism-multicultural approach instead of dismissing the sign language in Deaf children’s process with language and focus on speech only.

  • Learning a sign language at the earliest possible age is a pathway to learning a spoken language, and learning a spoken language is a prerequisite to learning to speak it. The best of all worlds for a deaf child is a bimodal, bilingual world (Humphries, Kushalnagar, Mathur, Napoli, Padden, Rathmann, Smith, 2014).