From signing to speaking

BiBi knows nearly 30 sings, which she uses regularly to communicate her needs and observations. Some of them, which she’s learned from us (eg. dog, hot, cat, car) and some, which she made up herself (telephone, monkey, baloon). Using many of these signs have almost become her second nature, or, what I really want to say is that she seems to be using them almost completely effortlessly, as if prompted by an impuls. Dog (tapping her chest – though it was actually supposed to be tapping her leg, as in calling a dog) is a good example of that. She does it almost any time she can hear a dog barking, even when she’s half asleep, or indeed through her sleep.

When we first started using baby sing language I didn’t really give much thought to what the transision from signing to speaking would be like. I just assumed it would happen naturally as soon as BiBi is able to say the words. However, there seems to be much more to this process. BiBi can now say over twenty words – this is on top of her sings. Some of the words she uses are much more complicated than many words for which she’s still using sings. She can for exaple say „owl” and „cake”, both of which are more or less recognisable, or even „cookie”, which she basically gets right. However, she still prefers to use sings for „dog”, „hot” or „car”, which she should be able produce. The only sign, which she seems to be gradually replacing with a spoken word is „cat” and she seems to be saying „kici kici” more often.

My little theory behind this process is that BiBi is simply making use of all the recources she has and trying to improve her ability to communicate as fast as possible. There’s simply no need to say „dog” if she can communicate what she means by tapping her chest and she’s better off putting her energy to producing new words, for which she has no signs, and therefore no way of communicating.

Having said that, it’s interesting why she should start replacing her sign for „cat” with „kici kici”. It’s possible that it’s partly due to the fact that the sing is fairly complicated and requires both hands – this would fit in really nicely wiht the theory. But it could also be the fact that she can use this word and be understood at nursery, which isn’t easy with signs, or maybe it’s actually part of her Polish inventory, which seems to be taking over. I know she also uses the word „hau hau” (Polish „woof woof”) but I have only heard it used referred to a fluffy dog at nursery. Hopefully this will become more clear as she acquires more words.

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