10 Reasons To Learn Sign Language
On the fence about learning some sign language or signing up a child for lessons? Not sure what the point is if you are not deaf? Here are some of the reasons why learning even just a few basic signs is a great idea!
10 Reasons to Learn Sign Language
Overcome Communication Barriers and Connect with More People
There are 100s of millions of people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing, and for many people with autism, apraxia, cerebral palsy, or Down syndrome, sign language is either their main form of communication or an important part of their communication method. By learning to sign, you are able to overcome one of the barriers that prevents meaningful, mutually-rewarding connections between people.
Improved Reading and Vocabulary
Researcher Marilyn Daniels has compared the learning levels of classes who were taught American Sign Language (ASL) and classes that were not.
The ASL-learning kids always had higher reading levels and a 15–20% improvement in vocabulary. They even had higher test scores than the non-ASL kids. All of these findings matched up with Daniels’ previous findings that hearing children of deaf parents consistently excel at reading and English.
Family Bonding and Communication
Sign language increases opportunities for parents and children to bond in positive ways. This can eliminate untold stress and anxiety for a child and opens pathways of greater trust and understanding in the parent-child relationship. Researcher S. Glairon studied this phenomenon in depth in his 2003 study on babies using ASL. Sign language has also been used to facilitate communication between parents and babies.
It Works When Speech Does Not
One advantage of sign language is that it lets you communicate when speech will not. Need to communicate across a crowded room without shouting? Use sign language. Lose your voice? Use sign language. On the phone and need to communicate to someone in the room without breaking your conversation? Use sign language. Need to say something private in public? Use sign language.
Help Build Accessible Communities
Hard-of-hearing and deaf people are expected to adjust to the hearing world. By learning sign language, you make things more accessible for them--learning language skills that will make communication and connection easier for them and you. Sign language is useful skill for everyone, and can help make communities stronger and more inclusive.
Get Smarter, Talk Sooner
Researchers discovered was that early exposure to ASL leads to heightened reasoning skills and raises a child’s IQ by an average of 12 points. They also discovered that ASL babies were speaking much sooner than their non-ASL controls. Not only were they talking almost three months earlier, they were also using more complex and longer sentences, which set them up for faster cognitive development and academic success very early in their childhoods.
ASL Signers have Incredible Spatial Reasoning
In her career as a geologist, Michele Cooke noticed that students well-versed in ASL had a much easier time grasping the structural geology that her students always struggled with. The key to understanding these concepts is strong visualization skills and the ability to process complex spatial information, which signers have in abundance.
Marc Marschark from the Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf has also noted this “There is a wealth of evidence showing that native signers, deaf or hearing, are superior to non-signers in mental generation and mental manipulation, so a spatial-reasoning task would fit in nicely.”
Create visual stories
Because sign language is a visual form of communication, it can help you generate new ideas and storytelling methods that spoken language will not. The process of making these stories involves critical thinking that could then be applied to creating messages in other languages.
No technology needed
Sign language allows you to communicate with deaf or hard-of-hearing persons even if they do not have a hearing aid in. As long as you can see, it is there for you to use!
If you can converse in sign language in addition to another language, you are every bit as bilingual as someone who can converse in multiple spoken languages. Scientists know that people who speak more than one language fluently have better memories and can delay the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Although more research must be done to examine the impacts of sign language, evidence does show clear cognitive benefits.