The National Science Foundation-funded Science of Learning Center on Visual Language and Visual Learning (VL2) at Gallaudet University research center has released the first of a series of three bilingual storybook apps, developed to help language acquisition and reading in all young children; in particular for those who are deaf and hard of hearing.
Deaf Team Create New iPad App
An all-deaf team created the new storybook app for the iPad, presenting The Baobab with original storytelling from Gallaudet alum April Jackson-Woodard and eye-catching animations from deaf artist Yiqiao Wang. The app’s unique feature is the interactive support by an American Sign Language (ASL) user. It also includes an ASL and spoken English glossary of 170 signs.
State-of-the-art Bilingual Storybook App
Researchers at Gallaudet say that their new interactive bilingual storybook app reflects state-of-the-art innovation in bilingual language learning and research, and focuses on the dual acquisition of American Sign Language (ASL) and English and learning to read in English.
The researchers add that this app is unique in the world since it was built upon findings of extensive research done on both hearing and deaf bilinguals. Past research conducted by the VL2 Center team demonstrates that early visual language experience with ASL aids reading acquisition in English and offers other important advantages for a deaf child’s linguistic, communicative, cognitive, academic, literacy, and psychosocial development.
App Promotes the ‘Bilingual Advantage’ in Child Development
In a news release, Dr. Laura-Ann Petitto, Science Director and Co-Principal Investigator of VL2 says that “Early exposure to bilingualism provides tremendous higher cognitive, language, and reading advantages for young children and the advantages continue throughout their entire lifetime. Research has proven that these beneficial effects, known as the ‘bilingual advantage’ in child development, holds true for children learning two spoken languages as well as deaf children learning both ASL and English.”
Research Proves the Advantages of Second Language Learning
As Petitto mentions, for years research has shown that learning more than one language has positive cognitive effects; Vivian Cook, Professor of Applied Linguistics, states in Multi-Competence and the Learning of Many Languages. Language and Culture and Curriculum: “a single mind with more than one language has a totality that is very different from a mind with a single language.”
Dr. Colin Baker, Professor of Education at Bangor University and specialist in language planning and bilingual education, explains in Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism that “the ownership of two or more languages may increase fluency, flexibility, originality and elaboration in thinking.”
Baker has reviewed years of research and concludes that bilinguals have some cognitive advantages over monolinguals most noticeably in the areas of divergent thinking; they are focusing on meaning rather than sounds. Bilinguals have the advantage of viewing language arbitrarily and not being under the assumption that there is only one fixed label for each item.