Photo Research in Action Sabrina Sembiante

How Multi-Language Learners Connect

Sabrina Sembiante, Ph.D.
Department of Curriculum, Culture and Educational Inquiry
College of Education

How do you deal with the "faux amis" problem in the children's vocabulary?   

You would need to create opportunities and experiences in each language where you can use the two words considered “faux amix” to distinguish their separate meaning and use for the child. The child learns vocabulary meanings in context and with use. So, the parent or teacher should create experiences for the child that provides them with explicit exposure to how the meaning and use of each word is different, even though the words appear to be cognates.

Have you explored or considered exploring the use of sign language (ex. ASL) or baby signs as a mode of communication?    

I haven’t explored the use of sign language as modes of communication but investigating that avenue through a multimodal lens would be highly interesting.

Relatedly, would you categorize signing as gestures or their own language? (I understand this may be based on whether the signs are ASL which is an actual language versus baby signs which are modified.)    

Gestures of all sorts are definitely signing, but I would say they’re a different “signing” than what ASL would represent. Gestures in the way that we study them could definitely not be categorized as their own language in the sense that they are used to accompany other forms/modes of communication and may not mean what they intend to mean if not interpreted with those other forms or modes. This also stands counter to multimodality theories that treat all modes as semiotic choices in communication that exist on the same continuum, and none which are meant to be separate out or treated as individual/disconnected from the overall communicative repertoire.