In cultures all over the world, children are exposed to language through repetition, songs, chants, nursery rhymes, and other forms of play. Deaf culture is no different. Leala Holcomb and Jonathan McMillian of Hands Land learned American Sign Language naturally as they grew up, with parents who constantly made up playful songs and rhymes as they went about their daily routines.
How can a signed language have songs or rhymes? Rhythm and rhyme can also exist in a visual medium. The motions of signs can be repeated, elongated or otherwise modified to take on a beat or rhythm. The internal parts of signs can also be repeated. For example, two signs that use the same hand shape “rhyme” with each other in a sense.
Hands Land is an Indiegogo project to produce a learning DVD “full of original ASL rhymes and rhythms covering a wide range of themes.” In the video explanation of the project McMillan notes that hearing parents trying to sign with their children often “become so focused on signing correctly that they lose sight of their reason for learning to sign. Signing should enhance the bonds between parents and children.”
That bonding is on adorable display here, as Holcomb’s nephew Thoreau acquires ASL joyfully and naturally through language play with his family.
Learn more about the Hands Land campaign here.