Five-year-old girl teaches herself sign language video

Murray Wilson/Stuff

Mila Bardell, 5, taught herself American sign language after finding tutorials on YouTube Kids.

While most 5-year-olds are still getting to grips with counting and the alphabet in one language, one Palmerston North girl has taken it upon herself to learn them in sign language as well.

Since discovering sign language through video tutorials on YouTube Kids about a month ago, Mila Bardell, has been teaching her mother, Chelsea Bardell​ and friends. 

Mila​ said she started teaching herself to use it because she loves to learn and thought it was "really cool". 

Chelsea Bardell is having trouble keeping up with her daughter Mila Bardell, 5, who is teaching her American sign ...
Murray Wilson/ Fairfax NZ

Chelsea Bardell is having trouble keeping up with her daughter Mila Bardell, 5, who is teaching her American sign language after seeing it on YouTube Kids.

"I've learned the alphabet, the numbers one to 10, colours and animals."

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When she has a spare moment at school or at home she'll practice new words, recently learning how to say donkey, snake and lion. 

Next, Mila wants to teach herself how to sign numbers from 11 to 20 and the signs for "happy" and "hello". 

Sign language is New Zealand's third official language, and it is celebrated with an awareness week from May 8-14. 

Mila's mother had no idea she had taken up sign language, and was surprised to learn Mila had discovered it on an iPad, rather than from her teacher at Russell St School. 

"She's taken such an interest in it. She was so excited to show me. 

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"Her memory is incredible."

It was hard to keep up with Mila, who retained the information really well, Bardell said. 

Mila has been learning American sign language, which is readily available on YouTube Kids, but it is quite different to New Zealand sign language. 

Once Bardell realised the two were quite different, she looked for New Zealand sign language tutorials online but found the range limited and unsuitable for children.

"I will definitely show her New Zealand sign language and explain to her the differences between the two."

Deaf Aotearoa general manager Victoria Manning said there were significantly more American sign language tutorials online.

"It has much more resources."

New Zealand was still developing its own resources, but three weeks ago, a new online course called Learn NZSL was launched, Manning said. 

The website was targeted at adults, but some of the tutorials were easy to follow for children, she said. 

Manning thought it was fantastic that Mila had taught herself sign language and she encouraged everyone to learn the basics. 

"It shows your respect and it engages deaf people more.

"It's similar to if you're going somewhere and you just speak one or two sentences of Maori."

Manning said all schools should be teaching basic sign language skills to help people communicate and also to stop discrimination. 

Sign language added to the richness and diversity of the country, Manning said. 

Russell St School acting principal James Rea said the school did not teach sign language, but teachers could choose to add it to their curriculum. 





 - Stuff


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