Learning to communicate pt. 2

So I had written about my experience learning how to speak and sign, but I wanted to talk about the opposite of that. My parents are still learning how to speak to this day, because they often mispronounce a word, so I teach them how to speak. I mostly do this with my mom, but if she can’t say a word correctly, we’ll sit together and I’ll slowly say the word and have her copy me. If that doesn’t work, something that she’ll do is put her hand on my throat while I speak and compare the vibrations from my vocal cords to her own.

However, there’s also another side of learning to communicate. By that, I mean that my hearing friends have to figure out a way to communicate without just relying on me to interpret. I often forget that not everyone understands my parents, so I don’t always interpret for friends until they struggle to understand and it clicks for me. One example I have is of my boyfriend. In the 3.5 years that we’ve been together, he has recently gotten much better at understanding and figuring out other ways to communicate other than just having me be the middle man.

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Superpowers

In my personal experience, I’ve always noticed that since my parents were deaf, it was always like their other senses were extremely heightened. I’ve briefly talked about this in another blog post, but they would smell my chocolate the second I opened the wrapper and know I was sneaking candy.

Even now, they both can smell things that I can’t at all. We do have to take the garbage out slightly more than I’d like to, because my parents can smell any garbage even with a scented bag and hiding the garbage can under the sink.

Besides having a super heightened sense of smell, they didn’t have many other superpowers, but they used that superpower extremely well. It was usually to catch me feeding my sugar addiction, but as parents it was the best superpower they could probably ask for.

CODA Habits

There are a lot of things that I’ve noticed I do because of the fact that I’m a CODA. They’re mostly just a bunch of random little habits that I’ve picked up over my 25 years of life and how it’s all influenced me.

One thing I do often is sign to myself. Instead of talking to myself, I’ll subtly sign or finger spell my thoughts or a song that’s on my mind. I’ve already mentioned this in an older blog, but I often finger spell words so that I can visualize how things are spelled. Even as I’m typing this, I actually caught myself signing my thoughts to myself instead of typing and deleting everything.

Another habit that I have because of being a CODA is that I visualize things different than most. What I mean by that is that when talking about a certain place, I’ll point in a direction that may not be the actual direction of where that place is. That’s because of sign language in general and how places are referred to. While signing, you don’t need to point in the exact direction of where you’re talking about, but instead you place it somewhere and visualize it in front of you. After placing it in front of yourself, that’s where it lives. This is fairly hard to explain in just a blog and it can be confusing to people who didn’t grow up like this. It’s actually something I only recently realized that I even do, because I’ll often point in a direction when talking to my boyfriend and every time I do that, he gets extremely confused because it’s not how hearing brains work.

Live Entertainment

So you may think that things like acting onstage may be hard for a deaf person and that they may only be able to get parts as deaf people, but I’m here to tell you the opposite. There is a whole world of deaf theatre that most people would be surprised about.

As a kid, I distinctly remember going to see deaf shows and how much I loved it. How it works is that every character on stage will sign, although they don’t all talk. The cast is also not all deaf, but some were interpreters or coda’s like me. People that didn’t talk had voice actors in the front row speaking for them while they act and dance.

Something that many people have probably seen in their life is that you don’t clap for deaf people. Instead, applause is shown by raising your hands above your head and shaking your hands, almost like you’re trying to get water off of them.

Assistance

There are some things that are available to help deaf people with everyday life that many hearing people aren’t aware of. The first one that I wanted to bring up is closed captioning at movies. There’s actually a few options for closed captioning. The first one is that there is a device that shows subtitles for whoever is holding it. The other option is that many movie theaters have special showings of movies with subtitles on the screen.

Something else that I wanted to talk about is alarm clocks. Many people may wonder how alarm clocks work for deaf people since it’s not like they can hear the screaming beeps. What my parents have used is a little device that you put under your mattress and instead of beeping, it shakes the entire bed. We also used to have other things like flashing lights for the door bell or phone, and flashing lights for when I’d cry as a baby.

Advice for Hearing People

A lot of hearing people that have never encountered a deaf person tend to get very nervous during their first meeting. I’ve had a lot of friends keep me around as a barrier and interpreter, which is fine, but there are chances that you may run into a deaf person and want to talk to them, and I want to give you tips and tricks so that communicating is as easy as it can be.

  • Be Expressive- A big part of sign language is facial expressions, so when you don’t know sign language, really use those facial expressions to communicate. If you’ve ever seen me talk, you already know that I have a very expressive face and it’s one of the easiest ways to get something across.
  • Speak Clearly and Confidently- I can’t say this for all deaf people, but most of the deaf people I have encountered in my life rely heavily on lip reading. It’s natural to them and when you mumble or cover your mouth, they may not know what you said. Also, with the confidence part of this, make eye contact, and make sure to have a true face-to-face conversation.
  • Take Your Time- Try not to speak too quickly, and feel free to ask someone to slow down as well. Don’t worry if they ask you to repeat something more than once and don’t be afraid to ask someone to repeat something. Be patient and communication will become easier.
  • Be Resourceful- If you aren’t feeling confident about speaking to someone, use things around you. A pencil and paper goes a long way and I know many deaf people who carry them around to help with communication.

If you run into a deaf person in public or at your place of work, try to use these tips and things will probably be a lot easier, and you both will be a lot happier that communicating wasn’t an issue.

Interpreters

Interpreters have been a huge part of my life and after years of needing them for my parents, you start to become familiar with certain people. There were a few interpreters that essentially saw me grow up, since they always happened to be my parents interpreter for whatever event we needed them for.  We usually would have my school hire an interpreter for things like plays or musicals that I was in.

However, interpreting has actually made its’ way into popular culture now, and it’s a really interesting thing for me to see. I grew up with people saying interpreters were almost too distracting and now, I personally feel like people seek out to watch them as an art form. I think a reason for that is the fact that there are young deaf people in the world and the culture has changed and grown.

An example of that is interpreting with music. I remember growing up and watching interpreters at concerts with my mom, and it was nothing like it is today. ASL wasn’t as popular as it is now and so the sign language was more direct and even though it was beautiful to watch, it wasn’t as passionate as I think it is now.

If you haven’t heard of her, I highly recommend looking up Amber Galloway-Gallego. I personally think that she is one of the main reasons that people are interested in sign language and why it has become such a big part of popular culture. She really is able to show so much emotion when she interprets and I think it’s amazing to watch. I feel like a new video of her interpreting will pop up on my Facebook every week.

It’s also different for me because rap and hip hop is popular now, and watching rap be interpreted is the funniest thing I’ve ever seen. Mostly because it’s something that requires a lot of body language and emotion and also, I know how hard it is. It’s hard to explain to people why this is so funny for me, but it’s just the most hilarious thing I can watch.