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.
Most people may think that because I deal with deaf people everyday of my life, it’s easy for me to talk to deaf people that I don’t know. In reality, it’s extremely difficult for me to talk to new deaf people for a number of reasons.
The main reason that I don’t like to approach random deaf people is that I get nervous that I won’t understand a person, or that they won’t understand me. The best way for me to explain it is to say that I’m used to a certain “accent” that my mom and dad have, and because of that, when other people sign, I get flustered by this new “accent” and often times, I’m not totally sure what someone is saying to me.
But also, along with that, when I do see someone having a conversation in public, I tend to stare and try to snoop on others conversations since you can’t just tell that I know sign language by looking at me.
Some of the only times that I have been able to approach someone and use sign language has been certain jobs, and I’ll get into that in next weeks blog!
So, since my parents can’t hear, you might wonder if my brother and I ever complained about them while they were nearby. And mom, if you’re reading this, I apologize in advance because the answer is yes absolutely, all the time. My brother and I learned how to talk without moving our lips and we would do it all the time to complain about typical teenage annoyances about our parents.
The thing is that sometimes, my mom would slightly be able to hear that we were talking, but she wouldn’t actually hear the words, just a muffled noise. And being the terrible and mischievous teenagers that we were, she wouldn’t actually be able to prove that we were talking and we would just tell her, “Mom, no I didn’t say anything. I’m just sitting here.” When really we were complaining to one another. (Again, sorry mom. Love you)
We don’t really do that anymore, but I can still talk without moving my lips. Not quite as good as most ventriloquists, but it’s fairly impressive still. As a CODA, you learn lots of ways to be sneaky, and my brother and I definitely had many sneaky tactics.
A lot of people question how I learned to communicate. And I know I’ve already talked about this, but I wanted to go into a little more detail about how I learned to communicate.
I obviously grew up bilingual, but I learned to sign before I ever learned to speak. I started signing before I was a years old, and although I didn’t know know very much, I would sign things like more, milk, and cookie.
Signing is something that I think is extremely important to teach children because they can communicate before they officially learn to speak and I think it’s important to spread another language at a young age. I plan to teach my children sign language and i hope that they will choose to continue to learn as they grow old, but no matter what, sign language is extremely important for communication even with hearing people.
A question that I thought was really interesting was if I’ve ever noticed hearing people in public that move their hands and possibly make an accidental sign. That happens all the time. Sometimes I’ll see someone just moving their hands while talking, and I always have to stop and stare because I’m not sure if they’re doing sign language or just talking. I notice this happening all the time. And then they continue to move their hands and do things very similar to sign language, and I have to stare until I notice that they’re just speaking. So if you’re a very animated person and you notice someone staring, there’s a chance they just think you’re speaking sign language.
Communicating with my parents isn’t the only thing I use sign language for. I depend on sign language very often to communicate when I’m not able to just talk to someone. I’ve found myself very often responding to someone in sign language if I’m on the phone and I’m being asked a question by someone in person, whether or not they know sign language. It’s something that I just subconsciously do, because its just easy and makes sense to my brain.
I also grew up doing that with my brother, like if he was on the phone, I would sign the word “who?” to him, or if we were at a party together and I was ready to leave, I would sign “ready?” I actually do the same thing with my current boyfriend! If we are at a party or even when we’re at dinner and I’m done and ready to leave, I’ll sign to him.
I’ve taught friends and my boyfriend sign language for this very reason. It is so easy to communicate with sign language when you’re at a bar and you’re going to slip away to the bathroom and you don’t want anyone you’re with to panic and wonder where you went.
A question I get extremely often is “How did you learn how to speak?” The question makes sense to me, but it is also somewhat difficult to explain. My parents were still able to teach me how to speak, but I also had an older brother and an entire family that helped teach us both how to speak. However, having deaf parents did affect my speech.
In first grade, we had reading tests where we would read out loud to a speech therapist, and I distinctly remember being so proud of myself and thinking I was the best reader in the world. I ended up saying my “s” incorrectly and saying “th” instead. Other than that, I never had an issue with learning to speak or read that I can remember.
Things like other family members and tv really helped me learn to speak, and I think it all was fairly easy. I was always fairly good at reading, and I always thought that may be because of sign language, and because I was able to visualize words as signs instead of just words on paper.