Through Deaf Ears

I continued speech therapy lessons until I was a teen, about fourteen years old. I had found a love and appreciation for the English language. I started writing original stories and poetry when I was eleven. I found myself saving money for a book rather than spending it at the mall. When I ran across a new word, I would openly ask how to pronounce it. I guess you can say that I embraced English because it wasn’t just an array of noises. It’s a way we connect. It is an art form and way of life. We connect through communication. I started college knowing that I wanted to major in English. I wanted to be an English teacher. In taking general classes, I was told that I needed to take a foreign language class. I attempted a Spanish class in high school and found it really difficult. I had a hard time hearing the language and what was being said. I had a hard time identifying the sounds with the way the mouth moved for each sound. Lip reading is quite easy for me in English, but difficult for me in Spanish. Speaking Spanish was moderately better, yet the rolling of the r’s was a hard task. The only aspect that I excelled in was reading and writing in Spanish. Thankfully, most of the exams in high school were written exams.

As I thumbed through the college course catalog, I assumed that it didn’t matter what foreign language class I would take, it would be a challenge and a learning experience. The Foreign Language I chose to take was American Sign Language (ASL). Prior to taking ASL all I knew was the alphabet and terms such as bathroom, candy and my sign language name. I had other deaf friends who did ASL and I would read what they were saying but I only understood what they said because they moved their mouths with the sentences they just signed. Being the good lip reader I am, I dismissed their hand signs and just focused on their face and lips as they signed. On my first day of my ASL class, the professor introduced herself and said that this was the only day she was going to speak. After today, she was just going to sign. This intimidated everyone. She asked if there were any deaf students in her class. I hesitated to raise my hand. Another student raised her hand and started signing as she introduced herself. The Professor interpreted that this student signed her whole life and doesn’t wear hearing aids. The Professor signed back to her that she was happy that she chose to take her class. I raised my hand. The Professor asked if I had a question. I responded “No, um, I’m deaf too.” “You are hard of hearing?” she asked. “No, I am deaf, I was born deaf.” She didn’t seem to believe my speech and probably thought I was making a joke. I remembered her mystified face. So I began to pull my hair back and showed her that I didn’t have a right ear and that my hearing device was in my fashionable headband. What she asked next had changed her opinion of me for the rest of the semester.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *