Learning to communicate

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.

Signing for Convenience

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.

Learning to Speak

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.

Being a CODA

One question I get very often is “What is it like having deaf parents?” I honestly don’t know how to answer this, just like you don’t really know how to describe what it’s like having hearing parents.

My brother and I were never too loud or crazy, and it was slightly annoying because if my mom called my name, I had to actually get out of bed and go see her instead of just screaming “WHAT?” 9 or of 10 times, it was something I did not need to actually get up for.

One trick that I did use often was pretending to be asleep since my mom couldn’t hear me making noises seconds before she called out of my name. So that is one big difference.

The volume on my tv was always very low since my brother and I had pretty sensitive hearing and we used captions on our tv. And subtitles have become part of my everyday life and I don’t know how to function without them.

My parents could still call me before texting became big, they just used a relay service which I absolutely hated and will explain in a completely different post.

My childhood was fairly normal, but with just a few different stories than most.

Unlicensed Interpreting

Growing up, I was always an interpreter. It was always just easier for me to show up and interpret with either of my parents, than for them to have to order an actual interpreter.  Because of that, I definitely learned more than I should have at a young age.  For a couple years, I would go to my brothers parent teacher conferences and interpret, when in reality, it probably wasn’t any of my business how he was doing in school. It was never much of an issue for me, but as a child, interpreting was both natural and a hassle, just because I was lazy and didn’t want to go to appointments that weren’t for me.

Even to this day, I still interpret occasionally for my parents.  At holidays, I interpret prayers or speeches, and I occasionally will join a parent at the eye doctor, although they both are fairly good at communicating without me. I tend to still be the middle man when it comes to party planning, or just making sure that everything is understood and clear.

I don’t mind interpreting, however when I was younger, I felt like I had a lot of responsibility that I didn’t always want.  Because of the conversations that I was in on, I always just felt like I couldn’t always just be a child, because I was helping my parents do grown up things.  I don’t necessarily think it ended up being a bad thing, but at that time, I hated it.  But now, it’s something that I’ve considered pursuing.

Driving Deaf

For people that haven’t grown up in a deaf family, you may think that deaf drivers are so safe, since they use sign language to talk and driving requires full attention and use of your hands.  To that, I say absolutely not.

I’ve had many situations with my parents where I have to essentially ignore them so that I’m not as worried about them not watching the road.  Someone I’ve always related with on this is a comedian that I really enjoy, Keith Wann.  He is also a CODA and honestly explains this better than I could even think to. I’ve linked the clip of his show below so that you can really understand what happens in the car. As he says, I also have vivid memories of my mom looking completely away from the road.

Another thing about car rides is that I think most people would assume that car rides are fairly silent since deaf people can’t really hear music.  On that, it’s all about the person.  My mom has always been more into things like dancing, whereas my dad has never been a very big dancer and is more of the quiet type.

So with my mom, she loves listening to music in the car.  That might be a confusing thing to understand. She didn’t always hear all of the music, but she could feel the bass and the beats.  That being said, her favorite CD to listen to was a J.Lo CD that I think I’ve heard about a million times, (which isn’t really a bad thing). But with my dad, he hardly ever has his radio on, and if it is on, it’s because I’m in the car.

Being Sneaky

One thing that most people assume about being a CODA is that I was constantly sneaking out since my parents couldn’t actually hear me.  The surprising thing, is that in my experience, it was almost impossible to sneak out.  I swear my parents had super sonic powers and knew when I was even thinking about sneaking out.  I would just shift positions in my bed and my mom would wake up and feel the need to check on me.  It was the same if I came home past curfew.  I would still walk in as quiet as I could, as if my parents could hear me, and as soon as I took my shoes off, I could hear my mom yelling at me for being late.   

Similarly, I had the same problem when it came to sneaking candy.  I had a very big sweet tooth when I was younger.  I would try to sneak some chocolate while I was sitting in the back of the car, and my parents wouldn’t even have to turn around and they would just instantly smell it the minute I opened the wrapper.   

Most people underestimate how powerful the senses can get when you lose one, so not many people expect that it would actually be hard to sneak around since they couldn’t even hear me.  I swear that my mom just felt it in her bones when I was causing trouble, and I honestly could never get away with anything.  Although I did manage to sneak out once or twice successfully, but I failed more times than I could ever count.