Thursday, January 10, 2013

Can You Communicate?

I have had people ask me, upon learning that I am married to a hearing man, if Stu sign. I always happily respond, yes. I am really blessed that Stu did learn my language, and had a sincere desire to be able to communicate with me. Stu claims that when he first saw me, I had this aura that lights up the room, and told himself that he had to learn to sign. Sure go ahead, roll your eyes, or say awww. Whatever floats your boat. *winks*

I do feel blessed, and pretty lucky that I have a wonderful husband that is able to communicate with me in my language. I am not sure why, but so many of my Deaf friends or people I know, who are dating or married to hearing spouse, and they do not know how to sign or have a limited understanding of sign language. I suppose that some of them feel that they are not deserving to have someone who can sign to them, and some of them don't feel it is that important for their spouses to know sign language.

For me, that was a huge deal-breaker. I had to be with someone who could sign. Now, dates were different--I did not care, and had no expectation because face it, I was not jumping in a relationship with the guy I was going out on a date with. Nobody really wowed me until Stu came along. For him to secretly learn sign language, and surprising me a few weeks later with by signing, "would you go to formal dance with me" was what won my heart over. I knew this guy was a keeper after that! 

To go even further, there are Deaf parents who have hearing children that does not sign at all. I can't really comprehend that. Please do not assume that I am judging them. They have their reasons, I am sure. I can't speak to why they chose not promote their children to learn sign language. On the other hand, I have met some Deaf parents who have really tried teaching their hearing child(ren) sign language, and they had no interest in learning that language.  

As for me, this is one of my biggest fear as a Deaf mom, and that is not being able to communicate with my child. I can't imagine not being able to talk with my child or any of my unborn future children. Stu knows and understands my slight anxiety about this, and is supportive by constantly signing while speaking to Forrest. We have made a decision to make this house to be a bilingual place meaning Forrest will try to be consistent with both signing and speaking.

I've been told by several Deaf mothers that sometimes their toddlers will go on a strike, and not want to sign. This is where their speech development will explode, and they are fascinated by their own voice, their ability to speak, and that they can talk. This, I have been assured, is very normal. After this passes, their toddler will resume signing, and finds it natural to speak and sign. Occasionally, their thinking process will get jumbled up--after all, learning two languages simultaneously can be a hard work! That results in toddlers stuttering, or saying things repetitively. Some will bloom into a natural signers, and some will be mediocre signers. It depends on the child's personality, and Deaf parent's level of dedication in teaching them to sign. 

My brother, Alex, learned to sign before he learned how to speak. It did not affect his speech development. He saw both languages as part of communication, and did not think any differently of it. He was motivated to learn how to sign because I was being constantly signed to by everybody around me. 

I do wonder what it will be like for Forrest. I look forward to this part of journey with him. I am still waiting for his first sign, and hopefully he will be signing a few words within a few months from now. 

It is important to me to be able to incorporate my culture, and my language in Forrest's life. This is why I can't begin to understand how some Deaf parents can raise their children not to know their culture and language. I can't understand how some Deaf people can freely stay with a spouse that does not communicate in their language. Communication is the main key in every relationships, and families out there, right? I can only imagine that it might be lonely to be in a family or to be with someone who does not communicate well with you.

Even so, I find this very little access or lack of communication to be a common trend in Deaf-Hearing relationships. I'm not sure why.

**Please do note that I am not referring to those Deaf people who may prefer to speak, and use hearing aids to communicate. That's their right to communicate in such manner. This is not anti-oral speaking Deaf people or choice of speaking among Deaf people. As long as they are able to communicate, and understand what is going on, and is quite happy in doing so then more power to them! 


  1. I think it is so lovely that your husband learned to sign, that shows such dedication & LOVE!!

  2. Such a great article! Even though I'm an interpreter, I still would love to see my future children learn sign language fluently. I pray Forrest will be very interested in sign and words when it comes time for learning & communicating!