Thursday, March 31, 2011

Speaking Up

When you're part of the majority, you don't generally think about your culture until you find yourself in a situation where you're surrounded by someone else's.  I imagine most of the people reading this listen to music and watch TV with the sound turned up—that is, we're hearing.

Did you ever think of using that word to describe yourself?  Maybe not, unless you happen to be a hearing person with connections to the Deaf world.

Yes, I capitalized it.  That wasn't a mistake.

There are a lot of differences between Deaf culture and the hearing majority, probably enough for another blog post or two sometime.  A central feature is sign language.  That doesn't mean there aren't people within the community who can and do speak.  This can be a sticky issue, though—again, plenty I could ramble on about.

My point right now is that there are individuals who feel caught in the middle, who enjoy being part of the Deaf community, but also feel a connection to the hearing world.  They listen to music and express themselves most comfortably in spoken English.  This doesn't always go over well with others.

Tomorrow, there's a public "speaking" competition at school.  Entrants have the choice of signing or speaking.  This year, only a few students have entered ... but they've all chosen to speak, and we'll have an interpreter present.  I'm interested to see the kinds of reactions they get.  Will everyone focus on the content of the messages and whether they were effective in getting their points across?  Will some complain that they should have signed, even though doing so would limit the eloquence of these particular students?

I'm proud of them for having the guts to get up in front of their peers and make a formal presentation—whether in speech or sign, it's not easy.  If anyone gives them a hard time, it might be my turn to speak up.



Mindy McGinnis said...

Interesting. Not being a part of that world, I never thought about the fact that there could be fractions within it. Great post!

Jemi Fraser said...

I hope the speeches went well - public speaking requires courage!! Sounds like these kids are learning to take risks and be leaders - they're definitely on the right track!

Elisa said...

I hope none of them gets a hard time for choosing to speak. I feel horribly sad for the ones who get shunned for taking the cohclear implant path in life... you are right, those kind of issues could take a long time to explain to people who haven't ever been exposed to deaf culture.