Life in progress


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Hearing world – #AtoZ Challenge

Deaf people have to survive in a hearing world. This is a fact. If there are such things as Deaf stores, and Deaf hospitals, I don’t know of them. There are, of course, Deaf people working in public service positions–my bank has a Deaf teller–but it’s uncommon.

As the parent of a Deaf child who is growing up and will one day, hopefully, be independent, the fact that my son will out alone in a society that views him as different, is a concern for me. Alex is at a disadvantage, having not grown up exposed to his first language as most children are. Immersion into American Sign Language didn’t happen, and so by the time he reached the Deaf school that he now attends, he was years behind many of his peers. But at the same time he has an advantage. He’s already learned how to communicate, somewhat, with the hearing. He has an innate understanding that he needs to demonstrate what he wants without being able to verbalize. He has adapted.

On the flip side, I remember a story that my ASL teacher told us when I was in my third year of classes. He was the only Deaf member of his family. He told us of family gatherings and dinners when he was a child and through his teenage years when he would sit and eat, and no one would talk to him. They were all busy yammering away; he said he felt completely isolated. Consequently, he moved away–right out of the province–and had stayed away since. I can’t say he hated his family, but he seemed extremely bitter.

I fear this happening to Alex. I try my best to translate for him during dinners, but it’s difficult. First, keeping up with the conversation in ASL when my vocabulary isn’t up to par, and second, signing with a knife and fork in my hands. Despite this, he seems well-adjusted. I do what I can to make sure he’s included, at least in discussions that concern him. It’s more difficult when I’m talking with someone about something that doesn’t – with hearing kids, boring adult talk is naturally tuned out. Again, he’s at a disadvantage – if he was part of a Deaf family, he’d know to ignore it without having to be told it doesn’t concern him. On my end, I’m constantly saying to him, “It’s nothing.” I can only hope that he can tell by my body language and facial expression that I’m being sincere, and not just dismissing him as unimportant.

Alex, 2009. His usual charming self.

My A to Z theme concerns the joys and challenges of being the hearing mother of my Deaf son, Alex. To learn more about his beginnings in life, click here to go to my first A to Z entry.


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Facts of Life – #AtoZ Challenge

When learning any language, we start with the basics, introducing ourselves, explaining where we live, etc. Then we begin to learn the names of things so we can ask for them. All of this is fairly straightforward. But when we learn a new language, we’re normally doing it for ourselves, for travel or to communicate with a native speaker. We’re not usually learning it in order to teach a child his or her first language.

While pointing and naming is all well and good, children ask why things are the way they are. It’s practical. How do we know the difference between the consequences of stealing a cookie versus running out into the middle of a busy intersection? Hopefully not by experience. Obviously, the consequences of getting hit by a car was something I learned to communicate to Alex early on. But what about the more innocent stuff?

Why is the sky blue? How do wireless electronics work? Why is this Russian/Korean/Indian show on my laptop but it’s not on TV, like The Price is Right is? (He watches shows from all over the world; spoken language is of no consequence to him.) I have no way to answer many of his questions, short of becoming completely fluent in Sign Language. The closest place to receive such an education is in Toronto (Ontario, Canada), which is too far to commute to, to take classes I have neither the time nor the money for at the moment.

I might have advanced my education more after Alex was born, but the courses in Ottawa only went to a certain level. On top of that, we lived in the Province of Quebec – a province that has its own Sign Language (Langue des signes du Québec). Finding a professional to teach Alex American Sign Language in Quebec was next to impossible, and the only Deaf school for children in Ottawa teaches LSQ. So we packed up and moved to Ontario, to a city with a school whose primary language is ASL.

I do hope to learn more Sign someday. For now, I’m doing the best I can with help from his teachers.

My A to Z theme concerns the joys and challenges of being the hearing mother of my Deaf son, Alex. To learn more about his beginnings in life, click here to go to my first A to Z entry.


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NanoPoblano Day 3 – Where am I?

Getting lost in Japan, as you know if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, is one of my favourite things to do. Knowing this even before I went there last December, I learned what I thought was a helpful phrase:

Koko desu ka? (ko-ko dess ka)

Where am I? Or, directly translated, means “where is here?” Since it is assumed when speaking in Japanese that you’re speaking about yourself, the “I” is not necessary. Makes sense so far, right? HA! I have had more strange looks asking this question than I got that time I told someone “I have woman” in French.* Ask a Japanese person “Koko desu ka?” and you will invariably be blessed with a facial expression that says, “Is this a trick question?” Perhaps it’s because people there don’t walk around carrying maps, though I seriously doubt it considering how difficult it is to find anything. Actually, the Japanese love maps. Probably because they can’t find anything.

Conclusion: Carry a GPS.

*In French, if you’re hungry, you say “J’ai faim” which directly translated means “I have hunger.” If you pronounce the word “faim” as “femme,” which means “woman,” people will look in your backpack.

Nano Poblano is fun! Check out some more posts at Rarasaur’s blog!