I still get surprised on how I get asked both of these questions that are related to each other but completely contrasting at the same time by different people.
Most people assume that deaf people can’t speak (yes we can). If we do, we “speak well for a deaf person (yeah, don’t say that) or you don’t speak very well (yeah, don’t say that either).
So I share my own experiences of how come for one group of people, I do speak clearly, and for others, I don’t speak clearly.
Just be aware, on this occasion, I am mainly referring to speaking oral languages which is naturally my main language. People can still speak oral languages AND sign languages (at the end of the day, they are both communication methods but conveyed differently).
You can watch the video…
…listen to the podcast…
…or read the transcript below.
Today I’ve got two questions that I’m going to answer.
- Number one, how come I speak clearly?
- Number two, how come I don’t speak clearly?
You might think it’s weird, two questions, they’re both opposite of each other. Why am I answering both?
Well, the reason is because I get both of them quite often, and I’m speaking as someone who is deaf/hard of hearing. How come I speak clearly as a person who’s deaf/ hard of hearing? How come I don’t speak clearly and people either may or may not know that I’m deaf and hard of hearing. It just confuses people.
And I literally got one of them on YouTube recently.
Someone asked me that question and I just gave a brief explanation. But then I thought, “Okay, maybe I should do a video about it “and get it out there, “and how I can and can’t speak clearly.”
Let’s start with the first one, which is…
“How come I can speak clearly?”
1. I’m not profoundly deaf
The first and main reason is because I’m not profoundly deaf. I can’t pick up all the sound. I can’t pick up everything.
But I can pick up other things, which means that, when you grow up your brain picks up the sound and it get used to it, and then your vocal cord adapt to it and your lips adapt to it, something like that, I don’t know the science behind it!
But it kind of makes sense. You pick up those sounds, your brain gets used to it, and then you kind of get it out there via your mouth.
So, because I’m not profoundly deaf and I am able to pick up these sounds, it means that I am able to relay that via my mouth and my vocal cord and my throat.
You can also learn about what I can and can’t hear here or below:
2. Going to speech therapy
The next reason is because of going through speech therapy. And that was something that I had gone through in primary school.
And I absolutely hated it!
It’s just one of these things where I didn’t enjoy it, I thought it made me feel inadequate, it made me feel like I’m useless, you know, teaching people how to do that. At that time, as a teenager, that’s what I thought.
And you leave class early to go to these appointment, which means it brings up the attention even more. That was kind of annoying.
I didn’t do it as long as many people. A lot of deaf people, they have to go through years and years and years of speech therapy, most of the time, against their will, just to force them to be able to use oral languages when they want to use sign languages instead.
But it’s just not something that I have gone through like that. I’ve gone for, maybe, one year, I think it was? And I absolutely hated it.
So I have a lot of sympathy for those who were going through it for so many years. But maybe it has helped me. Maybe it has helped me to pick up those sounds that I’m not able to hear.
For example, I could not (and still can’t) work out the differences between the sound of S-H and C-H, like:
You pronounce it differently, but I can’t hear that from other people, because of the high frequency sound, and I couldn’t tell the difference, which means that I’ve been mispronouncing the words all the time, hence why I thought, “Okay, let’s give it a shot.”
But didn’t last long.
3. Using only oral languages help
And number three is because, obviously, oral languages is my main language. I’m learning sign language, but it’s not going to be my main language and it’s not going to be my native language either. It’s going to be oral-based languages.
So it makes sense that I practice it, I use it. You get better at it all the time, and you can just think about your own experiences.
When babies, they start learning, toddlers, they get better, and you get better and better. And you just make it seem like a natural thing for all of us. So that is why I can also speak clearly.
So, because of all that, it’s no wonder people are under the illusion that it was easy for me and it’s just, you know, a breeze, and then people are saying stuff like, “Oh, wow, you speak well for a deaf person,” which is a bit of a slap in the face as well.
Don’t say that, it’s just annoying.
And it makes it very obvious to me on why people assume that I don’t have any problems. I kind of get it, kind of get it.
But never assume. There are always stories behind why a person can and can’t speak well.
Which brings me to my next step…
“How come I can’t speak clearly?”
1. Unable to pick up all the sounds
As I said earlier, I don’t pick up all the sound very well in my ear, which mean that I don’t know how to pronounce certain words.
And that was partly why I had to go to speech therapy, and that was partly why I had trouble pronouncing certain words, because I’m not used to it when I hear it.
I still don’t.
So, because of certain sound I just could not hear when people say it, I’ve been learning words the wrong way. And because of that people just assume that I can’t speak clearly, or I have a lisp, which people say a lot, actually, “You have a lisp.”
And that made me a bit conscious, which means I have to flex my mouth.
But anyway, this is the whole point. It just means that if you can’t hear a certain sound, it’s natural that your brain is not used to it and you’re not able to kind of convey that when you want to say certain words.
So that’s one of the reasons.
2. Knowing several languages can make things complicated
Another reason why I can’t speak clearly is because I have a bit of a complicated relationship with languages, because my first language is Arabic, but my second language is English, and I had to learn that.
But then, English is now my main language, whereas my first language is my native language, but that’s not my main language, so then I have to keep switching.
And then I had to learn that second language, and I had to learn that the hard way, when you can’t hear things well.
It made things difficult, I’m not going to lie. It did make things difficult, to be able to just stick to one language when growing up, and learn that, and learn the pronunciation.
And because of that, when I then switched to speaking English, then it made it hard for me to pronounce certain words, because I hear it from other people, I learn that word, maybe you learn that word for the first time ever, and then you assume that’s how it’s pronounced, and it’s just stuck in your head.
And you just, that’s it, you’re kind of almost stuck with it.
So, that is my own personal experience. Not everyone go through that, but it does have an impact on the clarity of my speech.
3. Non-stop moving and relocating doesn’t help
Throughout most of my life I’ve moved a lot, from one country to another, from one city to another. But if I just focus on the UK, I grew up in Northern Ireland and I’ve lived in Scotland.
And then I went to England for university, two universities. And then I moved back to Scotland. And you’ve been around different people, you hear different sound, different things.
And you pick up different accents as well. So I don’t know what my accent is, sometimes it’s one, sometimes another. When I speak to one, it’s one accent. When I speak to another, it’s another accent. Just the way it is.
But, again, it’s just the way my brain process sound, and the action. And you mispronounce words again, sometimes.
Certain accents are hard to pronounce, you know, it’s hard to hear them, and hard to even work out what they’re saying. Again, it’s just a complicated thing that I had to live with, and I grew up with. To some extent I still struggle with that.
But it does have an impact on the clarity of my speech, and I just have to live with it, really.
And being in Scotland right now, it’s kind of a different challenge, because, again, even in Scotland alone, if I travel to a different part of Scotland, again, it makes it hard sometimes for me to pick up the sound.
So, yeah, that was part of a process for me, in terms of my clarity of speaking.
4. Being picked on didn’t help
And the final reason is because of my experiences of being picked on.
I have been picked on for that. I have been going through moments in school and university, even, to some extent, some jobs I had, I’ve been picked on on that. And it’s not easy, because then you feel very apprehensive about even speaking up again, in groups or even one-on-one.
I just thought, “You know what? “I’m not going to bother, “I’m going to save myself the hassle to go through that.” I just wanted to protect myself by just keeping quiet.
And when you do that, then it just mentally affects you. You are kind of focusing on that, and you’re focusing on the weakness of what you have, and you just hold down and hold it back, and you just don’t want to speak up anymore.
And that has affected me to some extent, because it made me nervous about just speaking, in general.
It definitely played a part in school, in university, in jobs, because I do feel like it has held me back. When you don’t speak up and don’t share your opinion or your stories, or your thoughts, then people just don’t really notice that you are there.
And even if there are moments where I should have spoken up about certain things and I didn’t want to, it’s because of these things, of these experiences.
It held me back so I (felt) had to keep quiet about it. And that has held me back in my academic and professional career. But over time you get older, you get wiser, you just learn to go through it. And then, over time, I thought, you know what, to all those who thought that I just couldn’t do it…screw you.
I’m doing it now, I’m speaking now. And because of these experiences, maybe it helped me, but what I also do, obviously, is:
All of these things have given me the ability to just get it out there, practise and be aware of it, having a self-awareness of how you speak to people, that’s important.
So it gave me the ability to practise a lot. And that’s why I just sort of put myself out to it and throw it out there. And again, for those people who don’t like my voice, who complained about lisp and speech impediment… screw you. I’m not going anywhere!
It’s still challenging, though.
Don’t get me wrong, I still have this trouble to this day, I still mispronounce words and mis-sayings, and just have these moments where I just don’t know what to say, and I just mumble my way through it. I still have that.
Whether that will ever go away or not…I don’t know.
But I’d like to think that I am better than before, when I was in school and high school and university. And I would like to think that over time I will get better.
And that’s why, if anyone has gone through same experience as I do, I don’t want it to let it you hold you back.
At the end of the day, whatever’s your main language, that is your main language. I’m not saying you have to be oral to be able to get ahead in life and to be able to have a successful life.
No, I’m not saying that. I’m just saying about how, even sometimes in sign language, if you’re not very clear on that, if you think that it’s holding you back because it’s not as natural as other people, don’t give up. Don’t give up, because it will get better over time.
You will not be native, and maybe not as perfect as other people who are native at it, but if you can get to as close to native as possible, then isn’t that an amazing thing to have?
Don’t give up. Please don’t give up.
If there’s something that affects you, let me know in the comments, I would love to hear your experiences. It’s just something I thought I’d get out there, so that next time people ask me, here are the reasons.
And take it or leave it.
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And I’m going to go in a bit more detail about this whole situation of having speech impediment and lisp, and going through speech therapy and how that made me feel. I’ll go in a bit more detail. If you want to learn more about my experiences, just check out my Patreon page.
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And there we have it. If you ever why I can or can’t speak clearly, then this is the perfect video for you. Hopefully that makes sense.
And let me know what you think.
Is this something that you have experience with?
Is there something else that you want to share, your own story?
Let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear from other people’s experiences. And if you want to do it privately as well, you can contact me via my website and email.
But, you know, if people share it publicly, it’s great, because then you can learn from each other’s experiences. I think it’s always a good thing.
In the meantime, I will speak to you again soon.
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- Deafness as a ‘hidden/invisible disability’ - October 6, 2021