As much as I love languages, I have mentioned previously about how I’m never learning oral languages again. But I’ve still got some stories to share about my experiences of learning them, like the one time I was learning French in high school.
Even though I managed to get through, it wasn’t without its unique challenges that comes with listening to other people speaking in French. And that became a problem during exam times.
You can learn about my story by watching the video below:
…listening to the podcast below or on a platform of your choice…:
…or read the transcripts instead.
Today, I want to share with you a story of how I had to go through the process of learning French in high school…as a deaf person. It’s a different challenge, and I’ve done a separate video about the challenges of learning oral languages in the first place and why I’m never going to learn another oral language ever again. Check it out below, where I explain more.
But really, I want to explain a journey that I had to go through in high school when it comes to learning French.
I share my journey, as I share my story, why don’t you continue to click on Like, Subscribe, Follow, Heart…whatever it is, do all of these things as I explain to you the journey of when I had to learn French in high school.
And long story short, the process of learning a language is extremely difficult because of the listening part.
Now, when you’re learning French, I remember there are many areas that you have to learn; which is the reading part, the writing part, the listening part (huh!), and then there’s the oral part, which is where you speak it.
And those were all challenges in itself.
So the reading and the writing are just as challenging as anyone else learning it. And I had the same situation as other people. Nothing wrong with it there.
But it’s really about the whole listening part and the oral part, because back in those days (Oh, I sound so old!), but anyway, back in those days, I remembered the teacher and she was speaking in French and she is French herself and she had the accent. And that was challenging for me to try to learn those new accent.
It’s very hard because when you are used to learning a language and you’re hearing it in a certain way and then you grew up with that, you are so used to it. Now when you’re deaf, it’s another level of difficulty, because the sound is different, the melody different, the vocabulary and the way you connect those the letters, they are all different.
So I had that challenge of listening to her and understand what she’s saying and that was very tough. And the other tough part, again, back in those days, I remembered cassettes were used to just illustrate scenarios like in a restaurant or at a supermarket, when there are people speaking in French.
The cassette was being played to just tell a story and you have to follow along and be able to answer the question relating to that. Now, of course, for those who were not around when cassette was a big thing, if you don’t know what a cassette is, they are rectangular thing that you put inside a device so that you can listen to music, and that was before these CDs.
Oh, CDs were the round things that you put in where you can listen to music, download software.
Anyway, you get my point, and I remember specifically that cassettes in general were very bad quality audio, even more so when in those situations the scenario that would be played on the tape, the audio was awful. It’s not like there were microphones involved. It just in a noisy environment and that it is also without any lipreading of course, so that’s another challenge; to listen to cassette with bad audio, in another language, where you can’t lip read and also you’re not always told what the scenario is. You have to kind of work out.
Whereas, if you know what is the story prior to that conversation, you will get an idea of going on. Not completely, but it’s a bit better.
So I remember I had all of these challenges when it comes to learn French in five years of high school, getting to that qualification. And I remember as well, during the exam process/the exam period.
Now the normal situation in those days where I had to be able to like everyone at the class, to listen to the tape and work out what it said and be able to answer the questions.
Obviously, I had a massive disadvantage at doing that. So I was lucky that I did not have to do that. And it was really down to my parents, my mother especially, who talked to the teacher and said, “this is not really fair. Is there anything we can do to make it more acceptable” for me. And they were able to do that. And what happened was I was able to have that face-to-face listening exam.
So I was able to lip read and look at my teacher and be able to follow along better.
Of course, still, there are going to be challenges when it comes to listening to her. But I was able to have that better audio in terms of face-to-face, the room was quiet and be able to answer my listening exams question. That was good.
And then obviously the oral part was always going to be face-to-face, thankfully. But that was ideal for me because for me to be able to communicate and converse in French, I want to be able to listen to other person speaking to me while lipreading as well and that was very, very important.
And I was lucky to have that experience because I do wonder what is it like now or before for those who are deaf, for those who are hard of hearing, late-deafened, whatever you are; when you had to learn languages at school, what was that like? I’d love to know from your experience, let me know in the comments.
Even in general, if you are hearing, let me know what you thought of those experiences anyway? Does it work for you? Hmm…
But thankfully, I had the exception and it did make things easier for me. I felt like it is more comfortable for me to be able to follow along. But like I said, I’ve talked about it in another video; but the process of learning a language is so so hard for people who are deaf because it requires a lot more cognitive energy from start to finish. From the listening part and then you are translating like everyone else do. And then you converse.
But the actual listening of that language, you’re working extra hard to listen. You’re working extra hard to then work out what is said, translate it and convert or write it down, whatever. It’s very hard. And thankfully, I passed my French exam, I’m quite pleased with because it was very, very challenging for me. But I managed to do that and that was my experience.
And I do wonder, what is it like today. Is it the same thing at all? Do people learn whatever language it is at school, is it the same process?
Is it like…I’m guessing not a cassette tape because I haven’t seen one of those for like decades…But is it a similar scenario? Is it online? Is it a video being played, and you can watch that?
Is it more about following along in a different format than being able to listen on tape? I’m very curious to know, what is it like at school today? Again, let me know in a comment. It’d be great to hear those experiences.
And that was it. That was my experience. And it wasn’t easy, but somehow I survived. And even after all of that, I’m not going to learn oral languages again. I think it’s just too much hard work. Not because of the hard work required to learn it. It’s just the listening part; it requires a lot of energy.
At the end of the day, I love languages. I’m learning British Sign Language and I would like to, in the future, learn other sign languages. I don’t know what that will be, but it’s fun. It’s interesting and they are important. Languages are important and there are no one language that is more important than the other.
They all had their own purposes, their own reasons, their own values. And that’s what I want to do. I want to learn languages. It just oral language…? Challenging, very, very challenging, and that comes from someone who has learnt Spanish as well, knows Arabic, with basic German, knows basic Portuguese.
It’s just too much for me now. So I’m going to focus on sign language.
And that is it. Let me know what you think again in the comment. And of course, make sure you Like, Subscribe, Follow, Heart…All of these things. It would really mean a lot to me.
In the meantime, I will speak to you again soon. Take care!
- What is ‘audism’? Plus my personal experiences of facing audism - October 27, 2021
- ‘CODA’ movie review: my thoughts on the latest deaf movie to be released - October 13, 2021
- Deafness as a ‘hidden/invisible disability’ - October 6, 2021
Tony NIcholas says
Dunno if I’ve mentioned this before, but seeing as you are learning BSL, bear in mind, you will be halfway to learn Auslan [Australian Sign Language] and NZSL [New Zealand Sign Language, which share many common signs… *thumbs up*
Ahmed Khalifa says
You are absolutely right. It does excite me that I am able to understand some Auslan (never watched any videos with NZSL yet). Once I can better my BSL first, I may look at other sign languages and the two you’ve mentioned are both very viable options.