As someone who loves languages and has learn to speak a few in various fluency levels, I have decided that I am never going to learn oral languages again. This is primarily because of the challenges of learning them as a deaf person.
It’s a huge shame that I fully agree with the concept of learning languages to everyone as it has opened my mind to many parts of the world, people and culture.
However, I do have an alternative solutions…sign language.
You can watch the video below…:
…listen to the podcast…:
…or read the transcript.
All my life, I’ve been a huge fan of languages in general.
You might not know that my first language is actually Arabic, but my main language that every day I use and speak is English. But then I’ve also taught myself Spanish. And that was a fun journey for me and I have a lot of Spanish-speaking friends.
And then there was a period where I lived in Berlin for a year and I attempted to learn German and that was good fun. And then eventually sign language and this is where I’m on a sign language journey a well.
The thing is, there was a point along that journey where I realised, “you know what? I don’t think I will ever learn oral languages ever again”, and I’m going to explain why that is.
My language learning journey
Of course, while I explain my story to you, you may as well do the things that I would love for you to do, like Follow, Like, Subscribe Heart…everything, whatever it is that you’re doing, whatever platform that you’re listening on or watching on, just make sure you do all these things as I start to explain the story behind it, my journey of learning languages and why I’m going to stop learning oral languages and just focus on sign language.
An really focus on when I was learning English, that was a thing for me, what I had to have special lessons in class because I just don’t have the articulation. I needed to learn in a different way. I have to learn how to hear certain sounds. And I remember I struggled to hear a difference between ‘SH’ and ‘CH’. For example, “sheep” and “cheap”. I don’t really hear the difference between the two. And that was something that I had to have lip kind of training on, a speech therapy on, and that was annoying and hard.
And then even after that, I wanted to learn Spanish. I taught myself and I started to notice that even though I’ve learnt a lot and I can speak and read it comfortably. But then there was a threshold that I couldn’t get past because it was very hard to listen to people eventually. And I’ll explain more about that in a minute, but I felt like I couldn’t continue having conversations in Spanish.
And then the next step when I wanted to learn German because I was living in Germany at the time, that was another challenge. It’s a different kind of language.
And again, it’s just about listening part; it was really, really hard for me, for obvious reasons. If you have been reading, watching or listening to me, you know that I will struggle to hear things. The big challenge in whatever language I choose to communicate in is the listening part.
It’s hard to listen in English. It’s harder to listen to other languages
It’s hard enough in English, but when it comes to other languages like Spanish or German…phew, it’s another level because it requirs a lot more cognitive energy in your head, which is to first of all, receive the word in your head, then you translate it into your head, then translate it again from your native language into the language that you’re going to speak in, and then you obviously communicate it.
All of these require so much energy, but we’ve talked about the whole topic of concentration fatigue and how listening is just a tiring thing for many people who are deaf to do. It’s just hard work.
So when I say I’m sick of listening to people, it’s not because I’m sick of listening to the people who are speaking (unless they are saying something stupid, then yes I am sick of listening to the people). But what I’m really saying is the physical action of listening; it’s so hard work. It requires a lot of energy and then you become mentally exhausted and then that concentration fatigue would hit you hard.
And I remember I attempted that many times when I am with my Spanish-speaking friend and I remembered I was having a conversation okay. It was hard work and exhausting but then I remembered when we change environment and you go into somewhere which is noisy and you have that background noise…oh man, the concentration fatigue is another level. The listening energy required is a whole other level. It’s so exhausting.
And that was a real struggle for me.
And gradually I just realised, “you know what? Maybe I should just not learn oral languages anymore”. I will learn the basic stuff if I’m on holiday. I want to learn the basic words here and there. That is fine.
But if I want to be fluent at it, should I bother? Probably not. It’s so hard to be able to become fluent when the listening part is hard because at the end of the day, you want to communicate. That’s why we have languages. That’s why you want to learn, isn’t it? To communicate with other people.
But that’s challenging when it comes to the listening part for me.
It’s really annoying, and I remembered I felt really upset when I came to that conclusion and I came to a realisation that it might be almost impossible for me to have a proper fluent conversation because of the listening and energy required. The amount of effort you have to get to that level is more effort than most people would have.
If you are of hearing and you have the hearing of a normal hearing person, then you’re not going to have the same struggle as people who have moderate, severe, profound, obviously…ou’re not going to have the same challenge. And it was so hard for me to accept that because I genuinely do love languages. I have good friends in those countries where they speak non-English and I’m not expecting them to speak English (even though they want to learn English), but I want to learn their language.
But that was really hard. So I’m going to attempt to get over the communication barrier when I go on holiday. The current level of Spanish that I’m speaking is fine and it could be better, but I’m not sure if I’m going to do more.
German, it’s unlikely that I’m going to learn that and any other language, which is why I’m focusing more of my energy on sign language. And obviously at the moment I’m learning British Sign Language. And I feel like if I am at a level where I’m very comfortable with it, I’m tempted to learn other sign language.
But I can learn sign language instead
So it’s not like it’s completely lost: “I will never learn a language again”. Sign language is a normal language like any other language around the world, and that is something I feel like I will be focusing on more in the future and there’s nothing wrong with that.
I just I wish there was an encouragement to learn sign language, even if it’s just for fun, for lessons, for basic qualifications at school…Something. Just to plant that seed; I wish there was more of an encouragement to learn sign language at school because I learnt French and that’s another language I had to learn to get the qualification to get past high school.
But what’s wrong with sign language? And that’s why I’m a big believer of the campaign where they are encouraging people and the Education Board to teach sign language and be able to communicate with people in the same country who are learning those languages and that would be great. What’s wrong with that?
And it makes me wonder if I had learnt that from school, if I had that seed planted in my head, where would I be right now in terms of my level of fluency in ansign d language? We’ll never know, but it’s never too late to learn.
But for future generations, there are so many benefits to learning sign languages, maybe alongside other languages. Fine! But come on, it makes sense. And that is a shame that we still have to fight for that to happen in school today.
That my general story about why I’m, most likely, will never learn another language again. I might improve existing one just out of curiosity or for fun. And that’s just part of it.
But I would love to know if you had a similar experience. Does that apply to you? Does it makes sense to you? And have you ever felt like you were let down because you can’t learn a language again, but you were forced to learn sign language? What are your experiences?
I’d love to hear your thoughts about it, because this is my own. It doesn’t apply to everyone. It would be great to hear your own.
Let me know in a comment below. Thank you for checking this out. And don’t forget to do all the following and the liking and the hearing and the subscribing and the everything that you can do to support this channel.
In the meantime, I will speak to you again soon.
- 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