They say that “to have another language is to possess a second soul”

Whoever ‘they’ are, I strongly believe that this time around, ‘they’ were right. Speaking a language other than your native language (in this case the one you grew up speaking), opens up your mind to another reality you were unacquainted with. Speaking a different language often creates a yearning for cultural immersion in the learner. A longing to experience the realities and customs reflected by the said language. It births a whole other soul that is aware and interacts with the culture of the other language. Thus, learning a new language in my opinion is hardly ever a bad investment, especially when the language is relevant.

This is one of the reasons why I chose to test the waters of sign language. I know right? For someone who enjoys writing and talking so much, why choose a language that is fundamentally built on less voice and more actions? I thought it was crazy as well, but the past 3 weeks have been an incredible and priceless learning experience for me. So, these are my thoughts after this adventure.

As I said in the first paragraph, one of the most prominent traits of a language is cultural immersion. But here comes the first intriguing thing about sign language and the deaf community to me. Do the deaf(pardon the expression because people who are hard of hearing are much different from the deaf), really have a culture?

Considering those who were born deaf, they never got the chance to be immersed in the realities of the culture they were born into. Right from the womb, the nerves connecting the eardrums ruptured, so even music and voices children usually react to in the womb was not their experience. In other words, they are born into a family that has its culture, but they are born with their own culture, one for which their parents are more often than not unprepared. The child is born with no family cultural bearings, but inadvertently uproots his/her family from the life they had been accustomed to, since they have to use the communication specificities this human being born unto them responds to.

In the case of a country like mine (I hail from Cameroon though, I hope I have mentioned this before), the parents are obviously confused, next thing, they nosedive into all possible solutions to help the child without actually understanding the disability the child will probably have to carry for the rest of his/her life. This is an awfully expensive and frustrating process for them. When all attempts seem to fail in getting quick solutions that work, they tend to hide the children at home, uneducated and not exploiting all the potential embedded in them.

Hold your reins, don’t rush into blaming  the parents and calling them names, try to step into their shoes for a minute. Most State hospitals don’t offer further assistance to parents who birth children with hearing disabilities, besides establishing the disability. The state budget does not permit further tests to be run in order to determine the extent of the disability, if it is something that warrants a hearing aid or the services of a speech-language pathology therapist. So they are left on their own, their lives turned upside down not in the best way for them in a moment when they thought they will abound with joy.

Most of the schools that offer an education to those suffering from a hearing disability are private owned and the fees are throat-cutting. They can’t afford that, and to the best of my knowledge the government has no active schools offering such special education. There is no assistance offered to parents who are even willing to communicate with these children as the number of sign language teachers across the nation pale in comparison to the needs on ground. Consequently, the children go unschooled and stay illiterates, while the parents have no support system or guidance in properly raising such a child.

This accounts for the often high rate of people with hearing disabilities involved committing small offences or misdemeanours. They were never educated on what to do and what not to do, who a citizen is, and all the things that ensue. Even a vast or complicated vocabulary is often out of their reach. It will not be an exaggeration to say that barely 20% of the deaf community in Cameroon, in this case, those born deaf are literate.

So why am I writing all of this? How is it relevant to you reading you might ask.

 We often talk a great deal about inclusion, but it seems to me that we choose which group of people are fit for our inclusion talks. It’s often racial inclusion or economic inclusion, while forgetting the elderly, those with disabilities and the list goes on. On their end, that is those with hearing disabilities, they include those who can hear in their inclusion talks. They know we don’t care about them even for a minute, we think them dumb and idiots even when we don’t voice it out. The looks and glances we cast, for people who exchange using non-verbal means, they know we remain unbothered and won’t ever waste a minute of our time trying to hold one decent conversation with them.

So it seems to me that we are the ones to include the realities of those with hearing disabilities in our lives. What if each one of us chose to learn be it only greetings in sign language? What if we worked towards having a basic discussion with one or two people suffering from such a disability. How better would our world be? Think about it.

On a final note, I do recommend the American Sign Language to pick up some relevant aspects in sign language. • ASL • American Sign Language (lifeprint.com) is a site that will provide you with multiple videos in this regard.

Be the difference you can be today.

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Gaëlle
Gaëlle
1 year ago

Thank you so much for this. I have learn Many THINGS Dear.
Keep it up.

BOUM Benjamin Alain
BOUM Benjamin Alain
1 year ago

Congratulations. So proud of you !

Ebesoh Nchapbanu
Ebesoh Nchapbanu
1 year ago

Great write up