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Deaf Awareness Exercise

I was asked to suggest an exercise for a Deaf Awareness session. These were my thoughts:

I’m thinking about your deaf awareness exercise question. It’s a toughie isn't it, because in fact what you want to say (presumably) is that all your expectations about what it is like to be prelingually profoundly deaf are probably wrong. That is, it is not about LOSS but about being in a linguistic minority. It might be fun to have them do an exercise which is deliberately set up to generate wrong answers (such as, in groups to brainstorm what it would be like to be born deaf. Some responses would be accurate but many would be based upon loss, or missing music or birdsong – the usual hearing stuff) – but THEN to have them do the same exercise but to imagine what it is like living in Shanghai with a population of fifteen English speaking people. Because THAT is more akin to the Deaf experience. Limited access to information, daily communication breakdown, having to be friends with the LIMITED selection of English speaking people despite them being possibly not your type – while also feeling a very real sense of community with those people, people endlessly trying to get you to speak and understand Mandarin even though it is not your first language.

The best school for such people is an English-speaking school with English-language textbooks, teaching all the normal subjects in English but additionally teaching Mandarin. It wouldn’t be teaching all the normal subjects in Mandarin because ‘it is important that you have as much exposure to Mandarin as possible, even at the expense of your education’.

Would it?

Being born Deaf is like being born without ESP. You don’t miss it. Until everyone starts insisting you try to develop a sixth sense and then you start to feel deficient and disabled.


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