Hearing people praising speech of Deaf people

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This document presents the thoughts of two Deaf persons about hearing persons praising the good speech of some deaf persons. Read those thoughts to understand why this behavior is considered offensive by several Deaf persons.

"You must be very smart because you can talk very well."

Some hearing people voluntarily told me that my speech was very good compared with other Deafies such as "Oh, you must be very smart because you can talk very well.", "Why can't other Deaf people speak like you?", "I can't understand your Deaf friend's voice". And I nearly VOMITED. I take it as an ignorance or insensitivity as if they see a white sheet around me but a cut-hole for ear(deafness).

Of course, I had to straighten them out that it is not a complimentary and comparing with other deaf people's oral skills is very unfair and sickening and it is very wrong to judge the d/Deaf's intellectual level by how good their oral skills are. I admit that some of my hearing family members have made some of these remarks. Boy, I was tempted to jump on them and stuff their mouth with soaps!

(Contributed by Robert Rourke robert.rourke@inet.hq.usace.army.mil at 27 Mar 1995.)

The "OH that's wonnnnnderrrrffulllll!" Syndrome

I must advise people to beware of the "OH that's wonnnnnderrrrffulllll!" syndrome. This is not something which I'm pinning on the audist profession. In fact, it happens EVERYWHERE in the deaf world.

In a pro-Deaf residential school, I saw a fourteen year old able to read third grade material, and a lot of people were saying "oh thats wonderful!" Bullshit. It sucks. With the CI, I saw a young implanted boy on TV able to mumble "ba-ba" and nothing else. What were they saying? You guessed it: "oh, thats wonderful!" Bullshit again.

Its time we all took a reality check.

Encouragement, praise, and continued striving for another level are very important, but going overboard with false praise can be damaging.

I'm thinking of the guy who gave a lecture at Gallaudet a few years ago... he claimed to be a successful oralist, but when he spoke at Gallaudet, his own interpreter (who had to translate his voice into sign for the deaf audience) could be seen struggling hard to understand what he was saying. Hearing people in the audience were grimacing. Yet this guy claimed to be a successful oralist with a clear, easily understood voice.

Years of "oh that's wonderful" brainwashed him into thinking that way. Okay, Im gonna get off my soapbox for now, but I would really like to know how many implanted kids are bona fide successes (and what "success" implies) and how many are really just getting the "oh that's wonderful" treatment.

(Contributed by Mark 'Deffman' Drolsbaugh at 11 Jun 1995.)

My Speech is My Pet Peeve

On Wed, 22 Mar 1995, stephen white wrote:

"I've just finished a successful exhibition show where my creation, ADAM Internet, was exhibited to 15,000 people. There were over 100 other companies there (Apple, Telecom, Compaq, etc), but ADAM got the highest profile and won Best Exhibition of the show.

"For days afterwards, people who met me at the show were sending mail to my mother saying that I have beautiful speech. One of them is a voice-over professional. It seems that my slight deaf accent is "exotic" rather than flat and boring as I had thought. That was good for me to hear! :)"

Omer Zak responded:

This reinforces the perception which I hate: that the only criteria for the worth of a deaf person is the quality of his/her speech. Nothing else counts. Not finishing the Technion at top 2% of class. Not being innovative worker. Not holding a successful exhibition. Not leading happy social life. Not having a paying occuption. All those do not count. Only the quality of one's speech counts. This is the only subject worthy of discussion in polite company.

(Contributed by Omer Zak at 23 Mar 1995)

Praising Speech is not Equal to Praising Sign

Stephen white asked a good question:

Why is it bad to be told that you have beautiful speech, but it's good to be told that you have beautiful sign?

Omer Zak's answer is:

Intrinsically, it is not bad to be told that one has beautiful speech (or, for that matter, be told that one has beautiful sign). However, when viewed in the wider context of Oral vs. Sign Battle, being told that one has beautiful sign is neutral. But sometimes teachers encouraged deaf students to continue the Oral route by complimenting them that they have beautiful voices. There is the story of the woman who was orally educated, and was model for all to behold thanks to her excellent voice. After graduation she found her voice to be useless in daily life outside of school and refused to use voice ever since.

There is also the ambiguity which happens when a deaf person is told he has beautiful voice. Is it relative to hearing people or relative to other people with similar level of deafness?

(Contributed by Omer Zak at 23 Mar 1995)

Parents find praised children to be burdensome

It was noticed that in some boarding schools of deaf students, several students were extremely unhappy about having to go home for winter break and summer break. Usually this happened because parents avoided communication with them in spite of whatever speech and lipreading training they received.

Those students were led by their teachers to believe that were terrific oral successes. But, in the real world outside of the sheltered school environment, hearing people (including their parents) found their speech tedious to follow at best, or unintelligible at worst.

Last update date: 
1996 Sep 21