Friday, April 11, 2014

KODA Speak

As a mother, I have a confession to make. I have not been particularly good about writing down things in Teddy's baby record book. I do have his birth-related statistics and information written down. But that is pretty much it.

As I was getting ready to graduate from high school, my mother and I put together a few scrapbooks chronicling the first eighteen years of my life. We shared funny stories as we pored through the pictures. My father filled a guided journal with his fond memories of me growing up as a part of his graduation gift to me. It was the best gift I could have ever asked for from both of my parents.

I wanted to do the same for my son, Teddy. So, I started to write brief notes here and there shortly after things would take place. It is important to me that I remember even the smallest details. If I don't write them down, I will surely forget.

During Teddy's last year in high school, my plan is to collect all of these notes I've written to date and turn them into a book about his life. The truth be told, I occassionally revisit these notes and take a journey down the memory lane. It is hard to believe that Teddy will be turning five years old this coming July!

For those who are not in the know or joining us just now, Teddy is a Kid of Deaf Adults (KODA). Which basically means that while he is hearing, both of his parents are Deaf. During the week, he attends a child care center where he is exposed to spoken and written English. Then on the weekday evenings and weekends, he is completely immersed in the Deaf world. Only time will tell whether Teddy self-identifies as a Child of Deaf Adults (CODA) or something else.

While there is a lot of literature available related to the language acquisition, bilingual education, and cognitive development of Deaf children, I discovered-to my surprise-that similar literature on KODAs is rather scant in comparison.

My husband and I simply went with our instincts and signed to Teddy ever since he was born. Besides, both of us have unintelligible speech anyways. Even though Teddy's first language is American Sign Language, he expressed a strong preference for English. I also suspect he is a strong auditory learner, which might also be a factor. However, one of my hopes for Teddy is that he be equally conversant in both languages.

After all, Teddy explained to his grandma when he was just three years old, "Mommy and Daddy talk with their hands and I talk with my mouth. And I have to try very hard."

In writing such notes about Teddy, I inadvertently documented Teddy's learning progress in both languages. After re-reading such notes, I made an interesting observation and wonder whether there might be a research-worthy nugget to be found in these notes especialy in relation to the language acquisition in KODAs.

You see, Teddy frequently mixes English and American Sign Language (ASL) similar to what one would see in Spanglish. From time to time, he chooses signs that is not correct for what he is trying to express in ASL. However, his sign choices are quite compelling and offers some insight into his inner workings.

The following are the top five most common areas that I identified for when Teddy mixes up English and ASL. Sometimes it does require some creavity on my part to understand what he is trying to say.

1. Visual and/or Conceptual Similarities.

One day, my husband and Teddy were playing and getting some quality father-son time in. Teddy came up to me and said, "I am going to creep up on Daddy!" I was caught a little bit off guard because instead of signing something that would signify a crawling action for "creep up," he signed crab. As in a physical crab found in or near the water.

But, it did make sense. He was thinking of how a crab moved across surfaces. And it does creep, after all. Brilliant.

2. Speechreading Similarities.

On July 2, 2012, I wrote the following note that I feel sums this pretty well:

"Was slightly caught off guard today. Isaac kept on signing, "Pancakes. Mommy, I want pancakes"-yet he kept on pointing to his elbow. I asked him if he wanted me to make pancakes for dinner. He said no, and insistently pointed to his elbow. He said, "I need pancakes to feel better." Suddenly, it hit me: pancakes=Band-Aids! I didn't realize that both words looked very similar on the lips!"

As a child, I went for speech therapy where I learned how to speechread as well. However, it never even occurred to me before Teddy that people who are hearing are just as capable when it comes to speechreading. After all, pancakes and Band-Aids don't sound anything alike from what I gather.

3. English "Compound" Words and ASL.

Even though the trusty dictionary defines a compound word simply as the result of two words being joined, there are compound words and then there are "compound" words.

What do you mean?

In English, there are a few compound words that I consider to be true compound words. For example, a doghouse. A doghouse is a place where a dog sleeps. It seems rather logical to me, after all.

Then there are a few words that looks like it is made up of more than one English word, but is not really a compound word. For example, carpet. Carpet has nothing to do with cars nor pets.

One day on the way home from the child care center, Isaac promptly informed me that they talked about feelings during circle time. He learned the meaning of the word, "upset." However, he did not know the sign for "upset" and signed the word for "up" and then "sad." This example is really a combination of #3 and #4 (see below).

4. Sound.

While ASL is a visual language, Teddy sometimes takes an English word and chooses a sign for another word that most closely resembles what he is trying to express based on the sound alone.

He would use the word "allowed" when saying that he is not allowed to do something. But I always have to smile every time he signs the word, "loud" instead of "allowed."

5. Incorrect Form.

This is relatively self-explanatory and is actually quite common source of confusion among anyone who is learning any language for that matter. In English, there are many uses for the word "run." It could mean a person is jogging or leading a meeting (as in "running a meeting"). It could even mean water is flowing from a faucet ("running water").

1 comment:

  1. I love this because I can see this potentially happening to Forrest. :)