Monday, 16 February 2015

Deaf Girly and foreign languages

I am still grinning from the great weekend that I just had.

I went to Rotterdam (or anywhere) to watch the tennis with FJM, saw Big Bro and also caught up with Fab Friend.

Rotterdam is an amazing city with the most bonkers architecture including Cube Houses that you can actually go inside – a museum one anyway – which left FJM and I feeling more than a little seasick. Your eyes don't know which way is up as none of the angles makes sense.

On Saturday we set off to explore Rotterdam and the first thing we stumbled upon was Markthal – an amazing market hall full of food from all over the world. The building itself was pretty impressive, too.

There I discovered they sold Turkish simit – something I've had a 10-year long obsession with. It's the most amazing bread ever. I love it so much, I even once tried to make it but it went a bit wrong, exploded and started leaking out of the oven while cooking.

But that's a whole other story – and one that's probably in documented on this blog somewhere.

Anyway, one of the things that amazes me about Dutch people is how amazing they all are at speaking English. Everyone can speak English to you. But I feel guilty about this. It seems wrong that you are in another country and making people speak English to you.

So I did try to say thank you and stuff in my limited Dutch, but I have a feeling my pronunciation was so terrible they probably just thought I was saying something random in English.

I love languages and while I find them quite easy to learn on paper, I don't find them easy to speak or understand when spoken. Indeed, my knowledge of French is still quite good, but I cannot lipread it, which means it doesn't matter how much vocab I have, I will still never hear what a French person is saying to me, unless I learn to lipread in French.

It's not impossible. It will just take time. Time to learn how the the different words, vowels and patterns look while at the same time piecing together the different language to work out what is being said.

In my 20s I spent quite a lot of time going to Turkey with Sharkira Shakira. In Turkey, not everyone speaks English, so I thought I would learn Turkish, first with SS's help and then with a book that I worked my way through. And while I learnt the grammar and vocab, I promise you, I could not get to the end of a sentence without the person I was saying it to bursting out laughing.

'What are you laughing at?' I asked SS one day as she wiped away the tears of hysteria.

And apparently, I had learnt Turkish gangster style. My pronunciation of the language made me sound like, as SS put it, a Turkish wide boy. She suggested I added the word 'innit' at the end of my sentences to help. I was not amused.

I persevered with Turkish and on going on holiday to a place where there were no English people at all, I was able to use it a bit more. But still, people burst out laughing at the sound of a blonde English girl speaking gangster Turkish.

I wish there was a way around the pronunciation and lipreading challenge. But the problem is, I have enough trouble pronouncing words from my own language and still don't get the lipreading right either, and that's with 30-odd years of practice.

In the meantime however, it can't hurt to practice. So I'm just off to have a go at some beginners Dutch on the DuoLingo website so that when I am next in Rotterdam (or anywhere) I can give it a go, hopefully without people laughing at me.

Happy Monday peeps.


Thursday, 12 February 2015

Deaf Girly and her skiing lover

This week, I haven't been wearing my hearing aids. I've been enjoying the comfort of my new glasses without the additional hardware behind my ears. And mostly I've got by OK.

But there have been some noticeable times when I've struggled – mainly in shops at the till when paying. It's been so long since I've struggled with this that I'd kind of forgotten how hard it used to be – the 'Would you like a bag?' question, the random conversation they've been told to make by management, the payment chit-chat and the where-the-heck-I-want-them-to-put-the-receipt conundrum.

With my hearing aids, I tend not to have too much trouble with this.

Today however, was an absolute car crash of mishearing. In Uniqlo, I'm surprised I managed to get out of there without my face exploding in a big red embarrassed mess, while in Marks & Spencer, I tried to plan ahead as much as possible about what I might be asked and still didn't get it right. And then I started to flap, and I almost walked straight out of Oliver Bonas with an empty bag after I hadn't realised they were still gift wrapping what I had bought. And no one thought my strange behaviour was because of my deafness, they all just thought I was totally bonkers. Which actually is highly probable on reflection.

One good thing to come out of this is that not wearing my hearing aids this week has really made me appreciate what they give me when I do wear them – often without really noticing. They take my 2D world and make it 3D and they also remove a lot of the angst involved in everyday tasks that I experience without them.

And I can honestly say that I will NOT be going shopping without my hearing aids again. There's only so many times a shop assistant can repeat a question without both you and them wanting to curl up into a ball and die.

No more so than a few weeks ago when I was skiing – without hearing aids as I get feedback in my helmet – and went to the ski hire shop to get some skis. The man had a strong French accent and was a bit grumpy looking.

'What's your lover?' he said, as I tried to stay upright in my newly tightened ski boots.

'My what?' I said, looking at him in panic.

'Your lover,' he said, adding a Gallic shrug for good measure.

I looked blank.

'Your skiing lover! Tell me your skiing lover?' he continued, looking at me like I was a complete moron.

I went through the word again and again in my head, replacing bits of it to see if I got a more feasible word and eventually cracked it.

'My skiing level?' I asked.

Yes I'd got it eventually but not before he and everyone around me thought I was a total moron.

So if you ever serve me in a shop and I look like a rabbit caught in headlights every time you say something, I promise you I am not stupid, I am just deaf. And overwhelmed. And still blushing from the skiing lover mix-up thing.

Happy Thursday peeps.


Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Deaf Girly and modern technology

Today I was able to do the most fabulous thing – chat to one of my best friends Miss K who lives in South Africa over FaceTime and, with the help of my pink POP phone handset, I was able to follow everything.

Amazing huh?

What I am a bit horrified about however, is that Miss K has lived in South Africa for three years now and that was the first time I had FaceTimed her. You see, after spending most of my adult life unable to use the phone, I still forget that I can call people over FaceTime and actually 'hear' (OK, lipread) them, thanks to the perfectly matched picture and sound.

I am still amazed that I can follow what is going on, after years of simply pretending.

For example, when I was a teenager, one of my good friends used to call me on the phone on my birthday every year for a chat. He was from Kent and had a very strong accent that I found hard enough to understand in person, let alone on the telephone. He'd call up and we'd chat for an hour, with me guessing the whole time what he might be saying. By the end of the hour I was absolutely exhausted and also slightly nervous that I'd said something random, answered something wrong, or he thought I was completely mad. I have no idea why I didn't just not have that phone call with him. But that was back in the 90s when email wasn't the norm and I was still years away from getting my first mobile phone.

Looking back, I cannot imagine how I would have got by as an adult in the 90s. With crap internet and the main form of communication for everyone being the phone. I think there would have been a massive chance that I would have lost contact with a lot of people. Or just had totally misunderstood phone conversations with them a lot of the time.

I feel so lucky that I live in a time where technology makes things easier. Where restaurants and hair appointments can be booked online, where texts can be sent in the place of phone calls and emails are a perfectly acceptable. Where I can call my friend, over the internet and lipread what she is saying for free. Where there are apps for song lyrics, subtitles on most things and a world where I know longer have to fight with plugging in the caption reader.

Anyone else end up in a rage about the amazing puzzle of wires needed to get those words up on the screen?

I can still remember the look of horror on my friends' parents' faces when I showed up for sleepovers armed with my Caption Reader and proceeded to trash their carefully set up TVs just so I could watch a video. And even then you had to make sure that the video in question had the CC symbol on the side, which back in the 90s was also a rarity.

I think that also explains why I don't really watch movies. I forget that I can. They never really became an integral part of my life. I'm missing a huge chunk of movie education. And the last new release I saw at the cinema was Sex & The City 2.

So I've made a pact with myself. I'm going to remind myself that modern technology makes lots of things possible that I forget about. I'm going to FaceTime more, watch movies with subtitles more and generally see if  I can embrace all the things I learnt to live without but no longer need to.

I'm on a mission.

Starting with another FaceTime conversation with Miss K very soon.