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3 Tips for Learning a Language With Hearing Loss

Learning a Language With Hearing Loss
All my life I have been interested in different cultures and languages.

This stemmed from my passion to travel. When I go to a new place I am fascinated by the way people communicate. Despite my interest in languages, I have always  faced a fear of learning languages. When I took classes in school it was difficult for me to keep up with the curriculum and I couldn’t rely on other methods I use to listen in class such as lip-reading. The experience lowered my confidence and instilled a fear in me of learning a new language.

I didn’t want to give up, so after I graduated university I signed up for a French class. I chose a class that was specifically for continuing education meaning that it didn’t count as a credit or a grade. This took a lot of pressure off, but I was still terribly nervous! I have been in the class for five months now and it can be really challenging, but I still love it.

I feel much more confident now and even though it takes me longer to learn than the others in my class, I am still learning a ton.

Here are three tips for learning a new language if  you are hard of hearing:

Speak up!

If you are taking a class, don’t be afraid to ask a question or ask your teacher or classmate a question or to repeat themselves. I usually need to hear a word multiple times in order to hear the sounds making up the word. Chances are that your question will help others in the class too! It may be best to tell your teacher and classmates that you are hard of hearing, so they understand that you may require extra accommodations. For extra support, bring your FM system or a hearing accessory.

Discover the best resource for you

There are a plethora of resources out there to help teach languages. Different resources are good for different aspects of learning a language such as listening, writing and  improving vocabulary.

In class your teacher is a great resource. Ask your teacher to write all the words down and slowly repeat them. This method will allow you to hear the sound of each letter individually and combined. Have your teacher point out the silent letters. You could even ask for permission to record the words! Then you can continue to practice and listen. Record yourself and play the recording back to back. This will help you hear if there is a difference between what she is saying and what you are saying.  A video recording may also be helpful if you read lips.

There are also a variety of online resources. I personally prefer videos where I can read lips such as Learn French with Alexa. There are also many other YouTube videos out there that are great!

To practice my vocabulary I like to use Quizlet because I can listen to the words that I am learning in addition to practicing my spelling and memorizing definitions.

For a combination of sentence creation, vocabulary learning, listening and speaking I use the app Duolingo. I use Duolingo for 15 minutes every day and I have noticed a significant improvement in my listening, speaking and vocabulary. Other deaf and hard of hearing Duolingo users have had success using the app because there is an option to turn the listening exercises off to focus on the writing.

Read more: Why I’m traveling the world, despite my hearing loss

Take it one step at a time

Learning a new language is a challenging task and can be more difficult when you have a hearing loss. It is easy to get overwhelmed and feel like it is too much to comprehend at one time. In that case, take your learning one step at a time. Set reasonable goals and congratulate yourself when you meet those goals. Finally, don’t compare yourself to others because what matters is your own growth.  It will take time to learn a language, but if you remain focused on learning a little bit at a time, you will soon know it well.

Studying a new language is often repetitive. To stay engaged, explore other aspects of the culture the language derives from. Watch a movie, read a book or listen to music in that language. I personally also love trying out a French recipe in my kitchen, visiting a French restaurant or attending French cultural events in the city. Give yourself the full experience!

Do you have any tips that you have used while learning a language with hearing loss? Share them with us in the comments!

Kirsten Brackett
Kirsten Brackett
Kirsten is the managing editor of Hearing Like Me. She has a moderate hearing loss and currently wears Phonak Audéo B-R rechargeable hearing aids.Outside of working for Hearing Like Me, she can be found exploring new cities, trying out new recipes in her kitchen, or hiking. She loves learning about different cultures and languages.