One thing that is known about the deaf is that we occasionally “talk funny” – in that we mispronounce words. I have done this so many times. I would pronounce “media” as “meh-dia,” “suit” instead of “sweet” for the word “suite,” and “a-cow-stic” instead of “a-coo-stic” for the word “acoustic.” Even still, there are words I cannot pronounce correctly no matter how many times I am told how to pronounce these words. I cannot pronounce the word “anime” because I keep reading it phonetically. Even the word “Samhain,” which is in the title of my forthcoming novel, is a word I keep having a hard time pronouncing because, here again, I say the word phonetically. I am subscribed to a “Word a Day” mailing list, and I always pay attention to how the words are pronounced. For some words I know, I’ll be surprised to learn I’d been pronouncing it wrong!
But there is another kind of “talking funny” and that is when hearing people pronounce words differently, as though they have an accent or something. I am beginning to wonder if that is the case with Jesse.
When Jennifer was a toddler, she had a speech impediment. She could not say the ending “-th” in words and her “l’s” were “w’s” (she called her cousin, Laurie, ‘Waurie” and her friend Lilly became “Willy”). Of course, she outgrew it, but Jesse is going through it now, too. But not only is he doing that, he seems to be doing something else, too.
For example, this morning. He asked me how to spell the word “but” yet when he said that word, it looked like he was saying “boot” when I lipread him. I kept telling him how to spell “boot” but he kept saying that was not the word he meant. So I got Jennifer in on this. She said it sounded like he said “bout” (as in, “about”), but insisted that was not the word he wanted to know how to spell. Neither of us could understand him! And my attempts to try to get him to use the word in a sentence were not successful.
Finally, he wrote the word down as he thought it was spelled: “B-U-T.”
And you know what’s interesting? I had even guessed that word! I asked him if the word was “but” and he said no. I pronounced the word as it should be pronounced (like “butt”) and he had not understood me.
Had he even heard me correctly? I pondered this for a while. Sometimes the kids say they don’t hear ME speaking to them very well, and even Jennifer has told me I don’t pronounce words all the way. This is strange because I was able to talk before I became deaf (I was 13), and so I figure my speech is fine. Or maybe I had not spoken loud enough, a common problem for someone who can’t judge how loud her own voice is.
Nevertheless, I was concerned. The word Jesse meant was “but” yet Jennifer had HEARD “bout.” Was it possible Jesse was saying words wrong?
I know he will have a speech therapist when he enters elementary school (just as Jennifer did – and this was what helped her get over her speech impediment) but I thought maybe we should look into seeing one sooner. I brought this up with my husband and he said not to worry about it, though he DID sit down with Jesse himself to go over the speech thing.
So I guess we have to wait until he goes into elementary school and starts seeing a speech therapist. Oh, boy, it’s going to be a long summer. Ironically, even if I wore a hearing aid, I still might not be able to understand all of the words Jesse says to me each time he speaks to me. Not if he is not saying the words correctly.