It is International Week of Deaf People. Today my Facebook feed has constantly reminded me that it is International Sign Language Day. I have watched countless videos of Deaf people signing. Some beautifully. Some with minor errors. Some in what can only be described as Signs in English order. It did not matter. Message was received and understood. Success!
A few days ago my nose went out of joint. Someone was complaining that people were not pronouncing Covid properly. Apparently, some were not saying COHVID … they were saying COVID as it is pronounced in Coffin or Coffee. Shocking and wrong. Talk properly people.
This pissed me off no end. I just saw this as the most revolting piece of ableism. You see, I knew that the world over deaf people were pronouncing it wrongly. Apparently, it is correct to pronounce it Covid as in OH … COHVID. Some Scallywags have been pronouncing it Coffid, as it sounds in coffee. Probably, somewhere, people were also pronouncing it Cowvid, like as in cow.
I know deaf people will be pronouncing it one of the three. Not having heard it pronounced properly they will have taken a punt and picked one of the three options. Likely, a fair few picked the wrong option. Hear the snorts and chuckles as they do so.
This is common amongst deaf people. I have a Friend who I tease mercilessly because she pronounced Karaoke as Kakarowkey … I also constantly mispronounce words. English is a bastard of a language. … Often words are not pronounced how they look. This is because of the weird rules of English and the bizarre use of silent letters.
Psychology, as an example, is a word with silent letters … we say Sighkology … but if you have never heard the word, phonetically you might say – Pisskology. Or as a deaf friend constantly said to me, despite constant corrections .. fissakology.
This is the lot of Deaf people who have read widely but not heard words, they mispronounce words regularly. I do a fair bit of public speaking. I warn my audience that they will hear me mispronounce words that I have read but never heard. I encourage them to stop me if a word s so badly mispronounced that they do not understand me. It has not happened yet. I know from the odd looks of the audience when I have got it wrong. Occasionally Some kind Auslan interpreters will take me aside after my talks and give me impromptu speech therapy sessions.
I get signs wrong too. My Auslan is ok, but I regularly butcher Auslan, unintentionally mind you. Nevertheless, people forgive me. Why? Simply because I have communicated a message to them and they have understood.
This is the key. Communication is about being understood. If this happens with a few wrongly formed signs or mispronounced words, so be it. As long as the message was understood.
Yet, far too many throw scorn upon those that mis-form a sign or mispronounce a word, even though they have fully understood the message. For some unknown reason people feel that it is ok to humiliate people who form signs or speak words incorrectly. Even though the message that they have been trying to convey has been understood in all its entirety.
Bottom line is, if you understood the message communication happened successfully and that is all that matters. By all means ask the Deaf person if they would like some feedback about their speech or signing and assist if it is requested. However, let’s never ridicule people for pronouncing words wrongly or forming signs wrongly. Especially if the message was communicated clearly and understood.
Get off your ableist high horse people and read this below… it explains it better than I ever could.