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Teaching a deaf adult to speak

Discussion in 'Research' started by Ireth, Oct 12, 2016.

  1. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

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    I'm working on plotting a WIP based on The Hunchback of Notre Dame (with a setting change and added fantasy elements), in which the main character, Diana, is the deaf bellringer of Leeds Parish Church in the late 1530's. Unlike Quasimodo in the original novel, Diana has only lived in the belltower for six years (she is currently 25, and was locked up when she was 19 after a lycanthrope bit her). She has also been deaf since birth, since it's a genetic trait rather than one acquired through years of ringing huge bells multiple times a day, every day for years on end. (Though even if she wasn't deaf to begin with, that certainly wouldn't help.)

    My main problem is this: during the climax of the book, I need Diana to claim sanctuary in the cathedral on behalf of her hearing love interest Valerie, much like Quasi does for Esmeralda in the Disney film. Since I'm not certain how effective it would be with sign language, I want Diana to be able to shout the word for all to hear. I was thinking she'd learn how to speak the word from Valerie, who visits her in the belltower at the start of the story and later gives her shelter in my version of the Court of Miracles (new name pending). Trouble is, having been deaf all her life, Diana has no basis for understanding spoken word beyond some skill in lip-reading. And given the time period, cochlear implants or any modern hearing aids are a non-option. So how long would it take for Valerie to teach Diana, if they focus solely on that one word, "sanctuary"?

    This is also relevant to their romantic subplot, as the longer I can give them from their first meeting to the climax and resolution, the more time I can devote to letting them fall in love without it seeming rushed or forced. (I'm veering toward [or possibly past?] the Disney version at the end, with both Diana and Valerie surviving and remaining a couple. There isn't any rival for Valerie's affections aside from my version of Frollo, nor do I intend to add one.)
     
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  2. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    Ireth, you'd do yourself a favor by reading the OG novel by Hugo. Not only is it fantastic but it'll give you insight into Quasimodo as a character and how his disability is handled. Have you only watched the Disney movie? I've never seen it--but taking a wild guess right now I'd say that there's probably a romance between Quasimodo and Esmeralda...which does NOT take place in the actual book.

    It's been ages since I read the book, but if my memory serves me well, I do believe that Quasimodo speaks very little because the priest takes care of him. Remember that deaf people can read lips and such. They can talk...just come about it differently than someone who can hear. Anyway, if you have a stomach and time for it, reading the novel would be a valuable literary opportunity. :)
     
  3. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

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    As I mentioned in my original post, though, Diana's deafness is different than Quasimodo's. Presumably Quasimodo learned to speak well before he was old enough to ring the bells, whereupon he gradually lost his hearing and Frollo taught him to sign; Diana never learned to speak before becoming bellringer, as she was raised by deaf parents who taught her to sign from the start. Diana can read lips and is literate, which would help a lot, but signing is her go-to.

    I'm not terribly inclined to read the original novel at this point, since I think I'd end up skimming most of it due to padding and description of Notre Dame (which wouldn't even be relevant to my novel, which is set in Leeds, England rather than in Paris). Also the little I know of the plot involves Phoebus attempting to rape Esmeralda, which is an automatic NOPE in my mind. (There is no analogue of Phoebus in my novel, whether based on the original or the Disney version.)

    Also, you're right, there is a Quasimodo/Esmeralda/Phoebus triangle in the Disney movie. Esmeralda ends up with Phoebus, and Quasi blesses their relationship.
     
  4. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    Wow. What a bastardization of Hugo's materpiece. -_- Hm...so are you basically trying to figure out how she learns to speak. Is there someone else that can teach her before she becomes the bell ringer? Sorry, I don't have much to add but I do like your idea.
     
  5. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

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    Are you referring to my story or the Disney movie? Because that kinda came off as insulting.

    Yeah, basically. I guess I could just have someone teach her from childhood; it would make things easier all around.

    Thank you.
     
  6. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

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    I really like this Ireth. I love the disabled woman, and her lesbien lover, and the idea of "sanctuary" being her first spoken word. This is some really powerful stuff.

    I order to keep this as powerful stuff it is going to take a fair bit of research. These are not topics to take lightly (I think you know that).

    So, here is where I step in, having a disabled child. This stuff is very real and important to me, and I would hate to see someone not do their due diligence.

    Hearing impairdness is a range. Many hearing impaired people can still hear muffled sounds or vibrations, and most people who are hearing impaired are not mute. They can still make noises (and often do).

    Look into Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan for ispiration.

    There is a ton of information and youtube videos out there on strategies for teaching hearing impaired people how to speak. The strategies used for an adult would be the same as the ones used for a child.
     
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  7. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

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    Thank you very much, Helio!

    I never intended for Diana to be totally mute, simply non-verbal at the start of the story. I do intend for her to be entirely deaf, as that's how she was conceived in my head several years ago and how I've written her in other projects. She doesn't have cochlear implants or the like in modern settings either, because she's a werewolf in almost every continuity and from what I know cochlear implants typically involve silver.

    Regarding this project though, even if she still had some hearing in her youth, being the bellringer of the church would definitely have an impact on that over a matter of years, would it not? Those bells are big and LOUD, and her eardrums would routinely take a beating.
     
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  8. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    Ireth, no no no! I meant Disney, not you! :D Allow me to clarify: the actual story is very dark indeed, and yes, the priest does try to rape Esmeralda. That's why I'm shocked they end up together in the Disney version!

    (I would never, ever insult you or your work. I'm sorry that's how it came across)
     
    Ireth likes this.
  9. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

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    Man my wheels are spinning now!

    Ok, so this is how I see it playing out...

    Diana and Valerie meet somehow, fall in love, etc, etc, etc.

    Valerie is in trouble in some way, maybe she is a revolutionary or something, or she is Islamic in a Catholic village, or whatever, at any rate she is also a minority and in danger.

    Valerie is attacked and is in such a bad state that she can't claim sanctuary for herself. Maybe she is unconscious or in a coma.

    So Diana has to learn to do it for her. Maybe Diana watches others come in off the street and claim sanctuary and even though she can't hear them speak it, she can see how their mouth move. She studies their faces and the way their lips form each part of the word and then she practices in front of a mirror, night after night after night. Maybe one night one of the other people who are hiding in the church finds her practicing and they help her? Maybe they come back over and over and help her to say the words... (This could be another really interesting side character with their own internal arc and journey...perhaps a poet or a writer who has grown disillusioned with words and their meanings and feels that everything important has already been said.)

    Finally, Valerie is dying and there is to be another attack on the city and Diana has to get her to church now or never...

    Etc etc.

    Fun!

    Sorry, I get so inspired by certain thoughts I just had to share my little brainstorm with you :) I hope you don't mind.
     
  10. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

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    Apology accepted. No harm done. :)

    ...I think you might be confusing Phoebus (the Captain) with Frollo (the Archdeacon)? In the original novel they both fall in lust with Esmeralda (and both at least attempt to have sex with her, from what I know) and Phoebus really isn't a good guy. In the Disney movie Phoebus is much more heroic and his lust is turned into love. Frollo is still lustful and crazy and evil.

    No problem! :D It plays out rather differently than that in my head. When Diana finds the courage to sneak out of the tower and get away from Matthew (the deacon who keeps here there against her will), she finds a young man named Anthony (who is a lycan, though Diana doesn't know it at first) preparing to commit suicide and rescues him. Once they're safe on the ground, a mob of townsfolk call Diana a demon (since she has cross-shaped burns on her from Matthew's silver crucifix); Valerie comes and protects Diana, also getting the young man to safety. Matthew shows up and drags Diana back into the church, and Valerie follows. When Matthew turns on Valerie, she claims sanctuary.

    The two women spend time together in the belltower (how MUCH time is still to be decided) and get to know each other, while Matthew is content to leave them to starve. Valerie starts teaching Diana to say the word "sanctuary" in case Matthew ever tries to hurt her again. She convinces Diana to come with her to the city werewolves' hideout, and Diana agrees. Only when they reach the safety of the hideout do they really start falling in love. Then more plot happens, and much like the book (but more like the Disney movie), Diana is taken back to the belltower in chains, while Valerie is sentenced to burn to death for being a witch, and is unconscious by the time Diana gets to her. Then comes Diana's moment to yell "SANCTUARY!" on Valerie's behalf.

    If you don't mind though, Helio, I might incorporate a few of your ideas into my story? Anthony could really use some development other than being suicidal and rescued by Diana. Maybe he could help in teaching Diana to speak.

    EDIT TO ADD: Valerie is not ACTUALLY a witch -- she's a Christian and an alchemist, who also has a tactile healing power which she considers a God-given gift, but which Matthew claims is witchcraft.
     
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2016
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  11. cydare

    cydare Minstrel

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    Maybe I can help with the mechanics. Touch your hand to the front of your throat and hear yourself say "a" - you can probably feel a buzz beneath your fingers. That's voicing, your vocal folds vibrating. If you say 's' sound comes out, but there's no vibration. She can be taught how to produce a voiced and voiceless sound through touch and gestures, by miming air coming out of the mouth. It'll also help to put a hand in front of her love's nose (for nasals like n) and mouth, to see where air escapes. Also, careful teaching of how words are formed - showing tongue placement, lip form, mouth opening and giving encouraging responses when done correctly.

    So, roughly... (and possibly with mistakes as I'm new to learning linguistics and this is how I pronounce it - English is my second language)

    s - voiceless, make sure there's no vibration of the throat. Relax your mouth into a comfortable position and open your lips a slit. Lift the tip of your tongue until it is close to the back of your teeth but not touching them or the roof of your mouth, leaving a small channel in between. Blow air gently through your mouth.

    æ (the a of sanctuary) - voiced like all other vowels, there are vibrations. Touch the tip of your tongue to the back of your bottom teeth and keep the body of the tongue low. Open your mouth both tall and wide and lower your jaw, keeping your lips open. Let air through your mouth more strongly than with the s.

    ŋ (the n) - voiced, with vibrations. This time the air comes out your nose, not your mouth. Lift the back of your tongue against the soft palate at the back of your throat and push out air.

    k - like for n, the back of the tongue touches the back of the mouth, but only briefly, and air is allowed to exit briefly through the mouth rather than nose. No vibrations, it's voiceless.

    ʧ - This is ch, which is really a t followed really quickly by a sh. Touch your tongue to the part of your mouth right behind your teeth (but not touching the teeth) and start letting out air. Quickly, let it take the position described in 's' only not only with the tip but with more of the front of the tongue (wider?). Voiceless.

    u - round the lips into a small opening. Rest the tip of your tongue just above your bottom teeth, touching them. Blow out air through your lips. Voiced.

    ɛ - Configure your mouth like for æ, but open it wider, and not tall. Everything else, pretty much the same. Voiced.

    r (symbol should be an upside down r) - lift your tongue so the sides touch the top of your mouth, but the middle is dipped and does not. Voiced, again, let the air pass through the hollow and out the mouth.

    i - stretch your mouth wide, not tall. Keep your jaw up, and rest the tip of your tongue right above your bottom teeth. The top shouldn't be touching the roof of your mouth, but should be pretty close. Push the air out. Voiced.

    It's very likely that she can learn the word 'sanctuary' if they take care, though I can't give an exact time. Note though, that her voice and pronunciation will likely sound awkward - it'll be understandable, but it won't be like a native hearing speaker of the language.

    Teaching her to say more than a few words will be much more difficult unless she's had prior exposure to language, or someone else has tried to teach her). It's not just pronunciation that's the problem, but the fact that she knows no vocabulary, grammar, or anything else really. Lip reading is also incredibly hard - I believe only around 30% of English can be faithfully read in such a way. Teaching her sign language would be easier.

    Also note that Diana will probably have a home sign she's developed. Most deaf children born in hearing families who aren't taught sign language develop their own, with structure and rules, to communicate. (By the way, have you heard about how Nicaraguan sign language was formed?) While Valerie is teaching Diana, Diana can be teaching Valerie too so they have another method to communicate. It can be a way to build up their relationship.

    I'm not really sure if any of this helped or if it was what I was asking! Hopefully I helped in some way. Your idea sounds incredible.
     
  12. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

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    Thank you very much, cydare! This is very helpful. ^^

    Diana would know whatever sign language her parents taught her, since it wasn't really standardized back then (iirc). At least one of her parents is more than likely deaf as well, not hearing. She would have taught her hearing ex-fiance the same sign language as well.
     
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  13. cydare

    cydare Minstrel

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    Glad I could help!

    Knowing a sign language she could have practiced with her parents (and ex-fiance) would definitely make things easier on her! By the way, she'd probably be better and more efficient than her parents with the sign language. Children tend to build sign language up, making it more productive.

    Also, just as a side note, the sign language would probably have a very different grammar structure from English. It really would be like learning a completely different language for a hearing person.

    Best of luck!
     
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