questionshow do deaf people learn how to speak?


Many people who are born deaf don't speak at all. Those who do usually learn with a combination of observation (watching other people's mouth movements) and coaching (learning to recognize vibration and tightness of their vocal cords when they make particular sounds).

I went to school at the Rochester Institute of Technology, and their campus contained the largest college in the world devoted solely to the deaf community (the National Technical Institute for the Deaf). So I saw and interacted with many deaf students. Most of the students who spoke weren't born deaf but rather lost their hearing at some point later in their lives, so they relied on muscle memory to articulate sounds.


In the absence of one of the 5 senses, the other senses often become enhanced, due to a higher focus level, more than someone who has all 5.

As stated above ^ they can learn from watching mouth movements (using sight) and feeling their coaches throat (using feel) as he makes each sound associated with each word. This allows them to feel their own throat, and watch their mouth in a mirror, as they practice speaking. Depending on their patience, some can become very good speakers without ever hearing their own voice. Very cool.


It's all about associations. It's like learning any language as a newborn - normal hearing people associate an object to that sound. With the deaf, they associate the object to the mouth movement and hand signals when learning a sign language.

This is why the immersion technique works in learning a language. Before, people would associate the object (dog) to the English word "dog" and then translate it in their head to the language - "chien" for French or "inu" for Japanese. In immersion, you aren't allowed to make that translation and learn to associate the object to the word in the foreign language.

I learned sign language this way. Learning to sign otherwise would have been to slow to read and sign.


Hmm, I wonder if they use speech recognition technology to help deaf people improve their speech. The text could help guide them toward what they are trying to say.