Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Is it possible for a mute girl to speak English

Cindy (in school uniform) is playing with my nephew
 
by Charles Roring
 
Most of you will give pessimistic answers. If her mother tongue is not English or if the surrounding environment is not an English speaking community, it will be very difficult for the mute girl to master the language. Even to speak bahasa Indonesia is difficult. How can she  speak English? Bahasa Indonesia is the language that she encounters everyday, both at school and at home. How can she speak English in an unsupportive condition like that?
This afternoon, Cindy came to me. She looked sad. She said that her parents do not allow her to study in Kolese Santo Yusuf, Malang. Her parents said that all of their three children are studying in Malang, Surabaya and Denpasar. If she goes to Malang, they will be left alone. In addition, they cannot fully let her elder sister look after her. Her elder sister has her own life. Cindy has to receive her parents decision of not granting her the permission to study in a school which is far away from her home. Her home is in Manokwari, a small town in the northen coast of West Papua.
Cindy also said that her mother rejects to teach her English because she does not understand the language. Well, I think her mother does not speak English that's why she is confused. As far as I know, Cindy knows a lot of vocabularies. But she needs more time to practice pronunciation. She is intelligent.
Honestly, I cannot easily understand her bahasa Indonesia if she speaks in normal speed. Sometimes I must ask her to speak slowly, word by word. If I still cannot understand what she said, I will ask her to write them on a piece of paper. So, the communication between I and Cindy is done in spoken and written ways. Speaking English will be more difficult. I know she doesn't really enjoy learning English. Her physical condition limits her speed in learning new things.
I encouraged her by showing her success stories of people like her who overcome their hearing problems. One of famous figures whom I introduced is Beethoven. Although he was deaf, he became a famous composer. I opened wikipedia with an article about Beethoven. That day, I tuned to satellite radio in JCSat. It was playing classical music. I asked her to touch the loudspeaker. She placed her palm in the loudspeaker. She could feel the vibration. Later she placed her ear on the loudspeaker. I could see how she began to cry. She said the music was beautiful.
At the same time, her mother was in Europe. She called her mother to buy CDs of classical music. One week later, her mother returned home with those CD. She brought it to me and I played it on the CD player. Even though she could not fully listen to the sound, she enjoyed it very much. With a hearing aid she could distinguish guitar, piano, violin or trumpet that were being played.
So far, I haven't been able to help her understand the international phonetic symbol which is the foundation of learning English pronunciation. I strongly believe that she can understand grammar. I need to find new methods that are effective in teaching pronunciation to a mute girl like Cindy.
She will graduate from next year. She said that she will carry on her study in a junior high school that is located to her home in Wosi. It means I will not meet her frequently.
I can talk to her almost every day, because her shool is at the back of her home. After school, she always waits for her parents to pick her up in my bookstore. During those times, I can teach her English little by little. It is not easy actually, but it is possible.
She needs patients and persistent to master English. I don't know if I can still have the chance to teach English or not. I hope she can speak, and write English one day.