A lip-reading childhood
Ngoc Anh’s parents were sad when they learned that their daughter could not hear. But they were determined to give their child the same education as other children. Their first stop was a kindergarten in Hanoi for hearing children where Ngoc Anh was quickly left out of games with peers because she could not understand what they were saying. Next was Xa Dan school where Ngoc Anh and her fellow students learned to read lips and associate them with words. Day by day, patiently observing the movements of her teacher’s lips, Ngoc Anh could finally babble some words.
Lip reading was not enough for Ngoc Anh to go with her daily life. Language and learning remained barriers she needed to break to be able to socialize with her peers, family, and others.
Feeling trapped in an unknown future consisting of superfluous conversation, incomplete sentences, and indecipherable vocabulary, Ngoc Anh was determined to communicate, to be understood, and be part of the whole community. She wished she could find an institution with a decent sign language education that could broaden her knowledge and fully enhance her capacity to communicate.
Sign language: “the light and faith” of my life
Mastering sign language by learning from peers opened the path for Ngoc Anh to pursue a higher education at the National College for Education. There, teachers tried to learn sign language from deaf students and used it together with visual methods during most lectures. It was a collaborative and supportive environment for deaf students.
The more knowledge Ngoc Anh gained, the more confident she became. She started participating in activities with the Hanoi Deaf Club, supported by Intergenerational Deaf Education Outreach (IDEO, a World Bank-funded project). One of her proudest and most unforgettable experiences was teaching deaf preschoolers in the IDEO project. Ngoc Anh recounted that “deaf children can learn similarly to their hearing peers if they are taught sign language as early as possible. If they start their education with the help of symbols, they can absorb lessons quickly and be ready for first grade. Language acts as a foundation for students to extend their knowledge for higher education levels.”