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Interview:  Belinda Vicars

Interviewee: Belinda Vicars
Interviewer:  William Vicars

Bill: Are you Deaf or hard of hearing?
Belinda: Deaf 

Bill: Is anyone else in your family Deaf?
Belinda: No 

Bill: Did you go to a Deaf school?
Belinda: Kern County Deaf Day Program, CA 

Question: When and where did you learn ASL?
Answer: 7 years old, deaf school (day program). Well, in the classroom I learned Signing Exact English. The teacher was very strict about that. I had the same teacher for seven years. But every October for the next six years I went to Camp K.E.E.P. for a week. They had Deaf role models. All the teachers were deaf, or they all signed. All my peers were deaf. 

I still remember something interesting about that camp. I was so impressed with Mr. Jones, he had two huge black poodles. Giant. He would sign to them. They understood him and obeyed.

Bill: I'm not putting that in this interview.

Belinda: No, wait, there's a point. In all the time I was with my mother, she never signed to me. Here was a guy signing to his dog.

Question: When did you first start speaking and using English? 
Answer: When I first got my hearing aid (age 5)....that's when I finally understood the concept of sound and the reason why people's lips moved all the time.

Before getting my hearing aid my mom and I would sit at the kitchen table and she would have me repeat words back to her. At age four I was able to say words like "wa-wa" and "ma-ma." After getting my hearing aid I started saying more words but not yet sentences.

I failed first grade twice. I was restless. I made trouble. I remember sitting in the back of the classroom with a coat over my head with the teacher trying to get me to take it off. They used to stick me in the back of the classroom because they didn't know what to do with me.

Bill: Did you learn English first, ASL? Both at the same time? 

Belinda: Well in the classroom the philosophy was total communication. I remember my teacher would speak and sign at the same time. Sometimes she would turn off her voice, I guess, not like I could really hear her. I can't really remember. Out on the playground we signed whatever. The boys used to get together and sign they didn't care. The other girls refused to sign on the playground because they didn't want the hearing students to think they were geeks. When I got frustrated trying to communicate with them I'd go hang out with the boys.
Anyway, so I guess I learned them both at the same time. I learned English in the classroom by rote and ASL on the playground and at camp.

Bill's comments: As an adult Belinda uses ASL fluently and is also very literate. Let's just say that she was offered an unsought position as a writing tutor at Lamar University's writing center. She is a writer by trade. In future interviews I'm going to seek answers to how is it that she, being deaf, became so skilled at English.


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