Here is the full transcript of Stanford graduate and Rhodes scholar Rachel Kolb’s TEDx Talk: Navigating Deafness in a Hearing World at TEDxStanford conference.
Rachel Kolb – Stanford graduate and Rhodes scholar
I never thought I would be here today. My invitation to speak at TEDx clashed with some of my previous conceptions of what I can and can’t do.
I was born profoundly deaf, and learning to speak was not easy. Think about it for a second: when you can’t hear, how do you learn to speak? I could have chosen to use sign language today instead, if that would have been a perfectly viable choice. But for me the answer was 18 years of speech therapy. And at the very beginning that speech therapy was very physical. I spent a lot of time putting my hands on my speech therapist’s throat, to feel the vibrations when she spoke.
I learned that the sounds ‘m’ and ‘n’ are nasal. Try it for yourself, ‘m’, ‘n’. And I used that information to correct myself. I’ve always known that my speech isn’t perfect, but week after week I’d go back to try to make it better. I did this even when I had come to terms with my own difference.
Even now, oftentimes, I’ll meet a new person, and that person will look at me and say: “I can’t quite place your accent. Are you from England?” Or they’ll ask me, “Are you from Australia?” Or even, “Are you from Scandinavia?” I have other places.
And I say, “No, I’m from New Mexico”. It can be fun to be perceived as more exotic than I actually am. But, despite all of that, there have been people who have not encouraged me to speak like this.