CODA’s at Gallaudet

“CAFFEINE.  Insane Professors. A schedule that seemingly goes on forever. All nighters.” These were the terms used by a CODA Interpreter to describe her academic career at Gallaudet. It’s hard enough being a member of the Deaf community at times, but imagine how it feels for a Child of Deaf Adult (CODA) who chose Interpreting for a career and field of study. Especially at a Deaf University.

The basic prerequisites of being considered a CODA are: being a hearing person with an affiliation to the Deaf community, and being born to one or two parents who have not only experienced hearing loss, but also use sign language as their primary means of communication.

“I wouldn’t really consider someone a CODA if they were just born to one or two deaf parents who didn’t even use sign language,” a Deaf person at Gallaudet remarked when asked what the prerequisites of being a CODA was. “Both of my parents are Deaf,” the CODA said (who elected to stay anonymous) “However, I would say that my father doesn’t have as much of a connection to the Deaf community.”

The CODA came from a family where she wasn’t the only child who retained her hearing, so she had reinforcement for her speech skills.  “My mother is active in the Deaf community, attends a lot of ‘Deaf nights out,’ when my father always complained that he couldn’t see the point in them. I guess I would say that my father and I share many more similarities than my mother and me. I get along with ‘hearing-minded’ deaf people a great deal more than the culturally deaf people who capitalize the D, and stuff.” She shifted her body into a position that would conceal her signing  “You know how Deaf people are!”

When asked of how she identified herself, she remarked, “I think I interact more easily with the hearing community, but I’m not biased. I have a lot of friends who use sign language as their primary means of communication, but they consider themselves more ‘culturally hearing.’”

When asked if she felt she had an advantage in Interpreting because of her background, she remarked, “It’s just something I was born into. There isn’t much to being a CODA at all. Most hearing kids who were born into the Deaf community aren’t even all that great at understanding sign language or even signing themselves. I only knew the form of sign language my family used, and I wasn’t active in the Deaf community to begin with. When I started Interpreting, I had to ‘clean up’ my sign language a great deal. Interpreting requires you to use formal, impeccable ASL that doesn’t have the slightest hint of any English.”

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