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Learning A New Language

language instruction is increasingly part of the curriculum for students of all
ages. Once reserved for junior high and high school students, I now see
elementary school students receiving foreign language lessons as well. Exposure
to foreign languages, customs, and cultures is a valuable experience for all
students. With some careful planning, our students with hearing loss can be
successful as well.

teachers of the deaf / hard of hearing, we can help foreign language teachers understand and address
the unique challenges a second language can present to our students. Here are
some key points and suggestions to share with foreign language teachers, and to
keep in mind when providing itinerant support to students:

Many of our students are still learning
English grammar and syntax, so learning the rules of a new language can be
Explicit instruction, use of visual supports, and copies of
charts (such as those used for conjugating verbs) and vocabulary for the
student to review independently can all be helpful.

Many languages have subtle auditory
differences in words that can be harder for students with hearing loss to
Consider the masculine and feminine le and la in French, or
the /s/ at the end of words in Spanish that denotes verb tenses. The student
should have visual access to all new vocabulary, and ample opportunities to
practice using and listening for (depending on auditory access) the differences
in sounds. Speechreading can help the student gather additional information, so
it is important for the teacher to face the student when speaking.

Help the student organize vocabulary with a
The following presentation offers examples of this: 


a bit outdated, the suggestions for color-coding would be beneficial for many
students, not just those with hearing loss!

Students with hearing loss need extra
opportunities to practice listening to and pronouncing new vocabulary words.

At times, students may not want to participate in class due to fear of
mispronunciations. Providing extra practice (such as utilizing support from the
TOD/HOH or SLP) and use of visual supports can alleviate some of this stress,

Provide subtitles for videos and
transcripts of any recordings used in class

Assessments typically include oral and
written components, and adjustments will likely be needed for the oral
Students with hearing loss should have the oral component read
aloud by the teacher (vs. listening to a recording). This will provide visual
information for speechreading, maximize auditory access and allow the student to
ask for repetition as needed. For students who struggle auditorily, the oral
component may weigh less towards to total grade for that student. Additionally,
consider the student’s speech abilities. A student who does not have access to
all speech sounds, and therefore does not produce them, should not lose points
on an oral assessment for those errors.

Just like typically hearing students, there
are many reasons students with hearing loss take foreign language classes.

One of my students spends time in France with his family and wants to be able
to communicate independently while there. Another student is taking Spanish
simply because it is required and she wanted to give it a try rather than
waiving the class (as many students with hearing loss are able to do). A third
student attends a Jewish day school and is learning Hebrew as part of the
religious curriculum, which includes reading religious texts. Yet another
student has taken Latin as a way of improving his understanding of English.
Each student has a different reason for choosing and participating in their
language class. For students with hearing loss, there may need to be some
adjustments in what is emphasized or weighted more heavily – whether it be
speaking, reading, writing, or cultural exposure. But, it is usually worthwhile
to consider the benefits of taking a second language before presuming it is not
a possibility.

The first year taking a foreign language often
goes well as long as the student’s first language is in tact. Because the
teacher assumes that everyone is new to the language, the instruction is generally
slow paced and very clear. The teacher slowly articulates, is careful about
word boundaries and includes a variety of visuals such as posted vocabulary and
conjugations of verb forms. Projects and cultural lessons make the experience
hands-on and meaningful. Since everyone is working on syntax, the teacher often
writes out whole sentences and is very explicit about grammar and syntax. It is
helpful to point out these strategies and encourage teachers to keep using them,
even more so as the student progresses through the levels. As instruction
becomes more conversation based, teachers tend to drop some of the visual supports
that the student with hearing loss will continue to need.

Above all, encourage the student with hearing
loss to communicate with the foreign language teacher – both when difficulties
arise and when strategies are working well.

How do you help students access foreign language

Hear Me Out

The Hear Me Out blog provides unique resources for students who are deaf or hard of hearing. It's a forum for itinerant teachers of the deaf to share their experiences as they grow as professionals! It is produced by Clarke's Mainstream Services team as part of our mission to support children with hearing loss and the professionals who serve them.

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About the Hear Me Out Blog

Itinerant teachers of the deaf (TOD) provide direct services to children with hearing loss in mainstream schools, consultation to their teachers, and professional development to school staff. Itinerant TODs travel to a child’s neighborhood school to provide one-on-one educational support, foster listening and spoken language development, and help children build social and self-advocacy skills. They also act as a liaison between the family and their mainstream school. Hear Me Out provides a unique forum for these special teachers to share their experiences as they grow as professionals.

Hear Me Out is produced by Mainstream Services at Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech as part of our mission to support children with hearing loss and the professionals who serve them.


This is really an awesome post. All the tips of Learning a new Language are excellent. It takes time to learn a foreign language. And not just time but also dedication. It is very important because it comes with it the discipline you need to show and not just your interest.
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Heather Stinson

Thanks for your feedback, Junu! I absolutely agree. Learning a new language and becoming invested in that learning is a process but our students are absolutely capable!


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Language is the only way to communicate to others in this world. Not only learning a language would help us, one must try to adhere to the ethics followed. Thanks for submitting a wonderful content in here. This was truly useful to me. Thanks 🙂 French Training in Chennai | French Class in Chennai


It's must be really interesting to learn a new language from "scratch". Thanks for submitting a great article over here! You must read one more blog entry available at!

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Hear Me Out Blog

About the Author

Heather Stinson (CAGS, MED, S/LP-A) received her master’s degree in Education of the Deaf from Smith College in 2006 and a graduate certificate in Children, Families, and Schools (with a concentration in research methodology) from the University of Massachusetts in 2012. In addition to her many years of experience working with children with hearing loss who communicate using listening and spoken language, Heather has also worked as a preschool classroom teacher.

Heather has presented both locally and nationally on issues related to mainstreaming students with hearing loss and is a contributing author to Odyssey magazine. Heather currently works as an itinerant teacher of the deaf and hard of hearing at Clarke Mainstream Services, a program of Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech.

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