By 2014, t-oigo.com will have a program to support bilingual education for kids with cochlear implants and hearing aids including 150 families in 8 Spanish cities.

 ...This blog created specifically for the program to support deaf kids who are learning English as a second language, ihearyou.t-oigo.com, reveals in the words of the students and family participants, how they feel about the impact it has had on them. For example:

...Gabrielle, a student volunteer, writes about the impact the program had on her,

“When I first signed up (as a volunteer) for the t-oigo program, I honestly did not know what to expect.  I thought I was going to be paired with a young child who spoke little to no English, and I was genuinely afraid that our language differences would make the learning process go by even slower, and I wouldn’t be able to provide the assistance that she and her family needed.  What I was faced with was an amazingly sweet and bright seven-year-old girl, Rocio, who has surprised me in so many ways.  She was diagnosed with having a hearing impairment at eleven months of age and received a cochlear implant shortly afterward.  She grew up with normal language abilities and can hear provided her implant batteries are working properly.  There is no way of knowing that Rocio has a hearing disability without seeing her cochlear implants or without her telling you.

The first time I met Rocio; she was very shy and spoke little.  It wasn’t until I let her show me her play area and the things she liked to do that she opened up to me.  Surprisingly, we bonded over a foosball table.  We made up a victory dance for every goal that was made and I could see her slowly come out of her shell.  As the day wore on, I began to feel more confident in my role and how I could help Rocio expand her language.  Throughout our conversations, she has become more comfortable to ask, “In English, how do you say…?”.

There was a specific time when Rocio and I were playing charades and I was acting out “catch a ball”, I wasn’t sure if Rocio would know how to say it in English but I decided to challenge her anyway.  She began with “throw, play, game” until she got to “catch” and I encouraged her to elaborate until she said “Catch a ball!” with so much enthusiasm that I couldn’t help but jump up and cheer for her because as small as phrase that it was, it was still big for Rocio.

As the weeks have progressed, I see Rocio become more comfortable with her English and she has an amazing support system at home.  Her parents are always speaking to her in English the times that I am there and encourage her to speak only English even if she is struggling.  Her older sister has also been helping by speaking in English when I am there.

I only have one more visit with Rocio and I am extremely sad that I will have to eventually tell her goodbye.  She and her family have become a second home for me in Madrid.  They are so loving and encouraging in Rocio’s learning and I have become extremely close to Rocio as if she were my little sister.  Every time I arrive to her house, Rocio immediately jumps up and gives me hug.  She holds my hand as we watch TV and hugs my arms when we’re sitting on the couch; in our last visit, she told me I was her best friend and I can honestly say that she has become mine as well.  Volunteering for this program has been amazing and I wouldn’t change a thing about this experience."

Deaf Spanish children and their families  participate in a language and cross -cultural exchange with native English-speaking study-abroad university students

 ...The t-oigo.com program pairs American study-abroad student volunteers with Spanish families of DHH children to support the learning of English as a second language via cross cultural exchange. The hosts treat the students as part of the family. The students visit their “child” weekly in the home throughout the semester, playing games, sports, cooking, dancing, creating art and music, or going to the local amusement park, as an older sibling would, but in English.

 ...Objectives/Overview of the Program:

...The objectives of the program are: to increase exposure to the language, providing kids with access to native English sounds in an acoustically “friendly” and personalized environment, as well as to create empathy and learning on 3 different levels: about hearing loss, about both cultures, and about language.

...The success of the program has been attributed to the benefit it offers to all of the participants. On one hand, through deep cultural immersion and continuous community engagement, the student volunteer learns not only about the local culture and bonds with the family and child making the study abroad experience more meaningful, but also learns about hearing loss. empathy, and overcoming obstacles.  On the other hand, the family sees that it is possible for their child to learn English despite his/her hearing loss if the child is motivated, supported and a firm commitment with learning a second language is provided. For many of the participants in the t-oigo.com program, this represents the first close relationship with a person from another culture. Developing an emotional bond and using English to communicate with this “special person” at home motivates the child to want to learn English later in the structured classroom environment where learning may be more challenging and at times, less interesting. Classes of 25-30 students, reverberation and poor acoustics, auditory-focused methodologies of instruction, non-native instructors all prove challenging obstacles for kids with hearing loss, even if they are hearing well with their cochlear implants and/or hearing aids and developing communication in their first language. This program aims to provide as close as possible to an ideal situation so that the child will do well in a bilingual education program.


For more information, write to dale@t-oigo.com and or visit the web t-oigo.com and the blog, ihearyou.t-oigo.com

lisa berkery