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42 11 The trains traveling from Aachen to Düsseldorf or Holland have to go past the Institute for the Deaf. The railway embankment reaches halfway up the school building. Only the little schoolyard is in between. Whenever an engine passes the windows, pulling a lot of coaches behind it, the children can feel the school trembling. They look outside and watch the train. Master Wennekamp has drawn a train on the blackboard.Thick clouds of smoke are puffing out of the funnel, a whole blackboard full. Next to the clouds, the teacher writes sh sh sh. He bends his arms as if they were the connecting rods driving the wheels, and moves them so. In the same rhythm, he demonstrates with protruding lips,“sh sh sh.”Maria has to learn to emit the “sh” without pressing in her throat. To do this, she holds the back of her hand close to her mouth or to the teacher’s, in order to feel the breath. Not until the“sh” comes out correctly does her train run properly, and the teacher can praise her. But it is much more difficult to learn to pronounce s; ng, nk, e, and i, too, are particularly troublesome! They all look so similar on the lips. How is it possible to tell the difference between them? The sounds ei and eu, too, are so difficult! Tears are being shed. Hours, days, weeks go by. Master Wennekamp tells the children to pay attention! Pay close attention! Take note! Practice! Remember! Where is the tongue for the s? What is its breath like? Is it warm or cooler? Is it sharp or soft? Do you have to press in your throat, to make it vibrate? And for ng? Tongue? Behind the bottom row of teeth. The lips? Slightly open. And the breath? No, it mustn’t come out of the mouth. This time it must go through the nose! The children test the ng by holding their index fingers under their noses to feel the air. They have to press in their throats, and it vibrates not only there but in the nose and forehead as well. Their eyes squint when they Stories Main Pgs 1-258.indd 42 4/26/2017 12:17:35 PM The Stories They Told Me 43 are practicing ng. Later the children—and deaf adults too—will, in their conversations with each other, narrow their eyes for an instant and wrinkle their noses with each ng. This is the only way this sound can be lipread because the slightly parted lips give no other clue. Often it is enough to quickly crook the index finger for each ng in a word. The letter r rolls so nicely in the back of the throat. Maria learns this quickly after feeling her teacher say it. Because the r cannot be lipread either , the children place all the fingers of one hand below the chin and do a quick wiggle, as if they are rapidly playing a scale on a piano. When Maria practices with a classmate, she can only indicate the sound with her fingers. In this way, the deaf children augment their speech with many little movements, gestures, and mime. Some of the movements are so tiny and quick, that an outsider doesn’t notice them at all—a turn of the head, a certain facial expression, a twitch of the eyes, of the mouth, or of the eyebrows, all these have meaning: a letter, a word or a frame of mind, things, or qualities. Maria can tell that the teacher is not satisfied with her i sound. He holds his hands over his ears. Why? Master Wennenkamp says it is high pitched, shrill, and very loud, but she cannot work out how she should change it. So her i will stay like that. If she says her own name, “Maria,” she carefully pronounces sound after sound: a deep a, a rolling r, a high-pitched i, and again a deep a.“Maria Giefer,” she points to herself, and whoever takes a little trouble or has gotten used to Maria’s voice can understand her. Stories Main Pgs 1-258.indd 43 4/26/2017 12:17:35 PM ...


Subject Headings

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