https://www.duolingo.com/DuoLib

Duolingo is great for deaf people!

I'm deaf. This makes education in general challenging, and language courses pretty much impossible. Even with the best hearing aids, I understand only a fraction of what's said in English (my native language), and I could never learn a new language by hearing it spoken.

When I first tried Duolingo, I couldn't make it through even the first lesson because of not being able to hear what was said. Then a friend suggested I change my settings so that Duolingo would think my computer lacked speakers. I did that, and rapidly made progress.

I've now finished the Spanish tree, and am already using Spanish regularly. I volunteer with a group that receives around 1000 letters per month from across the United States, some of which are written in Spanish, and I now understand enough Spanish that I can respond to many of those letters. (Fortunately, all I need to do is mail pre-written materials, not write personalized letters. My writing is still pretty bad.)

There's been a lot of talk about Duolingo revolutionizing education for people who can't afford traditional language classes, but I haven't seen much mention of Duolingo's potential for deaf people. I would love to see every deaf student who has been deterred from foreign language study told about Duolingo, with emphasis on the need to turn speakers off in Duolingo's settings page.

Edited to add: Thank you to everyone who has left comments or given lingots! This is such a nice community!

4 years ago

68 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/vwlj
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Una pregunta: Could you tell me how to change my settings so that Duolingo thinks my computer lacks speakers? I'm deaf, too, and find the listening exercises a tremendous challenge.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/DuoLib

At the top of the page, where your username appears, hover your mouse. Five options will appear, one of which is "Settings". Choose that. All the sound-related settings will then appear. I suggest choosing "off" for all of them, including "Sounds effects" so that you won't make people around you crazy. :-) Then click on "Save changes" near the top.

I'm glad to see another deaf person here!

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/mixiekins

This is incredibly helpful, thanks for posting! I'm not deaf, but often find myself with time to practice in locations where sounds are inappropriate and headphones aren't available. The questions that need you to transcribe the audio make it impossible to practice sometimes, hahaha.

Also, if anyone's interested, I tested this on the mobile app after making the settings changes through the website; looks like it doesn't carry over any of those settings from that page. (I initially tried silencing the phone as a whole, but the app doesn't notice that.) Has anyone else using the app found a way to disable the audio questions? There was an option to disable questions that require a mic, but not for this. :(

Ah, and that reminds me! I noticed that (on the site version at least) when flash partially crashes or is unable to produce sound for some reason, it requires that the page be reloaded. Having an option like "finish this session without transcription questions" so you don't lose your progress would be really neat! :D What do you guys think?

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/olimo
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In the iOS app, select Settings (gear icon in the upper left) and disable "sound effects", "speaking exercises" and "listening exercises". I believe there are similar settings in the Android app, too.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/ernestd
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Android: Settings > Accessibility > Listening exercises > OFF. I think I have the latest update

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/DuoLib

Thank you, Olimo and Ernestd! I don't have a mobile device myself, but having told the world how great Duolingo is for deaf people, it was worrying to think that Duolingo's apps might be useless for anyone who can't hear. So, I'm grateful that you posted the instructions for disabling listening exercises in iOS and Android. Here's a lingot for each of you!

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/DuoLib

I'm sorry to hear the mobile app doesn't have an easy way to disable sound. I hope someone else will know a way of making the app usable without sound. You make an excellent point about the ability to turn off transcription questions being useful not only for deaf people but also hearing people who are in environments where they need to remain silent.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/ZwolfPack

The mobile app should give you an option every time it gives you a speaking exercise. Underneath the big microphone button that you press to speak, there should be two buttons. One to turn off the mic forever, and another to turn it off for an hour.

I like to leave it on if at all possible even though I hate the speaking parts because those exercises are basically gimmees. :P

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Arkonide
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I know that this is four years ago but I want to thank you for having posted this simple solution for those who are hard of hearing. I am one of them

1 month ago

https://www.duolingo.com/zsl5911

Go to your settings which is on the top, left to the streak thing. Hover over it and you would see a thing that says settings. click on it and there you would see some buttons click "off" on the "auto replay". When you are done click on the "save changes" key. Click on "home" and it will take you back for the language learning.

Oh, and I love duolingo too!

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/aliyagulamani

I'm deaf too and am also learning Spanish! I nearly got put off Duolingo in the beginning because of the language settings as I didn't know I could change it, but a little exploration showed me that I could. You're right, it makes languages really accessible for Deaf people. Congratulations on finishing your tree - I'm still at an early stage but really looking forwards to getting better at Spanish :)

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/zsl5911

I am not deaf, but duolingo is seriously the best tool for learning languages. We can even discuss things, like right now. all the good things about learning languages is on duolingo.

duolingo is the best.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/AlmostExMonoglot

My wife and I are learning AUSLAN (Australian Sign Language) so that we can teach our kids. Not because any of us are deaf, but because I think it will be valuable for my kids to appreciate that not everyone communicates the way they do. Also, being able to communicate silently has come in handy (pun intended) a few times already.

I've often thought that Duolingo would be great for deaf learners. Glad to see that I was right.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/A51f
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I am not deaf, but I know ASL (American Sign Language). I love it! I can sign several songs at my church. I wish there was an actual class I could take for it, instead of just looking out of a book.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/DuoLib

It's great that you know some ASL. There are online ASL classes that might be of interest if you have a top-quality computer and broadband (and lots of money). A much cheaper option, that may appeal to you as a churchgoer, would be to watch deaf church services on YouTube and pick up vocabulary from context. There are a several deaf priests who post at least their sermons to YouTube. Some also include the Bible readings, which may be easier in that you would already know exactly what was being said.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/DuoLib

It's great that you're teaching your kids! As with any language, the earlier it's learned, the easier it is. And sooner or later your kids are bound to encounter deaf people who will be grateful to have someone around who can sign. Even just fingerspelling can be useful. There's a group of people I hang out with that includes both a Becky and a Peggy, and it's IMPOSSIBLE to tell the difference between those two names when lipreading, so I keep wishing everyone in the group would at least learn how to fingerspell those two names.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Luyematsu
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If fingerspelling the whole name is too much for them, maybe encourage them to at least learn B and P? Baby steps!

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/DuoLib

That's a good idea. Just one letter would make so much difference.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/psionpete
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That is fantastic. Congratulations and well done for finishing your tree, your story is very inspirational.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Naylor1993
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Sorry if this sounds ignorant, but do you understand how the words are pronounced?

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/DuoLib

I have SOME idea how the words are pronounced, partly from reading a pronunciation guide and partly from listening to Plaza Sésamo at high volume (while reading the closed captions to know what words were being said). However, when I think about Spanish words, I think about their spelling, not their pronunciation. If I wanted to say a sentence of more than 3-4 words, I would probably need to write it first then slowly sound it out. What I can't tell you is whether my pronunciation is good enough for anyone to understand me, because I haven't yet found the nerve to attempt a spoken conversation!

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/TheJunjie

You can also make use of the International Phonetic Alphabet to learn how to pronounce some of the foreign words.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/MystyrNile
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I don't think the thing about "writing first then sounding it out" is because you're deaf, though. I always end up doing that with languages that i'm not familiar with.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/CecilieO.

I'm not deaf, but hard of hearing, and duolingo works great for me as well, just the ability of getting to hear words being read out loud, both at a slow and a normal speed, while reading, is very helpfull.

I find the listening excercises challenging, probably more than what is usual, but being a hearing person (although limited) it's something I have to get used to. The bonus is that I can ask the voice to repeat the sentence as many times as I want it to, without it getting annoyed ;)

Unfortunatly, I'm getting no help from duo on reading lips/speachreading, but I think it will work out eventually, with practice.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/bkitagawa85

Great! I'm deaf too, and I agree with you! I'm learning english. I love the tasks here. Regards!

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/PERCE_NEIGE
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It would be great to add the Langage signs on Duolingo!

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/jacbop

I am not deaf, but I was so happy to read your story. I also think Duolingo is a great community and your story supports that (or "lends credence" for any non-native English speakers who want to look up that archaic phrase). Take care and great job!

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Michabelle
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That's fantastic, I'm glad Duolingo is working out for you :) My sister is an ASL interpreter and last summer she went to a program in Italy for both Deaf and hearing students to learn Italian and Italian Sign Language. That's actually what inspired both of us to come here to learn Italian in the first place! I know there are other foreign language programs catered to deaf people, too, but Duolingo definitely has the benefit of being the cheapest, haha. Do you sign?

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/SaxyLady
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I've been wanting to learn some Italian Sign Language so I can at least sign some really easy stuff to a friend of mine from Italy who is Deaf.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Michabelle
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Good luck! My sister brought a dictionary home and it's very distracting, haha. I hope to learn it as well, at least a little bit.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/aliyagulamani

Si, I do, I was brought up bi-lingual (English & BSL). And you? I definitely agree, Duolingo is amazing!

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Michabelle
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Oh, cool! Many of the deaf people I've met were brought up completely oral, and it's usually a sad story. Is learning to sign the norm in Britain?

I'm hearing, myself; my sister's tried to teach me some ASL since I was a kid, but she wasn't very successful until I got to high school.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/aliyagulamani

It really depends where you come from, what schooling you've had, your family etc. There is a general consensus for oralism though. ASL is so hard! It's so fast! Are you now fluent in ASL?

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Michabelle
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So it's pretty much the same as in America, that makes sense :) I kind of feel like oralism is losing ground here, but I guess that's not always the case.

No, I'm definitely not fluent. And I've been lazy for the past few years, so I have a lot of studying to do! Well, BSL seems difficult to me (And I'M definitely not a fast signer, haha). Even your alphabet seems so complicated!

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/DuoLib

The program your sister went to sounds great! I do indeed sign. I once had the opportunity to take a series of French classes that were taught in ASL, and learned very well that way.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Michabelle
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Ahh, that sounds fun!

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/vpoetica

Duolingo's program may improve the lessons accordingly to the necessity of their deaf users. It is really nice you share your experience. Congratulations! Good job!! :)

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/ZeTook
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Wow, I didn't realise going to this thread would result with reading so many great posts and beautiful stories! This community is really nice and heartwarming.

I am hard of hearing, and I also find hearing-oriented language courses (when you have to listen to a video or a tape) very very difficult. My problem is also that I do not pronounce the words well - at least that's what I think when I try to speak with any native speaker, either they do not hear me or do not understand me, although I generally understand what they say to me (if not hearing them I usually try to read from their lips). Annoying but still, that means language can be learnt despite of one's own deficiencies.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/CecilieO.

lip reading is difficult in a foreign language though, but possible, so hang in there :)

One thing I think is helping me is realising how I tend to speak in a lower tone of voice, and muted, because that's what I'm hearing. And also focusing on the sounds in my own pronounciation that I know I have a hard time picking up (hard consonants and ts, t, s, z sounds). Just being aware of it helps, but sympatic people with hearing that are not afraid to correct you helps a lot.

The hardest thing is having the courage to speak, if you are allready doing that, you are more than halfway there allready :)

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/ZeTook
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Yes, I realized the same, that I speak in a lower tone of voice, and that annoys me, because it's really hard to be in control of that. When I try to speak louder, they say "hey, not so loud", when I speak normally, then they tell me to raise the volume. Really frustrating!

Lipreading though is really achievable in foreign languages. When I was in Mexico I really could understand what it was said to me, despite of not knowing every word for itself. I guess if you lipread from early childhood, you can adapt that "knowledge" to other "variants" of speaking. At first it is odd, yes. And it helps a lot to be at least a bit familiar with the language beforehand, as you said, to be able to recognize these hard consonants and such.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/supersocker

As a person with no hearing disability, I admit I take my hearing for granted. I definitely never really considered what learning would be like for deaf people, but it's great to see that technology has empowered you and, based on the comments below, many other deaf people! It would be amazing if they could offer settings that helped the visually impaired learn more easily too, maybe by opting for only audio and verbal practising or modifying the font size.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Bertadee

Your story is very inspiring - thank you for sharing!

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/scottann
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This is absolutely wonderful and uplifting! Yet another reason to love DL.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/vwlj
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Many thanks, DuoLib.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Grumpycat1
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good for you! i was so curious if deaf people could use Duo this way......they really can!

so, so so awesome

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Gelle89

Bravo!

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/HogwartsLives

That is great! You should be very proud of yourself! :-D

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Luyematsu
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Thank you so much for sharing your story!

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/stormclouds101

your story made my day into a beautiful one. Thankyou.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/JaneEmily

I'm really glad that Duo can teach a deaf person a language. My twin sister is deaf and has cerebal palsy, and she's always wanted to learn French (as her favourite singer is Celine Dion) so she can understand the lyrics to her favourite songs of her favourite artist in their own language. But I think her deafness holds her back a little, she's always been too shy to learn. I've been trying to convince her a little to join Duo, but she's always been a bit afraid that she can't do it due to the fact she's deaf and that she thinks she won't be any good at it. So reading your story, should hopefully get her inspired to at least try. A disability shouldn't hold anyone back from what they want to do in life in my opinion, if you want to learn a language you should do it.

Thank you for sharing! I'm really happy about seeing that Duo really can help anyone learn their target language even when they've felt like there was an obstacle at first :)

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/BobbieL
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Wow, that's awesome. Both that Duolingo has turned out to be something that teaches you well, and that you're turning the knowledge into a way to provide real help to others :)

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/MadameB.

I also am hearing impaired. It is very difficult to try to distinguish the different sounds. Je sounds like Tu, il sounds like elle and so on. I had a laugh yesterday when I thought it was wierd that they would say I eat an woman. (LOL)
I also was brought up to speak english orally. I spent years in front of a mirror learning to make the correct facial expressions and sounds so that I could communicate with everyone. I know that speaking oraly is an important skill It is the way the majority communicates. It wasn't until I was in 6th grade that I started learning how to read and write, It was at the same time I took a french class. I wanted to know how to speak french like my grandpa and great grandparents. The teacher Madame... told me to give up ever learning any other languages and to learn english. I have had many experiences where I have tried to do something like learn to play an instrument and the teacher would tell me to give up I will never learn how to do whatever it was and send me out of the classroom. If it were not for my husband and a couple of special teachers that encouraged me and did not put me down. like the one that discovered I was not "selectivly listening" but that I was more than 50% deaf I would not be where I am today.
I am also going to start trying to learn ASL this summer. I was never offered the opportunity when I was a child. It might have mad a difference on my learning if I could have heard, understood, and or known what the teachers were saying to me.
I wish public schools were more open and willing to teach students ASL and have interpriters in the classrooms.
Thank you for the information about the speakers. I will keep trying to understand the words verbaly for now so that I may converse with some of the students at work.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/DuoLib

I'm sorry you had so many people discourage you from learning. It's great that you didn't give up.

It's also great that you plan to learn ASL! I find that many hearing people, especially the hearing parents of deaf children, have the erroneous belief that deaf people must EITHER speak and lipread OR use sign language. In reality, there are many of us who speak, lipread, AND sign. I use ASL whenever I'm with other signers (understanding everything that's said to me), and speak/lipread when with hearing people who can't sign (understanding varying amounts depending on the context). I'm very glad that my mother understood that learning ASL wasn't going to prevent me from speaking and lipreading!

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/MadameB.

Thank you. I wish every one the best. My seven year old daughter is now trying to do duolingo with me now.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/velvelajade
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Unfortunately, your experience is so true! Teachers are taught that deaf can not learn a foreign language because they are deaf. They can't learn an instrument because they are deaf. They can not learn to play drums, because they are deaf. The blind can't learn anything either, because they are blind. :P The world is beginning to learn that we "disabled people" are actually PRO-abled and not DISSEDabled. :D I used to stutter as a child and was thought to be 100% retarded. Thus, when I did too well in school, the teacher would try to push me down and make me "stupid". :P This was in math class in the lessons I could do well.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/A51f
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Wow! That's Amazing!! So inspiring!

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/acchan88

Congratulations! And thanks for your inspirational story. I often recommend Duolingo for friends and colleagues, but I never thought that it can be useful for deaf people too! I appreciate this info very much. :)

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/LapisSafeiros

Wow! I'm really happy for you. I didn't even consider using DuoLingo this way! I'm glad DuoLingo can help so much.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/myuval
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I'm deaf too and I have finished the Spanish tree here. Duolingo really is a wonderful place to study languages! but even without Duolingo, learning is possible from books, texts, comic books, chats, movies (with subtitles) etc. By the way, I speak three languages as Hebrew is my native language. Learning English as a deaf child in the 90's without Technology and limited access to learning texts in English was difficult like a hell!

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/zsl5911

It is very challenging for deaf. I am not deaf but I enjoy knowing a new language. I know some ASL but not a whole lot. duolingo is perfect for all people no matter if they are deaf or not.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/AdzyfellyD

We live i France. My partner wears two hearing aids and relies on lip reading to communicate. Duo lingo is ok for the reading and writing. But for her pronunciation its not very good. What would be good for her would be to see vids of French speakers saying the phrases rather just hearing them. I know thats askingca lot but we can dream... I think Spanish is a lot easier to learn than French as it doesnt have so much crazieness in its make up.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Allison720407

Thank you for posting this too. I’m deaf as well and have been struggling with skipping over the speaking and listening exercises!

9 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/rmsopinheiro
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I'm Deaf too. I'm now learning German and I would also like to understand how to spell things. Maybe Duolingo can add speech cues to the words, writing them as if it is written in other language? E.g. "Deutschland" would be "Dóitssxland" if written in Portuguese (my native language, the one I learned how to spell).

4 weeks ago
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