Deaf kids learn English thanks to American study abroad student volunteers in Spain

“As an American expat living in Spain for exactly half of my lifetime, I am uniquely qualified to have invented a solution to what is a common problem globally. Many people, including experts, think that deaf kids can’t learn a second language, like English. When I first came to Spain as a study abroad student in 1982 I recognized that American study- abroad students have a tough time integrating into the local community. Thankfully I met my husband in a discoteca! But I could hear back then. Several years later I lost my hearing and now am severely-profoundly deaf.When my son was diagnosed with hearing loss, I founded a virtual community which now has 30.000 users monthly.

Based on my own experience and those of our users, I know that choosing a communication strategy is an important issue for parents of children with hearing loss. Deaf children struggle with learning a second language. English is as key to their future as it is for their normal-hearing peers. Studies show that, if these children have technology such as hearing aids and cochlear implants, success is attributed to motivation to learn that second language, provided by a close relationship with natives in a natural and fun environment.

The program now includes 50 families nationally, pairing study-abroad student volunteers with families of deaf children to support the learning of English as a second language via cross cultural exchange. The students visit their “child” weekly in the home throughout the semester. The families treat the students as part of the family, playing games, cooking, dancing, art, music, or even video games in English, as an older sibling would. The student volunteer learns not only about the local culture, and bonds with the family, making the study abroad experience more meaningful, but also learns about hearing loss. This creates empathy on all 3 levels: about hearing loss, about a culture, and about language. Finally, the program is volunteer-based and has no costs other than minor administrative expenses.

Video support:

Here are some specific videos about this program: (Shows our talent show with the kids and students, and the reception the US Ambassador in Spain gave us!) our Halloween party and what the program is about)

You can also read the family and student experiences on our specifically created blog

I honestly didn’t know what to expect because I have never worked with anyone with hearing loss, but I’m so encouraged by Adrian. He’s so smart and he is able to understand everything. I speak slowly and clearly and make sure that we have eye contact. Kids with hearing loss are able to do absolutely everything that kids without it can do. I can definitely understand that learning a new language is frustrating and difficult, but Adrian works really hard and I can tell that he is really trying. It’s fun to watch him learn! And drop for a a visit at my website,

Don’t forget t get your own hearing checked!


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