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Daniel’s determination to study French

Photo: Daniel's story

Daniel (15) was told he’d struggle to learn French because of his profound deafness, but with the support of his school he’s proving that very wrong.

Daniel was first diagnosed as deaf when a nursery teacher approached his mum and dad, Kerry and Scott, and said Daniel wasn’t responding when she spoke to him. 

“After two years of going back and forth to the hospital, Daniel was diagnosed as having a hearing problem. At that point it was mild. But from age five onwards, Daniel’s hearing has got worse and he’s now profoundly deaf,” says Kerry.

Daniel has had support at both primary and secondary school but Kerry says that, during his early years in education, it was lacking. “The school didn’t realise how hard it was for a deaf person. They didn’t have any experience; they’d never had a deaf child before Daniel, so they weren’t aware of the surroundings in the school or that they should talk to Daniel face-to-face rather than talking to the back of him,” she explains. “At high school, they’ve been more understanding.”

Despite the lack of deaf awareness, primary school is where Daniel got his first taste of learning French, which he then continued at secondary school with support in place.

“I chose French because I wanted to prove to myself and other people that I could do it.”

For Daniel, the decision to study French at National 5 level in Scotland (equivalent to a higher tier GCSE in the rest of the UK) was a big one. “I’ve got a hearing problem as well and at high school I was told that somebody that is deaf will never ever be able to achieve an exam in French,” says Kerry. “But Daniel’s really good at French and he’s proving that wrong.”

“I chose French because I wanted to prove to myself and other people that I could do it,” says Daniel. “Words that have double letters like ‘ee’ or ‘ii’ are the hardest but I enjoy learning a new language.”

Kerry and Scott were adamant about supporting Daniel in his decision and making sure he had everything at his disposal. “I support my kid 100%. I contacted the school and asked, ‘Can Daniel do this?’ and they said that he could with the right support and that if he needs extra support they’ll give it to him. They’ve been really good, and they’ve never had a deaf child in that school before either,” Kerry says.

“Daniel has sensory support. He gets two hours of support a week from a linguist in classes of his choice. He’s had brilliant support from his French teacher as well.”

“He’s picked it up just like that; he’s really good and he’ll ask if he needs help.”

While Daniel is now thriving, Kerry and Scott had to fight to get that support in place for him at high school. “We were initially refused entry to his chosen school due to them not having the funding for the extra support he needed, but we fought the case and won,” explains Kerry.

“Daniel’s sensory support coordinator has been great – he wants Daniel to achieve and he’s willing to give that support at school.” Kerry also stresses that Daniel isn’t scared to approach his teachers if he needs help.

“When we spoke to his French teacher she said that sometimes because of the pronunciation of some words, it could be quite hard for Daniel to pick it up because of his hearing loss, but he’s never had a problem. He’s picked it up just like that; he’s really good and he’ll ask if he needs help.”

A keen sports player and football fan, Daniel hopes studying French may give him more options when it comes to choosing a career as he’d potentially like to coach sports to young people, something he already does in his spare time.

“When we spoke about choosing his subjects, French was something that he could maybe use in the long run: he could go to France to teach English or sports if he wants to go down that road,” explains Kerry. “He could do exchange trips and he’d be able to communicate.”

“French is no different to any other subject – it still has the same challenges.”

Another reason that Daniel decided to take French is the variety it provides when he’s studying. “I thought doing French would be different to other subjects, not just being in a classroom and doing the same thing over and over again,” he says. “In French you get to speak, write and read it as well.”

When it comes to studying and his exams, Daniel has a lot of support ready to make sure he gets the best results he can. “Sensory support came in and went through the support Daniel will get,” Kerry explains.

“In exams he’ll get a speaker for the listening parts, so he can lip-read what’s being said, and 25% extra time to go over his work. There is study support available at school as well, which Daniel is going to on Mondays, which is one-to-one with his French teacher.”

“Just do what you want to do!”

Daniel isn’t worried about the daunting prospect of exams, having done well in his prelim exams and passing all of them, including achieving higher grades. “To be honest, I can’t wait for them to be finished,” he laughs.

But he does have some advice for other deaf young people who might be worried about whether or not they can get a qualification in a language. “Just do what you want to do! French is no different to any other subject – it still has the same challenges,” he says.