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Girlfriend Slammed for Refusing to Learn Sign Language: 'Selfish'

Newsweek 3/16/2023 Lucy Notarantonio
A stock image of a couple communicating at home using sign language © iStock / Getty Images A stock image of a couple communicating at home using sign language

A girlfriend has been slammed online for refusing to learn sign language to communicate with her partner's daughter.

Reddit user Throwawayaita8317 has received 9,000 votes on his post titled: "AITA for calling my girlfriend selfish for refusing to learn sign language?"

The man explained that his daughter Ruby, 12, was "born mute" and she "hates having to write or use her phone at home" to speak. So it was important for the dad to teach his girlfriend, Amanda, and her daughter Mia, 7, how to use sign language.

"Amanda has apparently decided it's too hard and refuses to learn anymore," he wrote. "She says that it's 'unnecessary' since Ruby can understand her and communicate in other ways. While Ruby is usually willing to do that for them, she doesn't enjoy it and finds it frustrating. I told Amanda she [was] being selfish and lazy. That it's not fair to put all the effort on Ruby."

The original poster said he is reconsidering the relationship as it has only been nine months and she isn't putting in the "bare minimum effort."

In the comments, the user said Ruby's mom died during labor after a "difficult pregnancy."

Speaking about a conversation with his brother, the OP said: "I vented to my brother and he agreed with Amanda. That I can't force her to learn and not everyone is good with language.

"And that Ruby doesn't 'need' it and I'm 'coddling her'. I'm honestly still p***** off but I do love Amanda. She's normally thoughtful and kind, and I guess it's possible it's just me being overprotective of Ruby. I think it's a reasonable expectation, but I'm starting to doubt myself."

'Those Who Cannot Speak May Face Discrimination'

Paul Newbury, a sign language expert with more than 15 years of experience teaching and assessing learners, told Newsweek it can take two or three years "for an average person to become proficient in sign language, but this can vary widely depending on the factors mentioned above.

"It's important to note that learning sign language is a lifelong journey and requires ongoing practice and engagement with the language and the community. For those who cannot speak, communicating in other ways can be more difficult because speech is the primary mode of communication in many cultures.

"As a result, people who cannot speak may face challenges in communicating their thoughts, emotions, and needs to others," said Newbury, a training manager for UK-based deaf service Positive Signs.

He said it can be frustrating or lonely for those who cannot speak when others are unable to understand their non-verbal communication methods.

"Additionally, many people who cannot speak may also face physical or cognitive challenges that can further impact their ability to communicate," he said. "For example, some may have difficulty controlling their facial muscles, making it hard to convey emotions through facial expressions. Others may have limited fine motor skills, making it hard to write or use sign language.

"Furthermore, in some cases, those who cannot speak may face discrimination or stigma due to their communication differences, which can further compound the difficulties they face in social and professional contexts. Overall, communicating in ways other than speech can be challenging, but with the right support people who cannot speak can learn to communicate effectively and lead fulfilling lives."

Thousands of Reddit users have commented on the post that was shared on March 1. The top comment, which has 24,500 upvotes, said: "NTA. This should be a dealbreaker for you."

Another popular comment with 12,200 votes said: "Your brother is an AH too. Asking for someone that I'm guessing you might see a future with to learn how to best communicate with your daughter is not coddling her and she does in fact NEED to be able to communicate but more importantly in a manner, she feels most comfortable with (your daughter I mean).

"Asking a CHILD to accommodate an adult is honestly one of the more entitled things I've heard. The fact that an adult is saying "This is to hard for me, do it how I want to" is troubling and something you should really consider before taking any further steps with Amanda."

Newsweek reached out to u/Throwawayaita8317 for comment. We could not verify the details of the case.

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