What do you know about the deaf

Who is CODA? What do you know about the deaf? #14

Who is CODA? And what can deaf parents do to facilitate communication with a hearing child? "What do you know about the deaf? #14". Explains Jakub Malik.

CODA who is this?

Hi CODA, it is not that Koda – the bear from the cartoon “My brother the bear”. It’s also not exactly about the ending of a musical piece, which is interesting and actually a bit funny, the nomenclature comes somewhat precisely from music. I’m already explaining: according to the CODA Poland Association, the founder of this acronym and the first CODA organization – Ms. Millie Brother – because of her musical background, deliberately arranged the words to make the acronym CODA. Coda or koda – spelled with a K – is:

“the ending of a musical work, which is meant to give the impression of its summary and closure. In addition to this, however, it also features new notes and motifs that were not in the work before.”

So you could say that CODA, or Children/Child of Deaf Adults, are like completely new notes or motifs, in the life of a deaf couple.

Hearing children of deaf parents – CODA

CODA, or as I mentioned earlier Children/Child of Deaf Adults – hearing children of deaf parents. The term refers to hearing people who were raised by deaf parents. Here perhaps a tiny anecdote to the topic, more than 90% of deaf people have hearing children. Well, that’s right, CODAs are basically virtually no different from other hearing people. Almost in this case makes a colossal difference – such people grow up in a completely different environment or culture than their peers.

Life of CODA

I, too, am a CODA, having deaf parents. In fact, already the first months of life are different, many of us learned to sign earlier than to speak. We grew up as bilingual children, and as a rule, we were a bit of such a bridge between the deaf and the hearing world, interpreting not only to the outside world, but also within the family – mediating between parents and grandparents, younger siblings or relatives. We became our parents’ private, personal interpreters – sounds a bit like we were workaholics!

As adults, many of us still spend much of our time with deaf people – working as interpreters or teaching in schools for the deaf. This proves that we weren’t forced to do anything, we did, and we do it happily, only now some for pay. However, these are not the only differences.

Another difference is affiliation, or in fact in most cases lack of it, with a particular cultural group. As children of the deaf, we rotate between the group, the hearing society, and the deaf. In practice, it looks like when asked, “Who is more pleasant to spend time with?”, the answer is hard for us, we simply feel comfortable in both groups, and in both groups we are able to express our emotions, feelings, thoughts, and even our sense of humor – of course, this is not the rule, and there are some individual exceptions to this.

CODA – private sign language interpreter for parents?

Back to the subject of being a personal interpreter for parents. To tell you the truth, many people believe that this is a rather aggravating approach for children, and that it needs to be changed. I, from my point of view, as I mentioned earlier, do not fully agree with this. Personally, I have benefited, and still do, greatly from having helped and assisting my parents in many seemingly “adult” matters.

However, I am fortunate to have come across parents who know some moderation and have common sense about assigning me “translations” and things to translate. What do I mean? For example, I have never had to translate in a doctor’s office where I would have to, for example, give information that I don’t understand or that would be upsetting, such as a serious illness of one of my parents.

The only thing I might have some reservations about is that many people or “specialists” don’t know how to approach CODA children, they don’t know much about the subject, and yet when they do need specialist support, they don’t get it tailored, personalized to their needs. After all, they’re mentally a bit different – they’re juggling between two cultures.

Is every CODA a good sign language interpreter?

Now perhaps a bit on whether every CODA is a good translator. Well – no! Let’s start with the fact that, unfortunately, there are many cases when a child is raised by a hearing family or relatives, so he is a CODA in name only – so formally. Informally, on the other hand, he doesn’t identify with the Deaf culture or world. But what if the child is raised by deaf parents? He has a predisposition to be a good interpreter, he knows Deaf culture well from the inside out, how they perceive certain stimuli or information. However, he looks very much at this culture through the prism of his parents, and as we know, everyone is different. Coming back to the substance, is every CODA a good interpreter – no, but he has a great base to be one.

An appeal to deaf parents of hearing children!

Here now a moment for a small appeal to all deaf people. Deaf people, if you have hearing children, please sign to them, talk to them in Polish sign language. I know and understand that there may be a fear that the kid won’t be able to cope later, that he won’t speak, but this is an unfounded stereotype, cultivated for many, many years. And its consequences are colossal. As parents, you are losing touch with your child, even though he or she may understand you, but if he does not know sign language well, he or she will certainly not express thoughts or feelings. This results in a loss of basic support from parents. And this is something natural and obligatory when it comes to family relationships. Don’t take it away from them!


Finally, maybe a little bit about terminology, which is not enough! The term CODA is reserved for hearing adult children of deaf parents, however minors are referred to as KODA – Kid of Deaf Adults. There are also concepts such as:

  • OCODA – Only Child of Deaf Adults;
  • OHCODA – Only Hearing Child of Deaf Adults – referring to the only hearing person in the family, the rest of the family – parents and siblings, are deaf;
  • SODA – Siblings of Deaf Adults;
  • GODA – Grandchild of Deaf Adults;
  • COHHA – Children / Child of Hard-of-Hearing Adults;

and the like. Each situation has a different acronym, so we’ll find plenty of them.

Admittedly, this topic is very broad and deep, and one could talk about it for a long time. Certainly I haven’t touched on some topics in this movie, if you have any questions, please write them in the comment and we will try to make a second movie, more on a Q&A basis – would you be in favor? I also highly recommend watching other films from the series “What do you know about the deaf?”.

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