Helen Keller learned how to speak when she was nine years old. She was very excited about this, because being deaf had made it very difficult for her to communicate in the same way regular people did. Since she was also blind, traditional sign language would be tricky, too.
Little Helen Keller tells us that before her illness she was learning how to talk. It was going well, but she was still so young when she got sick that she did not know that many words. As a baby, she had begun to speak simple words, such as “wa-wa” for water.
I had known for a long time that the people about me used a method of communication different from mine; and even before I knew that a deaf child could be taught to speak, I was conscious of dissatisfaction with the means of communication I already possessed. (Ch. 13)
Although little Helen worked hard to learn to speak, it was difficult for people who did not know her well to understand her. Her voice was unusual, and not like a hearing person’s voice. Her pronunciation was different. She could not hear what she was saying, obviously.
“My little sister will understand me now," was a thought stronger than all obstacles. I used to repeat ecstatically, "I am not dumb now." I could not be despondent while I anticipated the delight of talking to my mother and reading her responses from her lips. (Ch. 13)
Helen also explains in this chapter how she perceived her main method of communication, people spelling into her hand. She says it was so fast and fluid that she did not perceive individual letters any more than you do as you are writing words on paper. Thus, hand spelling was "no more a conscious act than it is in writing." It was pretty efficient. However, being able to speak was more convenient for communicating with others.