Communication is key...


Communication is key. We've all heard this a million times, whether that's in the workspace, in sports, or in relationships. We so often only think of speaking in regards to communication. But what happens when speaking is eliminated due to a language barrier as is the case when you travel to different countries? You probably find yourself gesturing, pointing, acting out scenarios, and emoting more. Because we're not doing this on a regular basis, we're not always very good at it. 

I've started to realize that communicating with the deaf in other countries is actually maybe easier than communicating with the speaking. As they have been gesturing and emoting their whole lives, they're often quicker to pick upon what you're trying to say than someone who relies just on speaking communication, if that makes any sense.

I noticed this particularly in my recent adventure to Bravo Caffe, a deaf owned and operated cafe in Taipei.

I had read about this cafe in my brief research about deaf culture in Taipei, so I was particularly stoked when I realized it was right next to the gym I've been working out in. All the reviews from hearing and deaf/hoh patrons were quite positive, so I was confident I'd be in for a treat!

The cafe is small, quaint, and full of character (literally and metaphorically, there were cartoon-ish characters everywhere!). When ordering, you simply point at the menu item you want; they ring up the total and point to it; you pay; you wait, and they bring your order out to you. Simple enough!

As I sat there waiting for my milk tea and green tea waffle, I was admiring the pictures on the wall which showed you how to sign different words such as 'yummy', 'like', 'hot', 'cold', 'like', 'sweet', etc. in TSL (Taiwanese Sign Language). Essentially words you might use to describe your food or drinks, a nice and simple way to communicate your feelings to the staff if need be. 

Course, I was geeking out trying to practice all the signs. As I've mentioned, my ASL is abysmal, and the staff and other cafe inhabitants were looking at me with smiles. I finally realized they were actually looking at my hearing aid, as my hair was up thanks to my sweaty workout. They viewed me as one of them, but not completely because, as I said, they laughed at my measly attempts to sign. They worked with me and were super patient in showing me each of the identified words on the wall. 

I then attempted to ask them questions, through gestures, not sign language, and they were super quick to respond as best as they could. Their faces would light up as they understood what I was asking. I've noticed that when I've communicated gesturely (yes, I'm making up this word) with people in stores, I have to try multiple ways to get my point across. These people, it took one movement from me before they (mostly) got it! 

They, of course, had to try multiple different ways when asking me questions or giving me answers. Whoops! I think they were also just super excited that I would even attempt to communicate with them as the hearing folks in Taiwan are not always receptive to the deaf (more on this next week).

Anyways, I believe this visual acuteness is because their whole way of communicating is through gestures, emoting, and acting out scenarios, so they are more hyper aware of all the possibilities you can visually (and touchfully, again another made up word) say something, as compared with a majority of speaking people. 

Again, I think it all comes back to the fact that we have so many ways to communicate, so why limit ourselves to just one of the 5 senses (hear) when every other sense can be utilized to get your point across?

Ultimately, my hope is that traveling and attempting to gesture or find other ways to communicate may open people up to the fact that it is possible for deaf/hoh and hearing to better understand one another! 

So...If you're hearing or hoh/deaf and don't know sign language, I challenge you to find a deaf person or deaf business and see what conclusions you come up with!