April 11, 2010

Communicating in a Foreign Country

I recently went on a trip to a country in Central America where the primary language is Spanish. I had a wonderful time! Great food, wonderful people, beautiful land.

I went there to visit my boyfriend's family. I was nervous and excited. I thought about how we would communicate. I know very, very, very little Spanish. And because of my deafness, perhaps I am a little more aware of communication issues than the average person with typical hearing.  

Everyone in his family spoke just enough English to communicate with me fine, so that was a relief. Also, I noticed that when they spoke in Spanish, I would catch certain words and phrases I recognize and would piece it together to try to figure out what they were saying. Body language and reading facial expressions helped out too. I was doing the same thing I would do when people speak my native language, English.
For example, while sitting in the back of the car, his cousin asked me what kinds of food I like. Being that I could not see her face (she was driving), with the noise of rushing wind from the open widows, I assumed that she asked me what kind of music I like. Why? Because she stopped the music that was currently playing, and she was pushing some buttons on the iPod. I thought, "Ok, she is asking me if I like something, she is playing with the iPod, she must be asking me if I like music."

When some of his family and friends would apologize for speaking only in Spanish at times, I would smile and say that it was fine. It was fine, because I am used to it. I am used to sitting there when a whole lot of people were talking at once and not catch what was being said for the most part. So, even when they speak in English I would have the same difficulties understanding, unless I was spoken to directly, face to face. 

So, in this situation, my deafness proved to help me. Because I am constantly having to deal with communication issues in English, I believe that I was not as uncomfortable or frustrated when they would only speak in Spanish, in comparison to people who are used to communicating efficiently with most people on a daily basis.

My boyfriend told me that it took this trip for him to finally understand better what I was going through. He is currently making more of an effort to learn sign language to help us communicate more efficiently at times. :)



  1. Which country did you go to? Costa Rica? :>


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