We all know how hard it can be when you’re speaking with someone whose accent is different from your own. It’s worse when you have a hearing loss. I’d bet that at least most of us have had such an experience. So just imagine how much more difficult it might be to get along in an entirely different language – one you don’t speak at all.
When I planned to visit my son in Guatemala I knew I wasn’t going to understand a word of Spanish, much less speak it. Such a negative attitude!
Fortunately, I met with my bi-monthly discussion group about a month before the Guatemala trip. The topic was “What do you consider impossible to accomplish in your life?” I immediately blurted out “learning a foreign language!” Spanish was very much on my mind since I wondered how I was going to manage in Guatemala.
My discussion group is sensitive to my hearing loss, but they didn’t accept my negativity. I had always shown I could hear them, or at least follow the conversation pretty well. They believed I could learn another language, and thought Spanish would be relatively easy. After all, Spanish is now the second most-widely used language in the US, and there are plenty of street signs, menus, TV and news programs where Spanish phrases and English/Spanish translations are common. Plus we use the same alphabet, except for a few accent marks, and share many words. Tacos, anyone?
When I got to Guatemala I was surprised at how many words I recognized both written and spoken. My son even encouraged me to take Spanish lessons, which would help me make sense out of the written language. But would I understand what people were saying?
I was only in Guatemala about ten days and must admit that I did not get up the courage to speak any Spanish. But I now admit that with practice and focus, I could do it. It’s become a possibility, not an Impossibility.
This experience has me wondering what happens to people with hearing loss when they re-locate to another country. How do they learn a new language? Of course success will depend on several factors, including their age (children learn new languages faster) and the severity of their loss. And no doubt it’s easier if the new language is familiar, sharing common roots and alphabet. For English speakers, Spanish and other Romance languages (French, Italian, Portuguese), and German tend to be easier to learn than Russian, Chinese, Greek or Hindi, which share few common words and use different alphabets. What happens then?
What about you? What have your experiences been travelling to other countries or learning other languages?
We’re planning an ON-LINE pilot of the successful workshop that I did in January called “Coming to Grips with Your Hearing Loss; How to Achieve Your Best Hearing Experience”. You can see a short video from the workshop here.
This workshop will be available to anyone with a computer, access to wifi and a basic understanding of how to navigate their computer …. your location doesn’t matter.
You will not have to strain to listen as it will all done written – like a group instant messaging. This will be a “shake-down cruise” as an on-line workshop is new for us all.
If you’re interested in participating for free as a guinea pig, please let me know right away by clicking here. It will be held on four consecutive Tuesdays from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. eastern standard time, March 20, March 27, April 3 and April 10th.
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