Communicating in foreign country
Warning: this post is likely to offend the people of France and Spain.
As a deaf person travelling solo through France, Andorra, Spain and Portugal – I never felt so demoralised by people’s blunt refusal to acknowledge my deafness and my inability to speak their language.
From my experience of travelling in France, I knew what to expect.
I had a lovely time in Andorra and people were friendly and accommodating in communicating with me in different ways.
After meeting so many lovely Spanish people that were either travelling or living in Australia, I thought the people are nice and be themselves. Ah no – not in Barcelona, Valencia or Madrid. They were absolutely rude and refused to even attempt to be helpful or even use gesture to communicate.
The following situation has happened:
- Barcelona hostel – refuses to write or even assist when asking for help
- Casa Batllo – the staff refused to write or even type in the phone and keep talking to me in either Spanish or English.
- Valencia hostel – the staff refused to do basic communication
- Valencia Gelato – person serving me was so cold, when I told him I am deaf and point at the menu.
- Madrid hostel – the staff basically was so angry at me and didn’t even make any attempt to apologise and I had no idea why he was angry. After this episode, he still does not communicate with me, even when trying ask for direction and so forth.
- Toledo – Templar and the other orders as well as the other exhibitions, I was treated like a child. I didn’t enjoy my experience.
- Toledo – I was standing the square and I was going to communicate with the Sightseeing Bus person and she bluntly ignored me until I had to force her to communicate with me – hell, I want to get on the bus so I can get the view of Toledo!
- Barcelona, Valencia and Madrid train station – when I asked for direction, they were so cold and the attitude was purely on the face. I am only asking for direction the platform – it’s all in my phone using translation. I am being kind to you.
- Café, supermarkets and restaurant – I haven’t been able to enjoy my meal without the coldness and attitude from the waitress. The only positive experience I had was when I was in Celicioso café. I have a feeling he is not Spanish because of the gestures he used and wanting to communicate.
I could go on however you get the gist of the communication issues that I have when I was in Spain.
On my last night in Madrid, I was having a conversation with someone from Mexico who speaks Spanish, English and Russian, he understood what I meant.
This is what I said: “I learnt to speak and lip-read English in 10 years from the age of 4 until 13 – not the first five years of my life and all that growing that hearing people have with hearing English. Then I got my cochlear implant and spent two more years polishing my speaking English. The tongue patterns, phonetics etc. that is associated with speaking.
He asked me, do I want to speak Spanish? I said yes, I tried learning to speak Spanish however I need someone who is speech therapist or has the skill of a speech therapist to actually sit down with me to learn the phonetics and the patterns etc of a language. Who will do that? Tutors? They are not skilled enough and expect you to understand the techniques involved. I am happy to pay but I need someone who actually understands how to work with a deaf person in learning basic spoken language.
I can read and write a language but don’t expect me to lip-read or speak your language unless I have undertaken several sessions to understand your language.
So when I do gesture or use my mobile with the translation or write down basic things, all I want you to do is to be kind and helpful – not be so arrogant and refusing to do a simple task of communicating with a deaf person. Our experience of travelling is important because you don’t know what is going on within this person’s world.
I felt so detached from wanting to visit Spain again however arriving in Seville, it has restored my hope of visiting however not fully. I had someone who invited me to her workshop on Playback Theatre and Spontaneous Theatre and by the time I arrived in Madrid, I had to turn the offer down because I could not cope with the situation of spoken Spanish any longer.
I have no issues in Lagos or Lisbon of Portugal. In fact, when I was catching the train this morning (24 July 2017), I said, I am deaf and wanted to know which platform to catch the train, the female staff actually signed to me in Portugese and I understood what she said.
That what I love about being Deaf. The ability to understand another sign language without having to ask what that means. It is the same with the Spanish Sign Language interpreter on the TV when I was in Madrid. I didn’t have to say, what is she talking about or anything. It just connects automatically.