One of my part-time jobs is to take part in a role-play session (in English) called Global Program, which is to help Japanese high school students familiarise with various scenarios that might happen to them when they are abroad, since most of them have never been outside of Japan before.
Some of the scenarios we would role-play are checking in at the airport, being onboard a plane, home stay, checking in at a hotel, and so on.
The scenarios seem very easy but most students are very shy and terse so it’s really difficult to get them to speak up (even though they just have to follow the fucking script), let alone to engage them in conversations, which is part of our job as well. These guys have probably never used English in real life before so they always feel very embarrassed and would rather not talk for fear of making mistakes. My job is actually really easy; just follow the script for the role-play and talk to them and I will get 3000yen (about 30UsD) for 2 and a half hours. But the script is really short so we always have to engage them in small talk when there’s nothing else to say in the script. I totally hate this part since they would always withdraw themselves, either because they didn’t understand a word I was saying (I made sure to speak slowly and clearly, but still…) or they didn’t know how to reply.
But the last session was quite different.
The students who took part in the Global Program this time were students from the school of the deaf.
Interacting with people who are hearing-impaired means something special to me because my own parents are hearing-impaired themselves. But unlike my parents, the students this time round are much luckier than my parents, in the sense that they could still go to school and receive a proper education.
And of course, like any other normal Japanese student, they get to learn English too.
At first, all of us were like, how is this going to work? We were told they could lip-read so we just have to put emphasis on our pronunciation and speak slowly so that they could lip-read. But we were going to speak English, a foreign language to them. We didn’t think it could work so well.
We were provided with writing materials as well, so that if they don’t understand, we could still write to them. Ok, I thought that might help a little at least. That is how I always communicate with my dad anyway so I was more comfortable with this form of communication than lip-reading.
It turns out that we didn’t need to write anything at all. With lip-reading and a little bit of sign language, they could understand us perfectly. And boy I was surprised with their pronunciations! They tried really hard to speak English right despite their hearing disability. I was so touched. I had a terrible ulcer that day but I tried my best to give my best smile because I knew they were trying so hard. They have put all the other Japanese students to shame!
Then I realised that these students aren’t any different from normal students. The guys are rowdy and tease each other, the girls always talk excitedly and animatedly to each other, and all of them make fun of one another. It isn’t any different from what normal students do! I guess we as a society are conditioned to pity and sympathise with people less privileged than us (no thanks to charity TV shows that try to garner support by making these people look as pitiful as possible), but we have failed to realise that we are all human beings and we have a shared humanity. Just because they are disabled doesn’t mean they think or act any differently than us. We are one and the same.
Given my family background, maybe I should have volunteered in a charity for the deaf or done something for the cause. I think I would like to do that someday. It sounds like I’m selfish or making excuses, but I feel that I should put my parents as priority before giving my time and effort to charities. After all, who should I help most other than my own parents?
This session just reminded me of how much my parents have struggled and while I don’t quite agree with their parenting methods, they have done their best in raising two perfectly sound children within their capacity.
I miss my family.