When you move to a foreign country, the background chatter of your own native language – the sounds of people around you, TV or radio, is replaced with a droning stream of voices in a language foreign to your own. Having been in Japan for 10 years, I now understand a lot of what I hear, but I still have to “tune in” to the TV to understand what the actors and actresses are saying. I can’t subconsciously follow a conversation like I can in English, I have to actually make an effort and concentrate on what I’m listening to.
M-chan and A-chan, best friends, are one of the most interesting partnerships you could possibly meet. M-chan is a student of mine, and she is totally blind. A-chan on the other hand is deaf. Together, they make the perfect team, spending much of their free time together, drinking wine and eating cheesecake.
According to M-chan, her best friend is incredibly friendly. A-chan strikes up conversations with anybody and everybody in all manner of situations, and doesn’t stop talking. This is why M-chan was surprised to find her so quiet on their recent night out at an okonomiyaki restaurant.
A concerned M-chan asked her friend what was wrong, clearly worried about this unusual shyness. Interestingly, A-chan blamed it on the time of year, and started to curse Japan’s dreaded hayfever season. The reason though wasn’t that A-chan suffers from an endlessly running nose and itchy eyes. In fact she doesn’t suffer from hayfever at all. So why do you think she would hate this season so much?
A-chan is proficient in lip reading. This means that every year, when hayfever season rolls around, her world goes quiet. People all around her start wearing masks to prevent the onset of their pollen allergies.
It’s a sad consequence of wearing a mask, and one most people are completely oblivious, too.
I may have to concentrate to understand the babble of Japanese I hear in the world around me, but I’d rather that than have everyone just stop talking.