Learning to listen

By Published On: March 16, 2007Categories: Blog1 Comment on Learning to listen

“So what did you learn at school today,” I asked in front of the unusually attentive class. The teenage boy at the back in a sweatshirt and cap gestured dramatically. The whole class arched around to listen. “We did some maths, we talked, we learnt some more signs,” the teacher translated. As he finished his words, the rest of the class gestured appreciation in unison.

I was visiting a deaf school that sits up high, perched on the steep inclines of La Paz, overlooking a city emblazoned gold in the mid-afternoon sun. I was accompanied by Juliette and an American friend, Diane, who supports the school providing hearing aids and helping to pay for transport. As the end of school bell rang and the kids streamed out of classes, we chatted to the teachers who projected an enthusiasm and energy that was rare for an end-of-school day.

I found myself transfixed watching three teenage boys signing to each other in the corner of the playground. As each signed expressively, the others watched attentively.  The conversation was full of passion, eye contact and body connection, but each took their turn to listen before speaking. With these teenagers, there was no space it seemed for slouching, interrupting or mono-syllabic conversations.

It seemed strange that we talk about a conversation of the deaf when we talk but don’t listen. Here I was witnessing a conversation of the deaf, and it was clearly all about listening. Perhaps we could all spend time with deaf people in order to learn how to listen.


One Comment

  1. Earl M. March 18, 2007 at 12:16 am - Reply

    Listening is an unknown discipline for many who have never learned the skill of silencing the internal dialogue. It is well known to telempaths that if you are busy thinking about what you want to say next, this is a gross lack of consideration to the person who has the right to speak at the time. If your attention is effectively divided, the whole idea of participating in a “conversation” has been totally corrupted and rendered useless. You may just as well be deaf!!

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