After 24 years in isolation, learning to communicate
October 13, 2010 11:35 AM   Subscribe

"Voice of San Diego reporter Adrian Florido set out to find a family, he writes, "whose experience could illustrate the day-to-day challenge for Burmese refugees" in San Diego, since "more than 200 Burmese families have arrived [in that city] since 2006." In the process, Florido met a 24-year-old man named Har Sin" who was unable to hear, speak, read, write or use sign language, and wound up writing a two-part story about him: In a New Land, Hoping to Hear and Breaking Free of a Life Without Language. The story is available as a downloadable pdf: A Silent Journey Series. / Via The Kicker, the daily blog of the Columbia Journalism Review

Behind Har Sin's Story.

Mr. Florido has a twitter account and his "Survival in San Diego" blog archive on Voice of San Diego is here.
posted by zarq (5 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Thank you so much zarq, Har Sin's story gave me chills. It reminds me yet again how lucky I am to have been born in a country with medical care, public education, technology and special education services that have allowed me to be independent and free. I can still remember my early years before I got hold of speechreading (I was @ 4 when I got it, I was 3 1/2 when I got my first glasses).

I cannot imagine living without language to organize my thoughts for an entire life. The writer does a magnificent job of not focusing on the sadness, the what ifs and the tragedy. Rather, he focuses on the hope and the excitement of Har Lin growing as he gains communication. The writing is beautiful in its visual descriptiveness as well.

Thanks again!
posted by Librarygeek at 12:57 PM on October 13, 2010

Thanks for this.

If anyone's interested, another great, similar story (immigrant experience, lack of language) is told in A Man Without Words by Susan Schaller and this Radiolab segment.
posted by Knicke at 4:17 PM on October 13, 2010

Knicke, you beat me to it. That Radiolab show was wonderful.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 4:39 PM on October 13, 2010

I work at as an editor, and for me the "behind the story" link above is equally compelling because of the journalistic dilemma it raises.

The question at the start was, How do you get the permission to write about someone who can only communicate in the broadest of gestures?

Turns out, the answer is to have the patience to wait until they can communicate to give consent.
posted by Mo Nickels at 6:58 AM on October 14, 2010

This was absolutely captivating.

I hope Har Sin becomes more proficient than anyone could have imagined!
posted by zizzle at 10:45 AM on October 14, 2010

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