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Communication in the Play

Hearing Loss

What makes you lose your hearing?

In the play, Dau is experiencing rapid hearing loss. This common condition has many forms and can be caused by many things. Let’s learn a little more.

How does hearing work in humans?
It's more fascinating than you might think...

Check your Understanding:

Which part of the ear is "shaped like a snail and is the size of a garden pea"?

Check the Stats

Explore the infographics to examine who experiences hearing loss the most, what those numbers look like in the U.S., and the 3 different types of hearing loss (sensorineural, conductive, and mixed).

Pro tip: click on the photos to expand them

Do you, or does someone you know, experience hearing loss?
Compare your stats to the ones in the graphics.

Check your Understanding:

What type of hearing loss could occur with continued, improper use of a Q-Tip?

Sign Language

As Dau loses more of his hearing, he and Don must figure out how to communicate. This is complicated by the fact that Dau’s native language is Vietnamese, which Don doesn’t speak. Sign language is a natural fit, but they quickly discover that learning to sign is not as simple as it sounds.

American Sign Language

What is ASL?

American Sign Language (ASL) is a complete, natural language that has the same linguistic properties as spoken languages, with grammar that differs from English. ASL is expressed by movements of the hands and face. It is the primary language of many North Americans who are deaf and hard of hearing and is used by some hearing people as well. Here are 8 interesting facts about ASL.

Just like spoken language, sign language has variations across different countries or regions. There are different sign languages, and even different dialects within each language.

How many different dialects can you name in spoken, American English?

Sign Languages Around the World

Check your Understanding:

What is the most popular sign language in the world?

Sign Language in the Play

Vietnamese Sign Language

There are three signing communities in Vietnam: the Ho Chi Minh City signing community, the Ha Noi signing community, and the Hai Phong signing community. The Vietnamese Sign Language (VSL) within this play is Ho Chi Minh City Sign Language.


If you want to talk to me, you learn VSL. 


Alright, wait. Let’s just...let’s just think this through. In order for me to learn VSL, I have to learn Vietnamese. I’d have to translate English to Vietnamese in my head and then again into VSL. That’s two whole new languages. 


Now you understand what I do all the time with English. 

Classroom Activity

Objective: Students learn signs from ASL.

Instructions: Divide the class into groups. Each group is assigned a word or common phrase that they must learn via 
using YouTube or this siteOptions: Hello, morning, goodbye, what’s up, nice to meet you. Then have each group teach the sign to the rest of the class.

 Communication Across Generations

In The World is Not Silent, Don doesn’t speak his father’s native language, and he must find a new way to communicate as his father loses his hearing.

Think about someone close to you who is of a different generation. Do you ever have difficult communicating with them or relating to them? When?

Assimilation of a Generation

As individuals or ethnic groups migrate over generations, it is common for "cultural assimilation" to take place. The struggle for father and son to communicate in the play stems from a language barrier, as Don was never taught to speak his father's native language of Vietnamese. 

Why do you think a parent might avoid teaching their child their own native language?


Did he ever speak Vietnamese to me, growing up? No. It was always English. And he made me believe that in this country, perfect English gives you value. It gives you currency because people listen to you without judgement.

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