19 June, 2013

The Hammer

Our son received this DVD for his birthday.

It was recommended to us by Aussie friends who saw it on a plane and knew about our son's wrestling. This week, while his brothers were on camp, we three sat down and watched it.

It's a true story, about a profoundly deaf man in America who's grandfather encouraged him to be a wrestler, to help him through the struggles of childhood as a deaf child. It turned out that he was a very good wrestler. He went to college and won at a very high level (National Champion of college wrestling three years running).

It appealed to me on several levels:

The wrestling, of course, was interesting to watch and nail biting at times. I thought the ending was a little too like Karate Kid, though, the underdog with an injury beats the current champion...but of course this is a true story (with lots of collaboration with the man who it is about).

Gaining a little insight into the deaf community was interesting, stories about disability always grab me.

Language barrier
But the most surprising thing was the cross-cultural element with a language barrier complication. This man, Matt Hamill, was brought up in a "normal" environment, especially school. He learned to lipread very well and his signing wasn't so good. So when he got to university and had a translator for lectures, he didn't cope very well and in fact got thrown out of college (because he got there on a wrestling scholarship that had a proviso of a certain GPA). He then went to a different college that had a large deaf community but struggled to integrate into that deaf community.

The movie portrayed the language barrier very well. When he was listening to a lecture where he couldn't see the lecturer's mouth consistently he was looking between the lecturer and the translator, missing lots of words, some because he couldn't see the lecturer's mouth, some because he didn't know all the signs. It was portrayed beautifully. What he could hear and understand was written as subtitles, when he missed words, it was a blank like this:
To get the _________ of the problem you have to _____ .
It illustrated fairly well what it is like to listen to a language where you are partially fluent in. It isn't that I can't understand any Japanese, but when I'm missing key components of many sentences, I just don't get the overall meaning. That is hard for a someone speaking to you to understand. It is a hidden "disability".

Cross-cultural challenges
The other element his challenge in adapting to college was the language and cultural barrier with the deaf community. They didn't like him to "use his voice" and they signed too fast for him. He had to learn how to interact with them.

I liked it when at one point he used his "bilingual" abilities to help his deaf girlfriend get a petition signed. He could ask, not just deaf students, but normal-hearing students also.

Anyway, that's enough of that. It is a good movie, and even if you aren't into wrestling, I'd recommend you check it out. By the way, the main actor is deaf, so his "deaf accent" is legitimate.

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