Did You Know You Can Learn Sign Language For Free At Starbucks Bangsar Village II?

Those who are deaf or hard of hearing (which, BTW, are the proper terms to use, as ‘hearing impaired’ is not favoured by the deaf community… More on that below), live in a soundless world. But this doesn’t automatically mean that they are less able. Too often, and too quickly, we think that ‘disability’ connotes ‘inability’. Or, rather, we see a form  of disability rendering someone not being able to fit properly into our “regular” functioning world — how wrong we are.

After having a great friendship with a classmate in law school who was incidentally deaf, it reminded me that they are normal like us. They are just like ‘regular’ people, who can contribute to society and the economy, and can often times turn out to be extremely successful.

On this note, it’s fantastic to know that Starbucks Malaysia has a very close partnership with the Deaf community in Malaysia, and created the Starbucks Signing Store at Bangsar Village II . They regularly takes initiatives to hold programmes, that include free workshops throughout the year at Starbucks BVII. They consist of:

  • Personal and Professional Development Workshop
  • Deaf Empowerment and Awareness for Youth Workshop
  • Signing Workshop

The sign language classes are held six times every quarter, with ones happening this Saturday (22 Sept, 7.30PM) and next Saturday (29 Sept, 7.30PM). Anyone (including you!) can join, for free, and all you need to do is pre-register and head over to the Starbucks at BVII. Find out more below.

If you’re like me and want to brush up on sign language (OK, I admit, I didn’t learn THAT much since technology makes it easy to type out and text each other…) or want to learn something new, you can use this opportunity to get on down to Starbucks

But first off, there are a few things to note that I learned from Starbucks and their partner, Society of Interpreters for the Deaf (SID) from a recent workshop they held for the media. Here are some facts that you probably didn’t know about the Starbucks Bangsar Village II Signing Store and about the Deaf community in Malaysia.

Fact 1: There is an International Day of The Deaf

As the days creep closer to the weekend, we’re reminded that 23 September 2018 is International Day of the Deaf — this day is celebrated worldwide on the initiative of the UN on the last Sunday of September. This neatly coincides with the workshop happening this weekend so don’t miss out.

Fact 2: The starbucks signing store at bangsar village ii is the first and only of its kind in the world

Sure, you might prefer coffees from other outlets. It’s understandable. We change up our palate as the world is large, wide and varied. There is one extremely redeeming factor for Starbucks is that in Malaysia, its holding group took the initiative to launch a CSR programme that makes sense and matters.

The Signing Store at Bangsar Village II (not the one the BV I entrance, BTW) is a fully signing store and it’s the first and only one in the entire world. That’s right, no other Starbucks has taken up an initiative such as this one.

The store is manned by Coffee Masters (identified by their black aprons — they are differentiated because they undergo a 6 month certification programme to make them the creme de la creme of baristas) who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing. You can sign your way or indicate your order on an order pad.

Fact 3: There are ways you can contribute to the signing store that are so easy 

At the Starbucks Signing Store at Bangsar Village II, you can even pledge your support by buying cookies made by Silent Teddies, a bakery run by the Deaf. Every time you buy a jumbo chocolate chip cookie from them, RM1 is portioned back to fund them and initiatives that help the hard of hearing.

Fact 4: sign language is surprisingly easy

Having had a friend teach me the basics around 10 years ago, I could barely even spell four letters of my name. But at a very short and quick refresher workshop held by Starbucks for the media, it came back to me relatively easily. And even after being coached for about half an hour by Rose Ng, professional sign language interpreter, it came relatively easily. The reason is they gesture to signal whole concepts, not everything is spelled out. For example, one moving gesture of the letter “L” over what is considered “coffee” indicates “Latte!”. Less amount of time than saying two syllables!

All you need to remember is:

  • Sign language is a visual-gestural language, so eye contact is a must. You should always maintain eye contact with the person you are speaking to and if you break eye contact it can be seen as rude.
  • When you sign, make sure your hands are at a comfortable level. Rose suggested around mouth level, since the person is looking at your face anyway.
  • There are different languages in sign language. There’s Bahasa Malaysia in sign language, English, and so on. Sign language has its own grammar, word order and syntax. But it’s pretty simple to pick up!
  • People used to refer to them as “deaf and dumb”. The use of the term “dumb” is arcane now and is obsolete. Don’t call someone who is mute or signing “dumb”.
  • The deaf refer to us as “hearing people”!