|Hearing-impaired tour guides learn international sign language with their Australian instructors (L, R) at Ho Chi Minh City’s War Remnants Museum|
A new kind of tour guides is bringing Vietnam’s story to travelers without a sound.
For years, local guides have been leading large groups of foreign travelers around Ho Chi Minh City’s War Remnants Museum. But these days, you might see a different group of guides explaining the historic exhibits without uttering a word.
The small group of three men and one woman are Smile Tour Service’s tour guides for the hearing-impaired. They can show hearing-impaired visitors of any nationality around the museum using sign language.
Smile Tours Director Hoang Thi Minh Thi said she began preparing the service in May last year.
She started by opening a training class for 20 hearing-impaired locals, but she found that even with the help of an interpreter, the task was too tiring. She canceled the course, worrying that the graduates wouldn’t be given good enough training.
It wasn’t until she reopened the course later with only her four best students that they began to excel. She then invited two professional Australian trainers to work with the trainees for a week.
It was still no easy task.
“In addition to tour-guide etiquette, I had to teach them all historical background information that tour guides have to know,” Thi said.
She said she had to teach them about culture, society, architecture, economics and politics.
She learned a little bit of sign language herself but said it was still difficult – even with interpreters – to convey more abstract ideas.
Most other tour guides begin training having already studied certain aspects of tourism, but Thi’s group had to start from scratch.
However, she said on-site training at museums has been crucial to the group’s success.
After months of training, Thi and her Australian collaborators felt the group was ready to give their first tour.
They guided their first two Japanese visitors in June and were praised by the travelers.
Thi said the compliments made her and her students very happy.
“It proved that we can do it, though the job is not easy,” Thi says.
Stephanie Linder – one of the two Australian instructors – said it’s very difficult for the hearing-impaired to be trained as tour guides. She said that while Smile Tour’s guides are still working to improve, they are at a professional level.
So far, the group has conducted three tours in HCMC, the Mekong Delta’s Tien Giang Province and My Tho Town also in the delta.
Tuyet Mai, one of the tour guides, is thrilled to be trained as a professional guide.
“This career offers me a chance to accompany people who also have hearing problems,” the 25-year-old woman said.
“I want to visit many places, learn and interact with many people,” Mai said. “More importantly, we want to prove that those with hearing impairments can still do challenging jobs.”
Quang Dung, a 26-year-old biotechnology graduate at HCMC Van Lang University, said he found the job interesting and enjoys promoting Vietnam’s image to outside visitors.
Dung, who is the only guide that can speak normally, taught himself English.
Thi said the work has provided her with more than just a business angle. She said she now wants to spend more time working with disadvantaged people.
She said that something seemed to be changing within her and she felt more than ever her responsibility to those less fortunate than her.
Source: TN, TT
Update from: http://www.thanhniennews.com/features/?catid=10&newsid=43840