The Other Malaysian - Listening to the Voice of the Unheard | The Full Frontal

The Other Malaysian – Listening to the Voice of the Unheard

When people speak of the deaf, there’s a rather funny misconception that they’re all physically mute.

This is untrue at times; some deaf people are capable of speaking well, granted some are not. Their speaking abilities are dependent on a variety of factors such as whether they are postlingually or prelingually deaf as well as their educational background.

Dated Assumptions

Needless to say, there are many stereotypes surrounding the Deaf community. In olden times, they wouldn’t be considered to be among the top percentile of who we imagine as successful. Unfortunately, this unkind stigma against those with special needs doesn’t stop at deafness. Yet, many inspiring individuals since have shattered those assumptions. 

Among those is Lee Tur Chung – a Malaysian deaf teacher who is not only an inspiring teacher at SM Pendidikan Khas Vokasional but also the only deaf person doing a PhD in the country. Yet, he isn’t the first (and definitely won’t be the last) individual rising above adversity. Aside from academic excellence, Datuk Seri Wong Khen Thau, Chief Executive Officer at Asian Tourism International (ATI) College has praised those with special needs for being more dedicated to their duties given training and proper work routines.

Reading Between the Lips

If you didn’t know that there are four Starbucks stores in Malaysia that employ deaf baristas, chances are you don’t know that they read lips!

People who are deaf or hard-of-hearing are highly skilled in lipreading, also known as speech reading. However, keep in mind that even the best of lipreaders can only capture approximately 25% to 30% of what’s being said. That being said, they use the context of a situation as their guide to filling themselves in on the conversation. 

Nevertheless, it’s not all kacang putih as it seems. Lipreading requires high amounts of concentration and can get exhausting during the process. Can you imagine having to read the lips of 3 people speaking at the same time? It’s a nightmare – both in office meetings and during friendly outings. We bet you can remember a time where you were left out of a conversation because you couldn’t understand the language being used – horrid, ain’t it?

Learning the Ropes

That being said, it wouldn’t hurt to consider learning some sign language to create a more inclusive society among our multicultural community. Regardless of where you come from, It comes in handy to know a few words in Malaysian Sign Language (MSL).

Watch below:

1) Terima kasih / Thank you

Because, why not?


2) Sudah makan? / Have you eaten?

Malaysians and our food. Enough said.


3) You’re late!

Not something we’re proud of but we’re quite famous for being fashionably tardy.


4) Makan apa? / What do you want to eat?

What else should you ask, right?


5) Jom pergi! / Jom, let’s go!

100% Malaysian.


Like what you see? Tune in with Carrybean’s videos that show you the basics of Malaysian Sign Language!

Bridging the Gap

Knowing that shouting or raising your voice doesn’t help when speaking to a deaf person is common logic to some, and shockingly, new information to others. However, what does help is speaking naturally and with normal expressions as well as making and maintaining eye contact before approaching them! As a rule, it’s also vital to be sensitive when faced with the topic of deafness.

Leave No One Behind

In summary, we all want to be understood and accepted, one way or another. Being capable of hearing and language certainly does feel like a gift if you really think about it. Conversely, this gives us a chance to extend our affirmation and support our less-abled peers. After all, our nation was built on inclusivity and tolerance. I suppose it’s time we walk the talk.

All in all, there are a few common mannerisms we need to address here. With a world of information at our fingertips, it’s hard to get off the hook for simply not knowing something. Think about landing a new job in a foreign country – you wouldn’t want people to think less of you because you don’t understand their culture and language, would you?

Want more? Back in July, we uncovered another group of unique Malaysians that are living secret lives beyond plain sight.