Alyson Urdahl

Ex Fabula’s last StorySlam of 2022 was a packed house at Garfield’s 502. The theme was Language and the stories shared were about communication and misunderstandings in languages such as American Sign Language, Spanish, Japanese, and English. Additional stories involving German, French, Portuguese, Italian, Khmer, and AAVE were shared as UltraShorts and brought even more voices to the stage!

The first story was shared in ASL by Alyson Urdahl. She told three mini stories about some of the misunderstandings that she has uncovered during her career as a teacher. All these happened because the students didn’t have enough people in their lives who could effectively communicate with them in ASL. Topics of confusion included the “This is your brain on drugs” PSA and menstruation. Thankfully Alyson was there to clear things up!

Anne Koller

Anne Koller shared a story about teaching English in rural Japan. She had one English-speaking friend who grew up in Leeds, and one day on the train, they were discussing their dating lives, vibrators, and orgasms. They thought they were having a private conversation because they rarely met anyone who spoke English in that area. What they didn’t know was that a young man from New York sitting by them understood every word!

The next two storytellers shared stories of using language to get specific points across. Mark Steidl wrote an entire life story for a rabbit to play a joke on his principal. Anna Wroblewski shared the story of an inside joke that has been passed down and shared with family and friends. When sharing it with friends who didn’t speak English, she found it to be so universal that it didn’t need translation!

Mark Steidl tells his story

Mark Steidl

Alea McHatten reads from a script and speaks into a microphone. Kim Shine makes a heart shape with her hands.

Emcees Alea & Kim

Woman uses hand gestures to help tell her story on stage

Anna Wroblewski

Nestor Gomez

Nestor Gomez became the night’s fan favorite with a story about moving and miscommunications. Nestor moved to the United States as a teenager and didn’t speak English but was able to find a group of friends who also spoke Spanish. However, after some funny miscommunications with these friends, he realized that some Spanish words don’t mean the same thing everywhere! He realized that on top of learning English, he might have to learn a brand-new Spanish vocabulary!

Franny Delzer

Franny Delzer shared a story about the difficulties of communicating through a translator. Franny is a Reiki practitioner with multiple Spanish-speaking clients. Interpretation during her sessions made them longer than usual, and she was in danger of losing those patients if she couldn’t keep her sessions under the allotted time. Fortunately, Frances figured out how to cut down the sessions so that she could keep serving those clients.

Melani Kaplan

Melani Kaplan grew up in a hearing household and experienced a lot of loneliness until she was introduced to a Deaf family friend. Because Melani’s dad didn’t know ASL, they always had a difficult relationship, but the last Christmas before her father passed away, he apologized for not realizing how lonely it must have been for Melani. She said this was the best gift he could have given her.

The last two storytellers shared stories about unexpected connections. Jonathan Petermon’s story was about communicating with a hearing co-worker who is learning ASL. He shared how it was interesting to him to watch her code-switch in a language that is so new to her and reflected on the effect code-switching has on our communication. The last storyteller of the evening, Barbara Leigh, shared that getting into a car accident and having to use a wheelchair introduced her to new people and communities she would never have gotten to know.

Whether it was an embarrassing story about an overshare or misunderstanding, or a heartfelt story of connecting despite communication barriers, the stories shared at our Language StorySlam made it a night to remember. Thank you to everyone who joined us and filled the space with empathy and laughter. We hope to see you in 2023!

Find a full list of upcoming StorySlams here.