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Neighbors Surprise Man By Using Sign Language; Hearts Melt

The story of how Istanbul residents learned sign language to create a special day for a neighbor has turned a Samsung ad into an international viral hit. The ad was filmed by hidden cameras on the route traveled by Muharrem Yazgan, who is hearing-impaired, and his sister, Özlem, who was in on the project.

The resulting video shows Muharrem walking through his neighborhood, interacting with strangers and shopkeepers — all of whom are able to communicate with him.

With the acknowledgement that the ad is a blatant attempt to humanize a corporation and draw attention to its wares, we'll also say it's hard not to be won over by what seems to be a genuine effort by regular people to make Muharrem feel less isolated. The participants reportedly studied sign language for a month.

The video follows Muharrem as his reactions grow from surprise to amused suspicion — and finally to the awareness that dozens of people have worked to connect with him.

He's seen wiping away a few tears, and that seems to have been a common reaction: On YouTube, the video's top comment is, "This didn't make my eyes tear up at all, NOT AT ALL! SHUT UP!"

The events were filmed on Dec. 28 in Istanbul. The resulting Samsung ad is titled "Hearing Hands," part of a campaign for the company's video call centers.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.