Link had never learned to talk. He guessed (after learning the truth about his origins) that something must have happened the night his mother had saved his life. However he, like any good hero, was good at adapting and had managed to devise his own system of communication.
It required a lot of gestures, simple noises, and facial work.
Saria had been the first to pick up on it. She’d even helped Link develop a “vocabulary.” In truth, none of the Kokiri had had any trouble with it, not even Mido. He was just Link to them, and Link didn’t talk.
Things were different once Link had to leave the forest. People reacted to him differently for the first time. Some thought he was stupid (mainly Ingo) or being rude. Others, often older women, looked at him with pity, apparently unable to see how well he had survived so far (even when he was an adult). He was never in the towns and cities long enough for anyone to really learn his language so Link supposed the feelings weren’t totally unfounded.
Malon was really the first person outside the forest to see Link as “normal.” She once said, much to Link’s chagrin, that it was from being around horses. She was used to silent communication.
All the important people Link met on his quest didn’t seem to mind his lack of verbal skills. In fact, a number of them, especially the Sages, seemed to enjoy the opportunity to talk uninterrupted (chatterboxes the lot of them).
Sheik had been interesting. At first all he did was spout his cryptic messages, teach Link a song, and then leave. It wasn’t long, however, before he started sticking around. “Enamored by Link’s charming smile,” he later claimed. Sheik wasn’t much for talking himself and most of their time was spent in comfortable, silent, companionship (though he decoded Link’s system fairly quickly). It seemed something always needed fixing or sharpening, or customizing. They learned a lot about each other through both working and talking.
And for all Links’ skill in communication, he couldn’t figure out the best way to tell Sheik he fancied him. So he went for the direct approach and straight out kissed him one day. Sheik whole-heartedly approved of the method.