Tuesday, May 31, 2011

I've got class

Starting tomorrow, I'm taking a class. You read it right. I'm taking a class. And not just any old class, I'm taking a language class. And not just any old language class, it's an intermediate Japanese sign language class.

I took the beginning course in 2008 and haven't found any way to hone my skills, so I'm still not able to hold a conversation in sign language. And my listening skills are just awful. Did I say "listening skills?" I meant, my reading skills. I can't read sign language very well. I have to convert the signs into Japanese words and then wait for my brain to parse the grammar, and by then I'm completely lost.

Contrary to what you might have been led to believe, there actually is NO silent period when learning sign language. You can begin signing right from day one. The human brain can distinguish between all the different signs in the whole world. So jump right in!

Everybody has an accent in sign language. Different people doing the same sign might hold their hands at different angles or might have learned the signs slightly differently. In sign language, not only are there different words for the same sign, there are different signs for the same word. So if you see another person doing a sign differently than what you were taught, don't automatically assume that they are wrong.

Everybody wants to know why I'm taking Japanese sign language. Actually, I don't have a reason to learn sign language. I don't need it and I don't have any deaf friends. I have never actually learned an English sign language. I'm not planning to use it in a future career. I'm not conducting another extreme experiment using sign language and I'm not going to be blogging about my progress. I think I've already shown that I'll do things other people wouldn't want to do.

To me, it's just another language, and I like learning languages. So now I'm learning Japanese, Chinese, and Japanese sign language. Judging from my past successes, I probably won't get very fluent with sign language. Have I mentioned how extremely honest I am?

The course is once a week and there will be 30 sessions. There's a textbook, but I hear the current teacher does not follow the textbook. The teacher and the teacher's assistant are deaf, so any complaints about the teaching just fall on... well, you know what I mean.  The course will finish at the end of January.

By the end of the course, I would really like to be able to converse and read Japanese sign language. I'm going to have to devote some time to it, though. I should try to get my hands on some specially made sign language DVDs and watch those for, I don't know, maybe 2,000 hours. They are short stories made for people learning sign language. They are expensive to buy, though, so I just want to "borrow" them if I can.

I do have a DVD that teaches basic Japanese sign language, but there's nothing like authentic conversations in the target sign language. Practicing finger-spelling in sign language can really make your wrists sore quickly. You have to learn to position your hands and wrists in ways you are not currently used to.

For those who might be interested, I've already published a video on YouTube demonstrating the signs for the Japanese syllabary and 2 quizzes to practice reading Japanese finger spelling. I promise you, if you click on the links, I will not be making any money nor trying to sell you anything.


  1. Wow Japanese signing that is so interesting! I use Irish/ American and British Sign and I am learning Japanese but I never even thoguht about Japanese signing I will have a look at your videos as soon as I get home (no YouTube at work, my boss doesn't consider it work for some reason!)

  2. Keith, Radio Australia is currently doing a podcast series (3 episodes) on deafness as part of their 'All In The Mind' program. The first episode has already been released. I usually find the program very interesting (provided I'm interested in the topic as such), and I can clearly recommend it in general terms. In case you're interested, have a look at http://www.abc.net.au/rn/allinthemind/

  3. I love this blog so I have nominated you for a blog award:http://beforecharlees30.blogspot.com/2011/06/irresistibly-sweet-blog-award.html


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