With some inspiration from a fellow Japanese learner, I started studying Japanese Sign Language during the last few weeks of college.
First of all, it’s really fun. I loved practicing 指文字 while walking around campus, despite the stares. So far I have 指文字 down, and some pretty basic vocabulary, so I’ll be working on actual conversation from now on.
I was surprised by how intuitive JSL is. For example, the signs for “夜” and “こんにちは”combine to create こんばんは. Little things like that, along with my background in Japanese, make this language really easy to absorb and retain, even if I stop for a (very) short while.
I love how expressive the language is. I’m not a very expressive person, so I think taking this language further will be very helpful for me. People often have trouble figuring out how I feel since I pretty much have the same expression on my face no matter what. I’ve learned that that is not really an option in signed languages, so I have no choice but to work hard in order to make myself easier to understand.
I’m having a lot of fun watching the videos and picking up new signs, but I still have several questions about what to study. First and foremost, the difference between 日本手話 and 日本語対応手話. Should I learn both? I feel like I’ve been focusing on 日本手話, but sometimes I see stuff I don’t recognize and I wonder if it would be beneficial to learn both. Also, it seems that knowing American Sign Language would be beneficial as well, or at least the alphabet. For now I’m just watching videos and mimicking the signs I want to focus on. It is very likely that I will pick up ASL as well. I’d love to hear some opinions from those who are more experienced in JSL than I am.
Random tidbit. At my graduation there was a lady signing for the entire ceremony. It was awesome. So I watched a random person sign for a few hours instead of actually paying attention to the ceremony. Oops.
Anyways, I’ll be stuck in several books from now until the end of June, since I’m still several thousand pages away from my goal in the Tadoku contest. And I do plan on reaching that goal.
Have you any experience in sign languages? How did you go about studying them? Leave a comment and let me know!