japan earthquake info for the deaf

[Audio:?; Subtitles: Japanese, English; Languages: ASL, JSL]

I’m not sure if there’s any spoken audio (and if there is, what language(s)), but this is a pretty cool example of a dual signed-language video. The woman is signing in Japanese Sign Language and is subtitled in Japanese; the man is translating her signing into American Sign Language (and he is accompanied with English subtitling).

Many people think that there is only one sign language, or that sign language is universal. It isn’t. Sign languages are like spoken languages in every single way but one, and that includes the diversity of languages (and for that matter, regional accents, regional word usage and so on).

It is an odd fact of ASL’s linguistic history that I can understand French Sign Language far better than I can understand British Sign Language. ASL has its roots in FSL and BSL is a completely unrelated language.

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One Response to japan earthquake info for the deaf

  1. kethry says:

    You’re absolutely right about BSL being far different to ASL. While I (as a Brit) do happen to know the ASL alphabet – the *speed* at which you guys (Americans) fingerspell words makes my jaw hit the ground – I can never keep up with that and always revert to the subtitles!

    What was surprising to me (and shouldn’t have been), however, was how much of the Japanese signing I understood. It helped that I understood the subject matter ahead of time, so many signs were obvious – there’s only so many ways to sign ‘earthquake’ or ‘tsunami’, after all. Goes back to what I’ve always said when explaining to people about sign language not being an international language, but because it is a *visual* language, its much easier to get across certain things than with a spoken language, much in the same way that mime works, so for that reason, its far easier to breach the communication barrier with someone who’s language you don’t know when you’re both deaf, but also because, as deaf people, you’re used to communicating anywhichwayyoucan, getting across a message regardless, even if that means thinking outside the box.

    [I never fail to amaze my [hearing, Dutch] inlaws with my ability to communicate, even if on a superficial level, with people who don’t know any English and I don’t know any Dutch/German – one that springs to mind is when I needed sweetner in a German supermarket, and couldn’t find it. I told my mother in law, hang on, I’ll go ask, and before she could stop me, i shot off and grabbed a packet of sugar, walked up to a shop assistant and asked if she spoke any english. (most people know enough english to know THAT much at least!). she shook her head, so i just smiled, pointed at my hearing aids and she nodded, got that message, then put the sugar in front of her, pointed to that, and then stroked my hands down my body, like i was slimming myself down. BIGGGG grin streaked across her face, and she shot off across the supermarket. She knew exactly what I wanted – and sure enough, led me to the sweetner. After thanking her (in German, I make it a practice to at least learn hello, please and thank you in the countries I’m staying in, its only polite, and the deafness means that they forgive any mangling I make of their language) she beamed at me again and left, and I turned to find my mother-in-law behind me, who by this time had caught up with me, laughing and shaking her head at me in amazement. My mother-in-law does speak German, by the way, very well, and I could have let her do it (and for more complicated things I will) but I like to do these things!!]

    Anyway, back to the topic at hand.. the difficulties, as with spoken language, arise from those concepts that don’t really have any way to be “drawn” in the air – words like ‘spirituality’, for example. I once met a Spanish guy who knew no English and I only knew good evening and goodnight in Spanish, but we managed to get on (and get it on.. heh.. that was a long time ago!), and we spent a lot of time talking, in sign, managing, somehow, to get things across, sometimes resorting to a Spanish-English dictionary, but not often. Nice guy. Wonder what happened to him?

    I’m sure you knew all of what I’ve just said (apart from the personal bits), but still, thought I’d share my opinions – thanks for posting this – an interesting eye opener, as well as a bit of a trip down memory lane. 🙂