Nice n Easy Sign Language

I am so exhausted from work these days I can’t even feel my elbows (if you’ve never been fortunate enough to feel that exhausted, let me tell you – it’s disconcerting to the extreme) so this is going to be a quickie post.


Nice and Easy Sign Language

Occasionally I teach at a school for hearing impaired Japanese children. Of all the job duties I have, it’s one of the ones I mind the least, because the kids are just so sweet and enthusiastic and it presents me with the opportunity to learn Japanese sign language, which is an activity that I have found surprisingly enjoyable. I don’t know why but I have little difficulty remembering sign language, and only wish it was even half this easy to remember Japanese kanji.

Part of the ease, I suppose, is that sign language isn’t like “regular” language – you don’t make sentences proper, you just sign the most “important” parts: subject, objects, main verb, etc. You don’t need to worry about all those other bothersome parts of language that make you sound like a retarded 3 year old monkey when you speak (what natives refer to as “particles”, “adverbs”, “tenses”, etc.), and given that my spoken Japanese basically goes something along the lines of “Me. Hungry. Eat.” or “Toilet. Hole. Ground. I. Poop. No.“, I find I’m already well on my way to the minimalist approach eschewed by sign language practioners.


From left to right: PERVERT LECHEROUS

Anyway, despite the fact that “Moderately Competent at Japanese Sign Language” might perhaps be the most useless thing I will ever list on my resume (right next to: University Major: Genetics/Biology. Work History: Fake English Teacher in Japan for 4 years), I have decided to start studying it in (relative) earnest, for the kids, I suppose so I can see them smile when we communicate. (I say “communicate”, but really it’s all one way. I can sign just fine, but when someone signs back to me, I just stare in blank confusion then put up a nervous smile until they leave). To this end, one of my colleagues gave me a book entitledやさしい手話 (“Nice n Easy Sign Language”).


From left to right: SEXUAL HARASSEMENT and STALKER

“Panda” he assured me “this is one of the best books I have ever found for learning sign language.”

“Are you sure?” I replied. “Because I don’t have a lot of time and would like to learn just the most relevant words and basics need to communicate with the kids.”


Closeup of the lady signing “PERVERT”. What’s with that bizarre smile!?

“It ” he replies with a solemn nod ” contains only the most important words and grammar you will ever need to communicate.”

Well if that isn’t a ringing endorsement, I don’t know what is, so with only one eyebrow slightly cocked, I tuck the book in my bag and head home to get my sign language study on.


From left to right: GENDER SEX

Now if you’ve been following this post all along, at this point you’ve probably started saying to yourself “My, those pictures sure don’t seem like something I’d describe as ‘the most important words and grammar I’d ever need to communicate”.

And you’d be correct in that statement gentle reader. You see, those words appear in the vocabulary section of chapter three…! That’s right, before you even learn how to tell time, or ask where the bathroom is (two things I would put right up there in the category of “most imporant for communication), you learn how to say Sex, Sexual Harassment, Stalker, Pervert and Lecherous…!

And if that’s not enough to make you wonder about the Japanese sense of priorities, I actually flipped backwards to chapter two to find this bizzare sequence:


Hmm. Okay. Strange thing to show up in chapter two of a sign language book but whatever. I scan further down the page.


Errr… Now I’m wondering if this is a “learn sign language” or a “mack on deaf chicks” book. I read on.


Wow. While I can’t argue with the sentiment, I really am starting to wonder if perhaps a different book might not be a better choice for my needs. Yes, it’s true, failed love sucks, but the number of possible scenarios I might be able to use this with hearing impared third graders is somewhat less than a phrase like say, oh, I don’t know… What color do you like…?

The rest of this book is filled with such gems as I just can’t seem to find a boyfriend, Why do you hate your girlfriend?, My father can’t drink anymore [liquor] and Why are you meeting your ex-boyfriend?.


Closeup of the lady signing “SEXUAL HARASSMENT”

Ah Japan, you make me laugh.

Now listening to: Hybrid – I choose Noise

The title track off their latest album I choose Noise which just dropped in the UK last week. It’s not due on American store shelves until sometime in November, and it’s anyone’s guess if it will ever appear in Japan at all (one is still hard pressed to find a copy of Wide Angle in even the largest Japanese music store, despite the fact that it is easily one of the most influential techno/electronic albums of the past 10 years).

Fortunately, I could snag a pristine copy through the magic of itunes and with a quick pass through myFairTunes 6 the tracks are DRM free and ready for listening pleasure.

I choose Noise is definitely a step above their sophomore album Morning Sci-Fi, and includes some nods to the grand orchestral style that made them so famous in the first place, but it still falls below (in my opinion) the bar set by their debut Wide[r] Angle. They need to get rid of Adam Taylor and bring back more Kristy Hawkshaw (she makes a brief appearance on one of the tracks) and the other female vocalists that tore it up back on their first album. I think Adam Taylor has a lovely voice and all, but I don’t think it fits the Hybrid I love – listening to any song featuring him reminds me of this Gary Numan Dawn CD I picked up in a comic book shop way back in the day.

And trust me, that’s not a good thing. But despite this I choose Noise is definitely a step in the right direction.

11 Reactions

  1. melissa

    MMmmm, EZ languages….but honestly the photos are hilariously deceptive. With such kind looking models, to find out what they’re really saying is a hoot!

  2. Veronica

    Very interesting, Panda.
    I’m leaving for Ireland in the morning. I will be anxious to check in with you after the 10th upon my return. Til then, be well, be good…
    Be a Panda

  3. nishah

    “essentials of Japanese Sign Language?” That’s just… so weird. *dies laughing* What on earth was your colleague thinking? Unless he’s a counselor for troubled deaf High-schoolers, (or a pervert) i can’t think what he’d want that book for! Good luck finding a better book ^_^

  4. md

    I’m deaf and asl is my primary language. I’ve been to Japan two times in the past. I picked up some kanji signs and you’re right… it is amusing. Their facial expessions are very limited compared to asl – they can only look happy, sad, and puzzled. I think that is why kanji is amusing and easy to learn.

  5. dyoiruson izaeu de kamarugo

    eu quero aprender japanes sign language

  6. panda

    aamer ilyas: I’m glad you liked this entry! Try and stay safe over there, some scary things happening in your area of the world recently!
    MD: Thanks for the feedback! I’ve often wondered what a person who was fluent in ASL would think when encountering JSL. Did you find it hard to distinguish between the two signing systems? I wonder if it would be easier to learn a different language’s sign language than to learn the language itself…? I did find i picked up the JSL much faster than I thought, though it’s hard to say whether that’s because I already speak Japanese or if it’s because gestures are easier to remember?
    Dyoruson: I’m so sorry, but I don’t speak Portugese, or else I’d reply in Portugese!
    But I’m glad you want to learn Japanese sign language. Can you find a book to help you learn? I have heard there is a sizeable Japanese population in Peru, and also a few in Brazil as well – maybe they can give you some advice where to find a tutor or a book?

  7. michael sweeney

    helloo i look at your website i am mike i want learn more do you have any books and dvd i am deaf too i want learn jsl i plan going japan in 2009 so plesae let me know where i can buy books and dvd i like this too your website is great thumb up smile

  8. Dora

    Hi =D
    Well, I had a good laugh while reading this. Anyway, I’m 17 and I’m from Croatia and it seems to me that all the things that I’m really really interested in are, what you call, “useless in a resume”, same with JSL. I really love it and I learned the basic fingerspelling but can’t get much further because I can’t find a book that would teach me the rest. I just might get the one your friend recommended, sounds like fun :P