Sunday, December 20, 2009

2009 KGU JSL Group 忘年会

Another successful year of JSL study was celebrated recently through an all-you-can-eat yaki-niku bonenkai. 28 people participated (13 deaf, 15 hearing), a much larger group than I anticipated. Here are a couple of student's comments:

...until the bonenkai, I hadn't really had any exposure to the way that hearing people treat deaf people in public places and such. In the train station, there were many stares from the Japanese people around us as we stood in a group and signed, though in the resaurant, the waitress seemed to be nicer, though that could have been professionalism, but at least one of them was drawn into real conversation with the deaf people, which was fun to watch. (K-san)

I never thought I would find myself standing in a huge circle in the middle of a busy train station watching deaf people enthusiastically and quickly signing to each other, while I tried desperately to keep up with one of the conversations. Participating in a bonenkai for a Japanese Sign Language circle was definitely an exciting experience. it was interesting to see how varied people from the Deaf culture can be. There were deaf people of all kinds: there were young people, older people, some that spoke as they signed and some that did not, some that used their whole bodies more than others, girls and boys, etc. There was also of course the group of hearing exchange students that I was a part of that attended the school's sign language circle and our American teacher that is fluent in Japanese Sign Language.

A few other guests were a little out of the ordinary, even for a group of people from another culture. There was a participant there with cerebral palsy... His sign language was rather difficult, but after learning his style it will most likely become easier to understand. There was a guest who had a cochlear that was interesting to see after watching a documentary about the implant. He seemed able to hear quite well, while still being fluent in JSL. There was also another hearing person fluent in JSL... While fun, I understand that just going to a sign language club and participating in events like a bonenkai only scratches the surface of deaf culture.

One deaf man who came from Osaka had studied American Sign Language. I think he assumed that our group also studied ASL. He seemed to be confused when he was told over and over again by different students: "Sorry I don't understand ASL. Please use JSL."

While we were waiting at the train station the deaf began to outnumber the hearing students, which seemed to make some of them nervous. I heard a student say when another student came, "thank god you are here - they are outnumbering us!" Conversely there were a couple of deaf people who had never met foreigners who were nervous as well. But as the party went on, the nervousness disappeared and all became friends. At one point near the end of the party I looked down the long table to see all engaged in JSL - it was a nice and special moment for me.

Another special moment - a reenactment of a warm-up game we play. For more magic moments of the evening, click here. To this year's participants, お疲れ様でした! For those returning to your home countries, please continue to study sign language. And to those returning next year, we'll start up again in February. Please prepare yourselves for your new roles as sempai... よろしく!

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