Takako Suzuki (45), an interpreter living in Tokyo, has nursed her hearing grandmother for two years and explains from the experience how useful sign language was.
"The communication will be easy because sign language is a visible language and is understood by looking. When the communication is effective, a painful feeling from nursing is reduced by half though it is fully a serious thing. "
A book, titled "Support in Sign Language," had been published by UD Japan this autumn. It proposed the use of sign language in nursing. Suzuki selected 150 basic vocabularies based on her experience in the daily conversation exchanged with the grandmother.
Sign language seems to be hard to learn, but she advises, "for those who are not familiar with the sign language, don't use it as Japanese sentences. You sign a word while voicing such as 'delicious' or 'glad'."
If one doesn't understand sign language, which makes communication difficult, she says, "As the baby may memorize the word by mother's talking, sign along with voicing everyday, so that one will come to understand little by little."
A home helper (46), who works in Tokyo, said, "Every time an old hearing woman eats, I ask her if it is delicious, lightly patting my cheek and voicing at the same time. She responds with the same sign language meaning that it is delicious."
Sachiko Kondo (64) , an interpreter in Nagoya City, holds the course, titled "The Senior Signs," and had published a book on it. It proposes that sign language should be made the best use for nursing. The Senior Signs simplifies the sign language to an easy-to-use way, and gestures are also included.
For instance, when to say "konnichiwa" meaning "Hello" during the daytime, you signs two words. In the Senior Signs only one sign "Greeting" is used. Kondo explains, "Therefore, if 'Greeting' were signed in daytime, I think you can mean to say 'Hello' as well. "
An old man who lost not only hearing but also the memory did not speak. When Kondo talked to him with the Signs a few times, he became responsive in a positive way. Kondo emphasized that she wanted everyone concerned to use the Signs to wake up one's feelings, and to urge feelings that start telling the desire."
Both the interpreters pointed out that sign language is useful also for the conversations of the middle or advanced aged who were not able to utter any word because of the sudden deafness, the tongue cancer, etc. Kondo said that these people tend to avoid the communication with people around them, usually feeling lonesome.
Source: Tokyo Shimbun, Nov. 19, 2008.