JSL course offered at hearing universities to deepen understanding of Deaf culture

There is a university that offer a course on the Japanese Sign Language that the Deaf person naturally acquires in the childhood, as one of the language studies like German and French, etc.

The Human Welfare Department of Kansei Gakuin University in Nishinomiya City, Hyogo Prefecture started a JSL course in April. The Department had been newly establishedm, which plans to teach JSL for two years as the second language, aiming at expanding the student's view of welfare.

Kazumi Maekawa (33), a part-time instructor, turned off the light in the classroom once and turned it on again to get attention. It is a signal that the Deaf use. The students stopped signing and turned to the front.

The class is done only by JSL. Each students explains the travel planning that was decided after discussion in the group. A freshman (19) said, "The meaning changes into the movement of the same hand by the expression. It is a discovery in the difference from spoken Japanese."

About 90 students applied for the JSL class for the first year. Maekawa, the member of a Deaf family, is taking charge of lingual practice. Eiji Taira (32), a certified interpreter, is taking charge of the lecture on Deaf culture. He said, "When you call a Deaf person, you hit the desk or the floor, which is not considered as the impoliteness."

Associate professor Hisashi Matsuoka (45) in charge of the school affairs, who proposed to offer the JSL course, explains, "We hope the students learn a variety of culture through the language and Deaf culture that affect the Deaf community."

Maekawa says, "Sign language had seemed to be a substitution for spoken Japanese. I want to see many hearing youth understand the Deaf culture and work with the Deaf community in the field of welfare."

JSL has been taken as a language study since ten years ago at Shikoku Gakuin University in Kagawa Prefecture. The Japanese University of Social Work in Tokyo has also offered a JSL course at current academic year.

Yasuhiro Ichida, a professor in the sign language department of the National Rehabilitation Center for Handicapped Persons in Saitama Prefecture, highly evaluates the trend, saying "The number of Deaf persons whose natural language is JSL is estimated to be 5o,000 or 60,000. It is a good movement that JSL is not considered as part of welfare, but as an equal language, which should be welcomed."

Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 5, 2009
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