Japanese sign language undergoing major revisions


As if learning Japanese wasn't hard enough for us dirty gaijin, imagine the difficulty of also learning their sign language! Japanese Sign Language is apparently quite different from American sign language and is chock full of signs for phrases we don't use. As many as 1.2 million Japanese people are said to be using it these days, which is quite a lot, even considering Japan's large population.

Still, the amount of new words and phrases being introduced so frequently to Japan are reaching such a critical mass that a major revision is being planned for the whole system. Back in June, university professors, former teachers at schools for the deaf, and others with an interest in the language convened in Kyoto to discuss ways to express not just new ideas but also the subtle nuances that Japanese is known for.

One example is the phrase "futokoro ga itamu," which means cash is getting short, but literally means to feel pain in the wallet kept in your inside breast pocket. One expert suggested, "How about pointing out with a finger to the chest [futokoro] and then wave a hand to express being in pain [itamu]." Another expert quickly pointed out that this "would just mean 'the chest hurts'." Another chimed in that they could "just adopt a gesture for throwing money away."

The Japan Institute for Sign Language Studies will publish its revised dictionary next spring, featuring around 6,000 words and 10,000 example sentences, 20% larger than its 1997 version. Of the new entries, special attention is being given to words from information technology and health care. There is no stated plan to increase the amount of sign language service providers for companies, who are volunteer only and small in number, compared to the dedicated signers in the United States and Europe.

I'm curious as to how many words from otaku culture will be making it into the new dictionary. They've stated their intention to add "Internet," so I wonder if some essential words like "moe" and "tsundere" will pop up in future signed conversation?

[Japan Today via Visual Anthropology of Japan]

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Bob Muir
Bob MuirContributor   gamer profile

Bob has been hanging around ModernMethod for years and and somehow writes almost everywhere, including Destructoid and Flixist. He was once lit on fire, but it's not as cool as you'd think. more + disclosures



Filed under... #culture #Language study #learn japanese



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