Sign Language Saturdays No. 4

This week: a focus on Japanese Sign Language! In addition to French and American Sign Language, I have been interested in Japanese culture and (spoken) language for a while, but I never explored Japanese Sign Language, and I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the the Japan Society posted two videos specifically about Japanese Sign Language.

Check out the two videos #withcaptions below, courtesy of the Japan Society.

The history of the Deaf experience in Japan appears to be a hard-won one, as, according to Karen Nakamura’s Deaf in Japan: Signing and the Politics of Identity (which I have heard very good things about but have not read):

“Up through the end of the 1970s, deaf people in Japan had few legal rights and little social recognition. They were classified as legal minors or mentally deficient. They were unable to obtain driver’s licenses, sign contracts, or write wills.”

They only recently obtained the right to drive, and even now must affix a special sticker to their car…

deaf in japan book cover

Anyway, it was great to find these informative videos on the Japan Society YouTube page. To read about some of the fun that I had at the Japan Society a while back, check out my blog post Japan Cuts/Japan Cats: An Informal Photo Essay.

And just for fun, here is the trailer #withcaptions for the movie I saw back then, Neko Samurai:



Sign Language Saturdays No. 1

Inspired by my Saturday-night ASL practice sessions and outings with Deaf Night Out, I’m starting a new feature: Sign Language Saturdays.

Every week, I’ll post a link to an interesting word or phrase in American Sign Language (ASL). These could be words or phrases I’ve learned recently or have known for a while and just think are worth sharing. And occasionally, just for fun, I may even post about a foreign sign language like New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) or French Sign Language (LSF).

A disclaimer: I’m not Deaf and am simply sharing to share knowledge and awareness of the overall awesomeness of signed languages, though I am nowhere near an expert on them. (Though If anyone is interested I could point you to Deaf experts on signed languages and linguistics, and Deaf history and culture, as well as the literature available on these topics).

So, without further ado, this week’s word in ASL is a variation of “introspect,” to analyze oneself, myself, or self, to look inside one’s own thoughts or feelings.

Check out the video below:

As we start the new year, some introspection could help us start off on the right “hand”!

“Love and hate need no translation”: THE TRIBE Preview Screening

the tribe

As I hope many of you know, I have been fascinated by sign language and Deaf culture for more than ten years now, and often attend Deaf events.

On Saturday, I was able to see a special preview screening at the Alamo Drafthouse of the Ukranian film THE TRIBE, which takes place at a school for the deaf in the Ukraine and which features a cast of phenomenally talented deaf actors–and the story is told entirely in Ukranian Sign Language without subtitles or voice-over.

Here is the trailer:

It was a powerful movie, and I loved it, as I knew I would. It reminded me of one of my favorite French films, Jacques Audiard’s UN PROPHETE, which follows a young man who rises in the ranks of a prison to become a leader in a Corsican gang. THE TRIBE follows a new student who ultimately rises in the ranks of the school’s “deaf mafia” –which is involved in running a prostitution ring, among other criminal activities. The movie was an inside look into a world that most people will never experience–a residential school for the deaf, in the Ukraine no less, and then it explored an even more secret world, that of a underground criminal enterprise run by teenagers!

I thought it was interesting that the film was called THE TRIBE, as the hit play ‘Tribes’ also explored different modes of Deaf empowerment. There is so much more to talk about when it comes to this topic, which I believe relates to the greater issue of diversity in film, but for now I’ll leave it at that.

Here is a trailer #withcaptions for ‘Tribes,’ which I saw at the Everyman Theatre in Baltimore.

Anyway, after the screening of THE TRIBE, there was a Q&A with the lead actress, Yana Novikova.

Unfortunately, many of the questions got lost in translation because there were two interpreters, as Yana (who uses Ukranian Sign Language) was using Gestuno (International Sign Language, an invented language used in gatherings of deaf people from different countries), and her words needed to be interpreted into American Sign Language and then voiced, and vice versa. But it was still a nice Q&A, and she is a lovely girl. Here’s a pic (video clips are forthcoming):


Many people had questions, though I was the only hearing person to ask a question (why don’t more hearing people go to events like these??)

My question: “What do you think this movie does for the Deaf community? On the one hand it proves that ‘Deaf people can do anything but hear’ but on the other hand, some might say it perpetuates certain stereotypes about Deaf people, such as about morality. What are your thoughts?”

If you have thoughts, post them below. Otherwise, let me know if you are planning on seeing the movie/have seen it/what you thought about it.

Here is the actress we saw, Yana Novikov, in one of many interviews.

And check out an article from IndieWIRE that examines certain issues: from the film’a Foreign Oscar snub to the casting process to recruit Eastern European #Deaftalent!

We also had a great time at the Deaf-friendly dance party afterwards, featuring awesome ASL music videos. People were making ASL music videos long before the video of the interpreter rapping to Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” went viral. So, on a lighter note than teen prostitution rings, I’ll leave you with one of the videos #withcaptions we watched at the party. This one’s a gem. Enjoy!