It's All in the Signs

Misaki Ishikawa
Yamagawa Middle School

What would life be like with no sound? Could you enjoy music? Could you sing a song? Could you do all those little things we take for granted like answering the telephone? Could you live in a world devoid of sound? I don't know if I could because I live in a world filled with so many sounds but now I know that speaking is not the only way to communicate.

Sign Language is an eternal treasure for me and I never want to lose it. It is because I believe Sign Language is the one thing I can use to help people who are deaf.

My interest in Sign language began when I was in the third grade at elementary school. I was out shopping with my mother when a woman tapped my shoulder and said to me "Where is the rest room?" in a small and quiet voice. I pointed to the rest room and answered, "Over there," but she couldn't understand me at all and she tilted her head with a confused look. I thought to myself, "Why can't she understand me?" She then took out a piece of paper from her bag, wrote down the question, and passed it to me. It was then, for the first time, that I realized she was deaf. I was taken aback but I didn't let my initial surprise prevent me from answering straightaway. I think it is a natural tendency to let embarrassment take over when meeting somebody who is unlike us. We do not know how to act and as a result we find we can't communicate. I didn't want to let this embarrassment show and therefore seem rude. So I answered her immediately by writing the answer on the paper. She replied "Thank you," in her low voice. That was my first experience meeting someone who has a hearing and speech impairment.

I thought deeply about the woman I met and I was disappointed because I couldn't help her using Sign Language. I also wanted to be able to do something for others using Sign Language if they needed help.

I decided to start learning Sign Language. At first, I was very surprised by the teachers because most of them were deaf-mutes. I thought they really wanted us to use Sign Language because they worked very hard to teach us even though it was difficult for them to speak. In one year, I learned so much that I could almost have a complete conversation using Sign Language. I continued going to Sign Language classes for four more years and now I can understand movies and TV programs for the deaf without using subtitles. In five years, what I have learned from using Sign Language is that each sign has a meaning and by watching their signs and facial expressions we are able to see their personality.

It's said that not many people can use Sign Language so I really hope that more people will learn it and notice just how cool it is. My wish is that the number of people who can communicate in Sign Language increases. Sign Language is important to me because I can communicate in more than one way and with many different people. This is why Sign Language is an everlasting treasure for me.

(4-36 Speech in 57th Contest, 2005)

(C)JNSA FUND/the Yomiuri Shimbun

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