Japanese spoken language and sign language are very different in structure. The aim is to teach the students to break away from their source language and so they can learn how to interpret into their target language. They are first taught how to converse in Japanese Sign Language, before they are taught how to interpret in the second year.
For the students to understand the different structure of the language we have taken a comic from the English training programme. This comic will assist in learning how to construct language. We show this story told by a native speaker of Japanese and by a Japanese signer.
There are several differences. Differences at the discourse level:
- such as the incorporation of the time aspect
- action chain + referential shift
I ask them first to write down sign by sign and then they see that this is a very different structure from Japanese Sign Language. We then continue to really see the text as a whole and try to put the structure into correct spoken Japanese. Only when they see this structure and realise the difference, they then know how to interpret better.
There are six main characteristics that are different between the two languages, I will discuss four of them here:
- Presenting two opposites
- Explaining the situation
- Action chain
- Explaining the state
Now when teaching interpreting from Japanese to JSL, we first start at the sentence level and not at the discourse level. The presenters give several examples of the sentence structures. After the sentence level training, we train the discourse level. For example, we give the students a newspaper article. They must read this, put the article away and then sign the article in JSL.
In Japan discourse level training is not yet fully in place. But from the students we learn what their problems are in understanding the structure of JSL.