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Top>Hakumon CHUO [2010 Summer Issue]>A Serial Plan - Volunteers and Me - Searching for Something - Sign Language Interpreting

Hakumon CHUOIndex

A Serial Plan - Volunteers and Me - Searching for Something -

Sign Language Interpreting

Rei Watanabe
3rd year student in the Faculty of Letters

First Sign Language Interpretation at Graduation

At the Tama campus graduation ceremony held on March 25th, facing the 1st Gymnasium's 3rd floor arena packed with parents and graduating students, Rei Watanabe, along with his group, interpreted into sign language the addresses of Chancellor and President Nagai and of Board of Regents Chair Hisano. This was the first time sign language interpretation had been performed at a Chuo University graduation ceremony.

In the winter of last year when he was a 2nd year student, Mr. Watanabe got an email from a person in charge of the university note-taking volunteer group that he was a part of who asked, "would you like to do sign language interpretation at the graduation ceremony?" Rei had just started learning sign language less than a year before, so he was hesitant to participate as "my finger spelling wasn't good, and there were some things I still had difficulty following." But, with his positive attitude, wanting "to see more of the sign language interpretation world and experience it," he decided to participate.

Information Assurance -A Camp of Learning

Rei Watanabe

Once he had decided to do sign language interpreting at the graduation ceremony, Rei was asked by an older student in the Volunteer Circle Hono Bono, of which he was a member, "do you want to join a camp put on by the Kanto Hearing Impaired Students Association (known as Kankon)?" It is a two night three day camp where you learn about information assurance (providing information through alternate means to people who cannot obtain information due to a physical handicap) held at the Yoyogi Olympic Center.

Two thirds of the participants at the camp have a hearing disability and one third are non-handicapped. The non-handicapped students learn about information assurance while communicating with the hearing impaired students using games and other means. Rei, who was just a beginner at sign language, says, "The hearing impaired students signed very quickly, and I couldn't follow or express the things that I wanted to say in sign language. It was a hard and frustrating experience for me."

The things he learned during the three days and two nights of camp where he was unable to communicate, however, were very large. "I wanted to learn more and be able to communicate. I felt like I wanted to work as hard as I could at sign language interpretation for the graduation ceremony."

Sign language interpreting is one important form of information assurance, but not all hearing impaired people can understand sign language, so he learned that information is provided in two ways: a sign language interpreter next to the master of ceremonies and a kind of computerized note taking that can be seen by all participants. Rei learned that there are many ways to convey information, such as giving the "face forward please" signal by turning lights on and off, and he really felt the importance of information assurance.

Learning Sign Language Interpreting Through Extra-hard Training

After the camp, his training for doing sign language interpretation at graduation began. He would be doing sign language interpretation for the greeting at graduation, so there were going to be many formal expressions not found in daily conversation. Therefore, every day at school and after, he returned home, trained extra-hard and learned the necessary skills.

Finally, on the day of the graduation ceremony, friends from his circle supported him with "it's okay if you make a mistake, just do your best to do it with style," and he faced the crucial moment. Looking back, Rei says it wasn't bad and "I was able to get through it without getting too nervous."

Rei, who volunteered in an event led by his local neighborhood during the summer in junior high school and was interested in volunteering before entering university, joined the volunteer circle Hono Bono after he started his 2nd year. A recruitment poster he saw welcoming of new students in April brought him into it because he thought "I want to start something new, and sign language sounds interesting." Currently, he is the chairman of Hono Bono.

Rei doing sign language interpretation during the graduation ceremony

Hono Bono is a circle that supports improvements to the living situations among handicapped students at Chuo University. In the past, they had focused on Braille recitation activities, but there are now two hearing impaired students in the circle, so they are focusing on activities such as sign language and note-taking.

A weekly study session is held, and circle members learn daily conversation sign language from upper-classmen while watching videos. In addition to the study sessions, they also get together in the circle room during breaks and free periods and enjoy conversing with the handicapped students and learning signs they don't know from the upper-classmen.

"When I don't know a sign, I write the word on a piece of paper and convey it that way. By having daily contact with the disabled students, one day you stop feeling the wall of the handicap." Rei realized that whether one is handicapped or non-handicapped, there's no change in the fact that we can support one another.

Aiming to Be a Teacher after Graduating

Rei, who did sign language interpretation at the graduation ceremony and has a strong interest in information assurance, says "I found out that there are many things that seem ordinary to us that are not ordinary to people with disabilities. That's why I've come to think that I'd like to take action after considering whether or not the things I think are ordinary are really ordinary."

Rei, who says, "I don't want you to look at the hearing impaired with prejudice. There are also philosophies like 'disabilities are individuality' and 'sign language is a foreign language,' but I want you to look at people with disabilities from many viewpoints and avoid making assumptions about them." After graduation Rei wants to be a teacher who can be mindful and attentive to his surroundings by using the experiences he gained during his life as a student.

(Student Reporter: Azusa Hashimoto; 3rd year student in the Faculty of Law)