My name is Megan and I want to share my testimony. While in Maryland, my studies focused on becoming an interpreter for the Deaf. With only 8 classes left of the Interpreter Preparation Course, my Air Force husband got orders to move to Japan. I was excited for the adventure, but disappointed that my ASL/Deaf Studies would have to stop. I prayed that God would open up opportunities in Japan for my studies to continue to practice my ASL skills and serve the Deaf community. He has truly blessed me in this way.
Within a few months of arriving in Japan and moving into their house on Yokota Air Base, my husband met an American deaf man who worked at the base High School. Although he was mostly hearing, he was fluent in ASL and had recently made contact with a Japanese Deaf woman who was fluent in ASL and JSL (Japanese Sign Language). What an amazing connection! Soon after, we were invited to attend combined JSL/ASL events with local, Japanese Deaf and JSL interpreters who were learning ASL. Cherry, the teacher, organizes monthly events between the Americans and Japanese. Anyone who signs, is interested in ASL, or just wants to know more about the Deaf community are invited. These events have been a joy and blessing. I met so many hearing and Deaf Japanese who are passionate about their JSL as well as learning ASL.
At the beginning of this year, I began teaching ASL on base, and had an overwhelming number of ADULTS who want to learn!! I was shocked that she had only a few children interested in classes. Currently I have 10 beginner ASL students and 6 intermediate students (four of which are Japanese). I also been invited as a guest teacher to many of Cherry’s classes. She have also met several military spouses on base that have a variety of ASL experience. The amount of ASL knowledge here is amazing! She became known in this small community as the “ASL lady” and am always happy to answer any questions about ASL or Deaf Culture. Also, as I finish up my degree online, she made it a point to focus as many papers or conference responses on what she was learning relates to ASL or Deaf studies. Many students and professors have commented that they enjoyed as to how she have done that and that it has been interesting and useful information.
I have found that Japanese Deaf Culture is very similar to that of American Deaf Culture, although I have noticed that there is a huge push for the Japanese to be oral. I visited the local Deaf School (Tachikawa School for the Deaf) and every class was both spoken and signed (SimCom). Classes were designed like many Deaf Schools in America: Smaller class sizes, desks arranged in a horseshoe shape to ensure visibility, etc. One class that I watched, the teacher was doing a Halloween lesson in ASL. The students were enthusiastic about learning ASL and a few stopped me in the hallway after, to practice saying “hello” and introductions. The visit to this school was a wonderful experience and it gave me a greater understanding and desire to work with the Deaf.
I thank God that He has given me a heart for the Deaf and the opportunity to have a Global perspective of this culture.