Learning TSL Day 2: Group Work, Bilingual Signing, and Numbers

Today is Day #2 of my Taiwanese Sign Language (TSL) class and I’m definitely enjoying it a lot. In constantly comparing what I’m learning about TSL with ASL and Mandarin Chinese, I find that learning TSL is helping me explore a more complex relationship and build a more solid understanding of languages I already have some knowledge of. I’ll mention some examples of this later on in this post. But beyond learning more about previous language I’ve learned while learning TSL is learning more about my language learning and communication preferences, strategies, and habits. Here are some topics related to that:

    • Group Work: The class is two hours long. Most of the time is spent going over vocabulary words, which consists of watching the instructor sign each vocabulary word, explain it, and taking notes on those vocabulary words. There is a 5-10 minute break after the first hour. What I’ve found is that I get extremely exhausted and antsy when there’s about half an hour of class left. My brain just starts to shut down after trying to organize all the information it’s gotten in the past hour. As a teacher, my first reaction to this feeling is that some partner or group work in class would help divide the class time into more manageable chunks while also giving students a chance to practice communicating with the vocabulary words they’ve learned already. My experience with the excruciating final 30 minutes of class has extended my rationale for using group/partner work in class.
    • Bilingual Signing: So I’ve taken two semesters of American Sign Language before and I have experience conversing with a Deaf signer. I got to class early today and decided to try and start some small talk with the teacher by only signing. However, in having only had one TSL class, even asking the simplest of questions in TSL is difficult. I found myself struggling to convey words like “have”, “want”, and “interesting”, all of which we haven’t learned in class yet. In trying to figure out how to convey what I want to say to the TSL teacher, I decided to use some ASL because the teacher knows some ASL. However, for me, that led to an extremely confusing conversation where I was using ASL but also trying to use some of the TSL words we had learned. This reminds me of how I speak with my parents. Like many Asian immigrants, my parents have a difficult time using English so the main language used at home is Chinese. However, I’ve never had a consistent, formal Chinese language education so naturally, my Chinese language abilities are limited. While communicating with my parents, I often throw in some English words here and there to replace words that I don’t know in Chinese. What I find most interesting is the ability we have in manipulating language to help us communication and understand each other better.
    • Numbers: I’m realizing that one of the parts of language learning that I dislike the most is learning numbers, though they’re probably one of the more important aspects of a language to learn first. I think part of why it’s so frustrating is because numbers seem static and every language seems to use a different system to talk about the same thing. I guess many aspects of language are like this. When it comes to learning numbers, I remember my mom’s checkbook, how she would always have a post it inside the front page of the checkbook reminding her how to spell large numbers in English. My knowledge of large numbers in Chinese is poor and using the English system of numbering as a foundation for learning TSL numbers doesn’t work. At least we got the numbers lesson over with today…

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