Learning TSL Day 3: Location Names, History, Geography, and Storytelling

Today is the third day and I’m extremely glad that we’re moving on from learning numbers to learning location/city names of Taiwan. Now this is much more interesting. Even more so than learning location/city names in American Sign Language… here are some of my observations and thoughts:

    • Culture and History: While many place names in ASL are signed by using letter initials, many of the location names in TSL use some sort of cultural or historical artifact. For example, 蘭嶼 (or Orchid Island, “Lan Yu”) is signed using a shape of the traditional canoe that the Tao (aboriginal people of Taiwan) are known to make. I feel like I learned so much random trivia about the culture and history behind places and cities in Taiwan.
    • Geography: Many TSL location names are also geography based. Some cities in Southern Taiwan have downward movements while some cities on the Eastern coast of Taiwan are signed on the right side of the face. The face is often used as a symbol for the geographic shape of Taiwan. I found that along with learning how to sign location names, I also got a bonus lesson on the general geography of Taiwan!
    • Storytelling: Because so many of the location names are based on cultural or historical features, our TSL instructor would explain the reason for the signs using stories elaborating the connection between culture/history and the sign itself. I absolutely love storytelling in sign languages because so much is able to be conveyed through facial expressions and acting. Thus, even in having only had three TSL classes, the instructor can sign an elaborate story to us and we can still understand the gist of the story.
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