Learning Intermediate Taiwanese Sign Language – Week 1: Life Lessons

I’ve begun taking an intermediate Taiwanese Sign Language (TSL) class here in Taipei, Taiwan at the Chinese National Association of the Deaf R.O.C. (中華民國聽障人協會). Earlier in the summer, I took the beginning TSL class with the same organization and same teacher. The beginning consisted of learning some introductory vocabulary, such as pronouns, family, food, animals, places, jobs, and emotions. We mostly learned individual vocabulary words by imitating the instructor with some pair work for practicing. We also went over some of the vocabulary used in sentences.

Now I’m taking the intermediate TSL class and there’s been an incredibly huge increase in the difficulty and complexity of what we’re learning. I noticed this immediately when my existing knowledge of Chinese (the main language in which all the TSL textbook content is written in) wasn’t enough to understand the textbook. That is to say, we’re starting to learn vocabulary words in TSL for which I don’t even know in Chinese. Because Taiwanese Sign Language and Mandarin Chinese share the same locality, culture, and society (Taiwan), they are intricately connected. I wouldn’t go as far as saying that you need to learn Mandarin Chinese in order to learn TSL (they are not mutually dependent) but I will say it would be a huge challenge to do so.

Therefore, I have decided to start making weekly blog entries recording the new vocabulary I’m learning. Not only is this intended for me to be a way to review the material I’m learning, but also a way to reflect and document my language learning process in an interesting time – when I’m trying to learn both Mandarin Chinese and Taiwanese Sign Language simultaneously, learning both a spoken and signed language simultaneously. I’ve never been confronted with this challenge before; when I learned American Sign Language, I already knew English, the spoken language most closely related to ASL.


(Original Taiwanese Sign Language textbook content is in Chinese. All of the English used below are my rough translations.)

Chapter 1 (第一單元): Life Lessons 生命教育

  • 成績 – grades

  • 背書 – to memorize (as a form of studying for school)

  • 積極 – positive, active, energetic

  • 態度 – attitude

  • 羨慕 – jealous

  • 孤單 – lonely

  • 完美 – perfect

  • 個性 – personality

  • 優點 – advantage

  • 分手 – to break-up (as in a relationship)

  • 探望 – to visit

  • 過世 – to pass away

  • 關心 – to be caring for someone

  • 憂鬱 – depressed

  • 安慰 – to comfort, console

  • 散心 – to drive away your worries

  • 最近 – closest, recently

  • 離婚 – divorce

  • 吵架 – to argue, to fight

  • 簡訊 – text message

  • 害怕 – scared, frightened

  • 價值 – value, worth

  • 困擾 – worried, troubled, distressed

  • 光榮 – glory

  • 聽人 – a hearing person

  • 鼓勵 – to encourage

  • 沒辦法 – “there’s nothing that can be done about it”

  • 善解人意 – understanding people’s views

  • 聾人協會 – a deaf association

  • 從小到大 – “ever since I was a kid…”

  • 一般學校 – traditional schooling (as compared to a School for the Deaf)

  • 放寬心胸 – to open your mind, be more open-minded

  • 自殺未遂 – attempted murder

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