My first time signing a song

One of the fun things about having a blog is that you can track how your opinions evolve.

As recently as last year, I would have said I disliked, and was even against hearing people signing songs. All that changed when I watched an episode of Britanney Wilmore’s talk show Is it Art Yet?, featuring ASL interpreter and teacher, Amber Galloway Gallego, who specialises in music interpreting.



I suppose my opinion had been changing slowly over time, if I think about it. I’ve been in interpreting situations in which there were songs played (both local and foreign) that I’d have been able to do a much better job with if I’d had practise with music interpreting. It’s not easy; it’s not a matter of just signing the words, but the meaning.

But that’s not all. In the interview, Gallego brought something up that I hadn’t thought about: the interpreter should also visually express the feel of how the song sounds. It helps deaf people get a better appreciate the music. Whether you’re an interpreter or not, I suggest you watch the video. (ASL interpreting is provided.) It’s very interesting!

Although I still don’t like how many (particularly hearing people, and hearing-minded deaf) people sign songs, I finally see that it’s not a bad thing in itself. As long as those white gloves are not used and it’s done in grammatically (as in Jamaican Sign Language) for Jamaica) and culturally (as in a way that does not offend) correct way so that Deaf people can understand and appreciate it, it’s good. As interpreters, we have the right and privilege to relay auditory information; and music falls under this category

I’d been considering attempting to interpret the song “” (Hikari, Light) by 宇多田ヒカル (Utada Hikaru) for a while. But Gallego’s words and skill inspired me to try once and for all. The fact that it’s a Japanese song made it an attractive choice for me; I got to marry my two greatest “foreign” (because JSL is technically local) language loves together as I interpreted the song. And I get to show off a bit. 🙂

For those who don’t know, “Hikari” is the theme song of one of my all-time favourite video games, Kingdom Hearts. The Japanese version, anyway. Utada-san was commissioned to write it, and the English version, “Simple and Clean” for that purpose.


Kingdom Hearts screenshot

As I prepared myself, I found myself thinking more critically about the meaning of the song than even before. I started to understand that words that I’d just taken literally before had figurative interpretations. And that helped me with my interpreting.

As per Gallego’s methods, I also did a bit of research on the song. And, as a side-note, I found that Utada-san “found it hard to write the theme song for the video game because she felt the concept and plot of the game was ‘soulless’.” (Wikipedia) Hard to believe. I love the game!

Thanks for the inspiration, Amber! Seriously. Thanks.

I was very nervous, but I hope it doesn’t show. Anyway, without further ado, my JSL interpretation of “Hikari“. I hope you like it!

This entry was posted in Interpreting, JSL, Languages, 日本語 and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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