A guy in his 20s is singing a K-pop song. You see his mouth singing, but don’t hear his voice. Instead, you find his facial expression and hands illustrating the lyrics. His hands move continuously as the song goes, to do corresponding sign language.
Choi Hyung-moon, using YouTube username “Deaf Moon,” sings Korean songs in sign language and uploads his cover on YouTube. Reactions to his videos are dominantly positive, complementing his ability to express the emotion in songs without singing vocally.
After suffering a fatal fever at age 7, Choi became a deaf. His life without hearing ability has not been easy, but he managed his life thinking, “Nothing’s impossible just because I’m a deaf.”
“I regard people with hearing impairment as a minority group which uses sign language as their language,” said Choi. “The term ‘deafness’ doesn’t convey meanings of disability or discrimination. It’s just about a different way of life.”
Choi started “singing in sign language” after watching a video about an American celebrity who is suffering from a hearing impairment.
“Watching that video made me realize for the first time that facial expressions and hand gestures can express emotions sufficiently,” said Choi. Although sign language interpreters do “sign language singing” occasionally, Choi found them far from singing, which conveys emotions.
Feeling the gap between the two, Choi started to think about singing his emotions in sign language, let people know what he has felt in songs to everyone who is deaf or not.
And the outcome was successful. Those who have hearing conditions appreciated his videos for letting them know what the songs are about. He, who manages everything from filming to editing by himself, even fainted once while filming a video all night long. However, reactions from his subscribers were so special that he finalized editing at the hospital.
People ask him how he can follow the song with such fluency without being able to hear it. Choi answers that endless practice is the only way to achieve it.
First, he chooses a song to cover based on subscribers’ suggestions and the speed of the song. Because he can’t follow the speed if the song is too fast, he checks the tempo first, then does close reading of the lyrics. After understanding the lyrics thoroughly, he starts to plan how to connect facial expressions to sign language smoothly.
To make a 5-minute long video, Choi practices for a week. He attempts to challenge a hip-hop song in the near future.
“I feel bad because it seems sign language is not regarded as a form of language, especially in Korea,” Choi said, mentioning his experience in the U.S. when he was surprised by a cashier who replied to him in sign language when he said he was deaf.
“It was something that rarely happens in Korea. This incident made me establish a goal to be a professional sign language instructor.”
Choi has started studying to get a relevant license after quitting his job recently. Uploading videos on YouTube is a part of his study as well.
“I plan to make videos, not just about singing, but about a broader range of topics,” Choi said about his future plans. “I want to let the world know about the greatness of sign language through the videos.”
Original article by Hong Sang-ji
Translated by Heewon Kim